3 January 2018Feature
Unless you’ve been living under a rock of late, or have been taking a break from social media, you’ll likely have heard of the engagement of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle (of Suits fame).
Their wedding day is already confirmed as May 19, about six months after they were engaged. Not having had such an event for many a year, the various magazines and the like are going a little bit crazy over it all; talking about how Harry proposed over roast chicken, or why Meghan’s ring is so special, or how the royal family is really moving with the times, considering Meghan is an American divorcee (which caused a bit of controversy last time) – though, really, it has been 81 years.
But this actually brings forward a larger issue, which has been hanging around for quite a while.
As you may or may not be aware, Australia has a British head of state. No, I’m not suggesting that Malcolm Turnbull has a dual citizenship that he hasn’t told us about, but, strange as it may seem, the Prime Minister in Australia is not the head of state. The Queen – or King, if that happens again at some point – of England is. The PM is the head of government, and the head of state has a representative, the Governor-General, who typically serves a ceremonial role, but has specific powers if needed — à la Gough Whitlam.
This apparently equates to being a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy, which is a mouthful and a half. I’ve also heard it referred to as a democratically-elected oligarchy ruled over by a monarch — and that phrase, you can thank my history teacher for.
Australia continues to have an interesting relationship with Britain, and the royal family. For many years, there has been a dedicated portion of the population that is rather keen on separating from Britain, and becoming a republic. However, they’ve never seemed to drum up quite the support that they need — the support for the royal family has been too strong, and even more recent opinion polls and research seem to indicate that, surprisingly, this hasn’t changed much, even with younger demographics. This new engagement and marriage with Harry and Meghan seems only set to solidify that support for the royal family.
But why is it that Australians don’t want the change? Contrary to popular belief, having an Australian head of state would not mean that we couldn’t be a part of the Commonwealth, or the Commonwealth Games; which is probably a good thing, seeing as we’re hosting the next one. After all, that’s what India set in motion back in 1949, with many others following suit. And Britain? Well, they probably wouldn’t care too much. The Royals would keep visiting now and then, and we’d still get plenty of British tourists and migrants. And the practical difference would be minimal, really. We’d just have a head of state that lives here, and is Australian. Which is a radical idea, isn’t it?
So, we wish Harry and Meghan all the best for their future marriage; and perhaps in times to come, we might even see an Australian head of state. But probably not any time soon.