31 Jan 2013

The Monarchy - Are We In Or Out?

By Cal Viney
David Cameron's in-out EU referendum raises questions of sovereignty and the social contract that feature in the Australian republican debate. We would do well to pay attention, writes Cal Viney

As David Cameron delivered his radical "in-out" UK-EU referendum speech to a salivating British press, most Australians were probably fast asleep.

However, with a resurgent Australian Republican Movement gaining momentum, and an Australia Day that saw the broadsheets alight with republican vows, we may have a new window of opportunity to ask, whether we are in or out when it comes to the monarchy.

Behind the rhetoric driving support the UK referendum is the premise that the EU bloc is absorbing the UK's sovereignty. As David Cameron put it, the UK is an island nation "passionate in defence of our sovereignty" — much, we might say, like Australia. However, many Britons "feel that the EU is now heading for a level of political integration that is far outside Britain's comfort zone".

Cameron's argument is essentially based on the idea, developed by the philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau, of the social contract; that any form of authority must receive express or implied consent from the people in order to be considered legitimate.

The EU is a regional authority. Just like the British Parliament, it relies on such express or implied popular consent for legitimacy. Cameron believes that the British public's consent is "wafer thin". To retain its legitimacy, the EU must therefore be exposed to an explicit test of popular consent — in the form of a referendum.

The social contract argument trades on a simple proposition — the willing surrender of "liberty" to the ruler, which occurs when the social contact is strong, but the right to reclaim that liberty when the social contract expires. Where regional organisations are concerned, state sovereignty amounts to liberty; Cameron is using a carrot and stick approach to repatriate UK sovereignty (and liberty) back to Downing Street.

In Australia there is no breakdown of the social contract. As a nation, we have more "liberty" from the monarchy now than at any other time in our history. In legal and cultural terms, Australia has already repatriated about as much sovereignty as it can without becoming a republic.

Yet the republican campaign sounds incredibly similar to the Cameron rhetoric — the message is still focused on a simple question of winning back images of a sovereign identity, principally through the installation of an Australian Head of State, and the call for an in-out plebiscite similar to Cameron's referendum.

Yet the contrasts between the UK and Australia could not be starker. In the UK, there is a popular view that national identity and sovereignty is under attack from the massive EU harmonisation regime that has become the backbone of the EU "promise". The European Court of Justice and the European Commission are seen as swelling, bureaucratic bodies far removed from the day-to-day issues of the average Briton.

Meanwhile, Australia controls Australia. Indeed, many Australians probably view the Prime Minister as our Head of State, and the Queen of England as some relic of a bygone era. While this view doesn't match our legal situation, it would be an understandable mistake to make when considered against the backdrop of a quiet independence. For example, we have long since lanced the boil of the Privy Council, leaving an Australian High Court, staffed with Australian Justices, as our constitutional guardians.

We have also enshrined, through the adoption of the Statute of Westminster Act, and ultimately the passing of the Australia Acts, a legal regime that frees our states from off-shore rule and terminates the UK Parliament's previous ability to legislate on our behalf.

This is in stark contrast to the situation in the UK, where European Community legislation has full force of law in the UK, and in the event that there is a clash between UK law and European Community law, the European Community law effectively wins out.

While it is technically possible for the monarch to dissolve our parliament, ironically the only time such a controversy has reared its ugly head was during the 1975 onstitutional crisis, ultimately "resolved" by the then Governor General Sir John Kerr — an Australian.

While I strongly support an Australian republic, and can not stand the idea of our Constitution existing in a section of an Act of the UK Parliament, without the pervading sense of a loss of sovereignty to another power (whether it be a state, regional or institutional power), the republican dream is hardly likely to strike the populist chord required to win a double majority in an Australian referendum.

Indeed, the true republican challenge is to convince Australians of the need to explicitly renew the social contract; in essence, to explicitly formalise an already implied view of Australia as a truly sovereign, independent nation already free from the vestiges of a colonial past.

Born in the Enlightenment period, and immortalised as a republican call to arms in the brutal days of the French Revolution, Rousseau's argument is still the bedrock of any true republican movement. It's clear that David Cameron appreciates that the social contract is the only game in town when it comes to winning his EU-UK referendum call to arms.

Indeed, the social contract is the premise upon which we build any argument for a referendum. Committed Australian republicans ought to be asking the same question as Cameron, but taking note of the vastly different circumstances. That is, how can we articulate an equally powerful argument, but in the context of a proudly sovereign nation that doesn't perceive the social contract to be in need of urgent renewal; that, perhaps understandably so, doesn't believe there is much more "liberty" to repatriate?

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pararto
Posted Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 17:12

Can we really take the idea of sovereignty seriously, when the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the IMF, WTO and credit ratings agencies make it clear that the rights of international business make boundaries totally porous at the corporate level? They can push lolly-water franchises across international boundaries, get rights to drinking water supplies to make it; energy companies can wreck the geology in the search for coal-seam gas. They stop me watching films until they deem fit, and enable renegade Australian media moguls play havoc with internal politics. Try asserting some sovereignty when it comes to carbon emissions. Kevin Rudd and Malcom Turnbull would be well aware of the strength of Australian sovereignty in that regard.
Cameron is just trying to distract from the real issues in order to maintain power for his mates, but in doing so he might really upset people like me. The main reason for retaining dual citizenship is that a British Passport allows me to live and perhaps work if I so wish in lots of more interesting European places. As a non-EU member, a British Passport would be just about useless. I imagine, if they get a vote in this referendum, many expats (until now I have never thought of myself that way) will want to vote for their European citizenship, not their subjection to the Crown. The days when Her Majesty and her Secretary of State would dispatch a gunboat to ensure we should be allowed to pass freely without let or hindrance (as it says on the inside cover of my passport) are well and truly over. So Cameron should stop fiddling about with my EU Citizenship or I will have to return to organize to vote him out!

This user is a New Matilda supporter. DrGideonPolya
Posted Sunday, February 3, 2013 - 13:46

Useful article. However one must protest the assertion that "Meanwhile, Australia controls Australia". Australia has been a running dog of US imperialism since the 1940s just as it was formerly a running dog of British imperialism. Indeed Australia has a secret genocide history of involvement in some 2 dozen Anglo-American atrocities of which half a dozen are still ongoing, all whitewashed from history by our slavishly Anglophile and largely US-owned Mainstream media. (see "Australia's secret genocide history": https://sites.google.com/site/aboriginalgenocide/australia-s-secret-geno... ).

The worst British atrocity in which Australia participated was the "forgotten" 1942-1945 WW2 Bengali Holocaust in which the British deliberately starved 6-7 million Indians to death for strategic reasons and was associated with massive civilian and military sexual abuse of starving women and girls on a scale commensurate with the Japanese military comfort women abuses - Australia's role was to withhold wheat for starving India from its huge grain stocks e.g. from its 24 million tonne wheat production in WW2. Grain shipments (in millions of tons) for India from all sources in 1942-1945 are as follows: 0.03 (1942), 0.3 (1943), 0.6 (1944) and 0.9 (1945). (see Gideon Polya, "Australia and Britain Killed 6-7 Million Indians in WW2 Bengal Famine", Countercurrents, 29 September 2011: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya290911.htm and Gideon Polya, "Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History", now available for free perusal on the web: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com.au/).

Before we get divorced from the UK, by analogy with the olden times fault-based divorce, there should be a frank public discussion of our historic role as a racist lackey of British imperialism. However pigs may fly in look-the-other-way, PC racist White Australia.

While the British interfered in Australian government (e.g. routine corporate interference; Sir Phillip Game's dismiissal of Jack Lang; the Kerr's dismissal of Gough Whitlam) the Zionist-beholden Americans have a continuing dirty role: the dismissal of Whitlam in 1975; the US Ambassador's veto of Mark Latham in the 2004 elections; US approval of the foreign mining company-backed, pro-Zionist-led Coup in 2010; endless US subversion via its Australian "assets" (e.g. as recently revealed by Wikileaks) , and massive US ownership of Australian media (hence "Boycott Murdoch Media": https://sites.google.com/site/boycottmurdochmedia/ ).

I have Anglo-Celtic forebears, am an Anglophile culturally and am rather taken with Her Majesty, Prince Phillip and Prince Charles (indeed I was a Queen Elizabeth II Fellow at ANU). Before we even think of cutting ties with the UK we need to take an honest look at our appalling history - unfortunately the neoliberal Labor-commissioned National History Curriculum for Australia's grossly abused schoolchildren simply offers more of the same dishonest , PC racist, Eurocentric, genocide ignoring and holocaust denial.

Peace is the only way but Silence kills and Silence is complicity.

jackal01
Posted Sunday, February 3, 2013 - 17:29

Cal Viney written like a true Economist Dunce.
Yes well put DrGideonPolya and others.

Lets get one thing straight. The English Aristocracy is as German as it is French, as it is English, Dutch, Belgium etc.

All the E.U is, is common rule of and over Europe by common people as opposed to rule over Europe by the Aristocrats through the British Parliament from its once safe seat in England. Remember the Spanish Armarda.
The Europeans know why WW1&WW2 happened and the E.U is meant to stop those Morrons in England from playing the old Game of Devide and Conquer. Australia sent its entire Gene Pool over there to die for nothing and we are still talking bull, celebrating stupidity, all that so that we could have the 3rd richest Landed gentry which controlled 85% of the Nations wealth and what did the people get, we had to fight to get the Hero Parade, Anzac Day. It was meant to be a day of remembering the fallen, right or wrong. Not to allow the Media half wits to high jack it so that we could celebrate stupidity and March with Terrorists who shot real soldiers in the back.

The Aristocracy took out Hitler because he was a Peasant just like Napoleon, who took land away from the Churches who incidentaly were the Aristocracies Partners in Crime, so old stumpy had to go.
The German people made their Industrialists far too powerful against the Monarchies Farming and Industrial investments, so Germany had to go and the English Masters went to America, which became their power base when they realized that shitty little Island wasn't going to Fight, Finance or Win any more of their brain that Rape and Pillage Military exploits after their defeat during WW1.
England was incapable of winning WW1 both Militarily and from a Manufacturing point, they needed the Yank Soldiers and their Factories.

Hence the scandal of the Lusitania, the Arms Runner and thats what it was used for thats why it sank so quickly, just like the Hood the Armory and in the case of the Lusitania its weapons Cargo blew up.

There is more to sovereignty, for the sake of sovereignty, when it comes to the peasants and their sovereign right to Egalitarian Rule.

Royal Family Tree
Monarchy-King Artur-God. Hence the Power or The Right to Rule given to them by the Churches in the name of God, their Father.

Remember the Game of Chess, where are the Bishops. Designed by Kings to be played by Kings and the King is the only piece that can not Die or be removed from the Board. Got it Dumkopf, if you don't know what that means ask your Queen.