Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A Pragmatic Argument For Limited, Constitutional Monarchy

To tell the truth, I am not greatly exercised by the Monarchist vs. Republican debate that comes to life periodically in Australia when a member of the Royal Family visits or is mired in scandal. On the one hand, I am not over-enamoured of the Windsors (must be my Scottish blood!), although I will admit to a certain sentimental attachment to the Queen, after all I've sung 'God Save the Queen' often enough at school assemblies to feel a twinge of disloyalty at the thought of voting her off her Australian throne. On the other hand, I admire the American republican ethos at its best, although a monarchy that sits above party politics is definitely preferable, I would say, to having the Head of State bound by party allegiance.

So, I remain a constitutional monarchist as far as Australia's polity is concerned. For me, it comes down to pragmatics rather than dogma - a limited, constitutional monarchy is demonstrably the most stable form of government in the modern world, and I see no compelling reason to change our present system, even though it means we must live with the apparent anomaly of having a foreigner as monarch of Australia - I'm sure that makes no sense to our American cousins!

On the occassion of Prince William's visit to these shores, a former parliamentarian, Ross Cameron, has put the case for a limited, constitutional monarchy in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. He writes that, " Absolute monarchy is inherited dictatorship and abhorrent. But a limited monarchy is democracy with an umpire at the apex whose sole executive role is to resolve political stalemates. Some modern minds feel it is old-fashioned or anti-democratic but despite its quirks, it works. The most politically stable and free nations are limited monarchies - Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands, among others. Japan has enjoyed its best 63 years since installing a limited monarchy. In the Middle East, Jordan and Morocco stand out among their historically strife-torn neighbours."

Cameron also writes that Prince William's charisma may see a boost in the hitherto waning popularity of the Royal Family in Australia. That remains to be seen, although it would be a welcome development, but the pragmatic argument is hard to go past, not to mention the historical and cultural continuity that maintaining the present Australian constitution provides.

Click on the post title to read his article in full.


Matthias said...

Pastor i voted in 1975 for the Liberals as I believed then ,and still do, that the actions of the Governor General were necessary to stop a PM who would have bankrupted this country and perhaps have sought to rule by decree.
However i think a Swiss Federal system would be suitable for us where the federal council (government)is elected directly by the people and none of its members are parliamentarians.
As for the Windsors-given my Scottish heritage- and my father being a londoner ( Parliamentary stronghold in the Civil war) I too am not a fan of theirs' I think of what is written on a memorial to Oliver Cromwell and attributed to him 'Christ not man is King"

acroamaticus said...

Well, I wasn't old enough too vote in 1975, Wayne! But I still vividly remember walking home from school on November 11 after we had been told the government had been sacked and wondering what it was all going to mean (I was in grade 7 at the time). As I recall, my parents were relieved at the decision, and in retrospect, it's hard now not to agree that the Governor-General made the right decision, and a courageous one it was too.

The Swiss sytem is interesting, but barring a wholesale collapse of our present system, I don't favour changing it - "don't fix what ain't broke."

Thanks for the quote re Cromwell, I hadn't heard of that before. Of course, it's no accident that Australia is offically known as "The Commonwealth of Australia", a nod, I think, to our English parliamentary forebears.

Matthias said...

November 11th 1975 i heard what Cromwell said -? at the battle of Naseby to the preaching privates and praying captains of his New Model Army "Trust God and keep your powder dry".
Not bad words to remember in the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in.

Schütz said...

All I can say regarding your comments and Cameron's article is: "Amen".