Home > Oz Politics > Shorten and Abbott revive the Republic

Shorten and Abbott revive the Republic

January 26th, 2015

Bill Shorten’s call yesterday to reopen the republic debate struck me as uncharacteristically brave. Now, with Abbott’s bizarre decision to confer an Australian knighthood on a foreign prince, it looks prescient, or perhaps well-informed.

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  1. Florence nee Fed up
    January 26th, 2015 at 10:17 | #1

    Where are the Dames. Shortens speech at book launch was good. Wonder why the authors surname was not mentioned once. Undermined all that Abbott’s said since.

  2. Florence nee Fed up
    January 26th, 2015 at 10:18 | #2

    Maybe in the next round, he will make the Queen a Dame.

  3. paul walter
    January 26th, 2015 at 10:24 | #3

    I caught about fifteen minutes of it- a booklaunch.

    I think it was Shorten’s way of “introducing” himself to the public, a sort of Headland speech with volume down a bit, now that we are well into the current electoral cycle. Abbott’s colossal stupidity, exemplified by the crowning imbecility of the “honours list”, has the country now involved in seeking out sane people to run the country, before the Mad Hatters from Bedlam push things beyond retrieval.

  4. Lt. Fred
    January 26th, 2015 at 10:27 | #4

    I don’t think it’s a particularly big deal in policy terms. In political terms, I’m not sure you won’t lose more votes than you win by raising a deeply emotional issue for many people, particularly the elderly.

    In many ways, Bill Shorten’s ultra small-target strategy has worked, despite my belittling of it. As Napoleon said, never interrupt an enemy while he is making a mistake. Which raises questions about democracy.

  5. Newtownian
    January 26th, 2015 at 10:36 | #5

    And you thought April 1 was all fools day.

  6. Newtownian
    January 26th, 2015 at 10:37 | #6

    Florence nee Fed up :
    Maybe in the next round, he will make the Queen a Dame.


  7. Ken_L
    January 26th, 2015 at 11:45 | #7

    Perhaps Houston was the only Australian of note that Abbott could find who was willing to accept a knighthood, given even John Howard has said he wouldn’t take one if they offered it. At least the conspiracy theorists will have a field day – Houston is obviously being paid off for concealing the true fate of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

    What a strange man got to become our prime minister.

  8. Sancho
    January 26th, 2015 at 11:48 | #8

    I reckon Shorten is predicting Malcolm Turnbull will go for Libs leader soon, and is going for the wedge.

    Turnbull is their best performer, but if he’s forced to speak up on the republic issue, it’ll nobble his chances of winning in a spill, leaving who? Hockey?

    Labor would love that.

  9. jungney
    January 26th, 2015 at 11:53 | #9

    I agree with JQ that Shorten is having a go at Abbott and that it was a very well informed political manoeuvre. I doubt that the electorate has the energy or interest to participate in a genuine process of discussion leading to a plebiscite; there’ll just be another long round of commentary. However, it serves to highlight the differences between Abbott and Shorten in an amusing way that has the benefit of making Abbott look truly bizarre.

  10. January 26th, 2015 at 11:54 | #10

    I see Prince Phillip got his award for “service”. Now if he was to be awarded for his service during World War II that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but a lot of other people also distiguished themselves in similar ways at that time and since and so we’re going to have to hand out an awful lot of knighthoods to an awful lot of people from all over the world. For example there are a number of Papuans who should definitely be getting knighthoods.

    Of course, if he’s getting his knighthood for service he has done Australia after his millitary service, then if I wander around asking people, “And what is that you do?” and, “What kind of a thing is that?” then can I have a knighthood? ‘Cause you know, by his standard of service to Australia since World War II, Australian knighthoods must be pretty easy to get. My mother definitely deserves one, and by jingo I can tell you, it had better be a bloody knighthood and none of this freaking dame business or there will be hell to pay.

  11. bjb
    January 26th, 2015 at 12:01 | #11


    I think you’re on the money, but not Hockey – Bishop.

  12. John Quiggin
    January 26th, 2015 at 13:04 | #12

    @Florence nee Fed up

    The absence of Dames was another thing I noticed. Abbott has really lost the plot, even more than with the original decision.

  13. Sancho
    January 26th, 2015 at 13:09 | #13

    Oh crikey. Bishop. That would at least be interesting.

  14. Julie Thomas
    January 26th, 2015 at 13:39 | #14

    I think Morrison is the favourite of the hard men and women on the right; he “gets things done”. Julie Bishop is being called ‘earring girl’ and would probably be asked to twirl by some of the LNP boys, if she wasn’t so old, and so rich.

    Too old to twirl and too young to be the Witch of Endor like the older Bishop. Maybe in a few years when conservative women admit they do need feminism, Julie could be picked.

  15. Paul Foord
    January 26th, 2015 at 14:04 | #15

    So will Lady Betty Windsor be nominated to become a Dame in the Queen’s birthday honours list

  16. Paul Foord
    January 26th, 2015 at 14:28 | #16

    @Paul Foord
    I see Florence sort of beat me to it.

  17. Mozzie
    January 26th, 2015 at 14:36 | #17

    Bit odd that Sir Angus saw nothing unseemly in accepting the gong while putative head of the selection committee. Even odder that he didn’t mind being forever linked to such a controversial appointment, as even a drovers dog could see it would be.
    All I can think is needing to keep up with the Cosgroves blinded his normally impeccable good sense.

  18. January 26th, 2015 at 14:55 | #18

    If there are any youngsters here, you may be interested to know that The Australian campaigned in support of a republic back in 2000 (or 2001). But of course Rupert was a young idealist back then…

  19. Ikonoclast
    January 26th, 2015 at 15:43 | #19

    Abbott has indeed lost the plot. He seems a whole stack of sandwhiches short of a picnic to me. His own reputation is already damaged beyond repair. He needs to be removed from office before he does more damage to the country.

  20. john goss
    January 26th, 2015 at 15:48 | #20

    I am starting to be concerned about abbott’s mental health. A bizarre decision like knighting Prince Phillip along with his unconvincing behaviour in interviews recently may indicate he is withdrawing into a world of his own, as a defence against the attacks on him. This is quite like the situation with Kevin Rudd.
    I don’t like seeing this happen to our PM, even though I despise his policies.

  21. Collin Street
    January 26th, 2015 at 16:22 | #21

    > I am starting to be concerned about abbott’s mental health.

    His behaviour isn’t atypical seen in the context of the rest of federal cabinet.

  22. ZM
    January 26th, 2015 at 16:23 | #22

    I think having more than just two Knights and no Dames would have been better. Then poor HRH Prince Phillip would not have stood out so much as a choice.

    I hope there is not another Republic debate, but if there is I hope people concentrate on the legal and constitutional implications not on what a short preamble should be like they did last time.

  23. Collin Street
    January 26th, 2015 at 16:31 | #23

    Bit odd that Sir Angus saw nothing unseemly in accepting the gong while putative head of the selection committee. Even odder that he didn’t mind being forever linked to such a controversial appointment, as even a drovers dog could see it would be.

    He couldn’t find any damned person willing to take it off his hands, is what happened. Five bucks says Prince Phillip’s was declined by Prince William, too.

  24. Ikonoclast
    January 26th, 2015 at 16:48 | #24


    There would be no problem in becoming a republic. The minimal change necessary would be the Governor General replaces the Monarch in Australia’s Constitution in all capacities (but nothing more and maybe even a little less). The GG role might have to be re-written in the Constitution to slightly reduce GG powers. The new GG would be selected from 3 candidates. These three candidates would be nominated by (a) the PM (b) Leader of the Opposition and (c) The State Premiers plus the Northern Territory Chief Minister. Then at the next Federal general election, the people vote for the GG from the three nominees in addition to all other voting.

    The GG would run a normal term of up to 6 years (or a little longer in some cases) until a new GG is appointed. The GG is legally considered “appointed by the people by popular vote”. Where a GG is lost (illness or death) before the end of a term the closest surving, healthy GG Emeritus, if willing, is appointed until the next general election.

    That’s roughly it. Might need some fine-tuning.

  25. ZM
    January 26th, 2015 at 16:53 | #25

    I think it is more complicated. What about the reserve powers? And what about the unwritten constitutional conventions – what would happen to them without a Crown? And what about legal things that we inherit from England like habeas corpus if we no longer gave a connection through the Crown to England? And I am not even studied in law – think of all the problems someone who knows more about laws might think up..,

  26. January 26th, 2015 at 16:54 | #26


    Don’t go there Ikon! As soon as you propose a model, people think, “Hey, thats not the model I want”, and vote against a republic. Best bet is just to have the referendum on something bland like “Australia chooses its own head of state”, and get the details right later.

  27. ZM
    January 26th, 2015 at 17:00 | #27

    John Brooke’s,

    But then there is no guarantee if you vote for just an Australuan head of state that the final details will be any sort of an improvement …

    I think it’s unlikely anyhow, since the younger generation of royals are proving very popular.

  28. January 26th, 2015 at 17:15 | #28

    … Abbott’s bizarre decision to confer an Australian knighthood on a foreign [emphasis added] prince …

    I take it you realise that you have cast your position in the form of a circular argument, in that you are asserting a rather fundamental point in the very form of your wording? A feature of the other position to yours is that there is nothing “foreign” to Australia about the royal connection anyway. Now, that may be disputed or agreed with on its merits, but it should not be a begged question.

  29. John Quiggin
    January 26th, 2015 at 17:23 | #29


    Philip is, I understand, a Prince of the United Kingdom (but not of Australia) and a British subject. He is, as far as I can tell, not an Australian citizen, nor eligible to become one, nor does he hold any constitutional role in our system of government.

  30. ZM
    January 26th, 2015 at 17:42 | #30

    Since he is HM the Queen’s husband I think his title must be HRH Phillip, Prince Consort of Australia – like Camilla is Princess Consort.

  31. John Quiggin
    January 26th, 2015 at 17:55 | #31
  32. rog
    January 26th, 2015 at 18:16 | #32

    Not sure if Abbott has a long term cunning plan but dyed in the wool Lib voter friends say he is a big disappointment and his actions are those of a moron.

  33. Collin Street
    January 26th, 2015 at 18:23 | #33

    “Prince” titles — all titles — are issued by and in respect of a particular juristiction. As a courtesy most titles are recognised by most juristictions, but they only have real legal effect in the juristiction that originated them: pretty obviously, one state can’t act to force another state to give a person precedence and respect.

    Prince Phillip got given a prince title by the queen of the UK, but the queen of australia didn’t give him anything: he has a UK title, but no australian one.

    “What do we do when someone who was granted a title by our king but in respect of a different domain” is a problem that was faced, and settled, hundreds of years ago.

  34. ZM
    January 26th, 2015 at 18:36 | #34

    I think since he is married to the Queen of Australia this confers upon him the title of Prince in Australia too, since the Queen does not become a single woman when she is doing her official Queen of Australia duties – elsewise Prince Charles would be illegitimate and illegitimate children can’t become Kings of Australia. So it stands he is Prince here too. In Australia he is meant to be addressed as HRH Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh – so this must mean Prince of Australia, or of the various States.

  35. Donald Oats
    January 26th, 2015 at 19:23 | #35

    Be rest assured that PM Tony Abbott is playing the long game, for even if he is a one term prime minister, he’ll have great odds of getting a title or some such symbolic trinket.

  36. sunshine
    January 26th, 2015 at 20:07 | #36

    This is getting weirder – Mr Rabbit fell down a rabbit hole of his own making. An astounding display so far. Just when you think you’ve seen it all…

    There is a widespread loss of faith in national governments ,around the globe ,to guide us from the old world to the new. Mr Rabbit is a dinosaur with no clothes.

  37. John Quiggin
    January 26th, 2015 at 21:13 | #37


    You may think that, but you are wrong, as has already been explained and documented with links. It’s customary to refer to visiting foreign dignitaries by the titles they have at home, the Duke of Edinburgh being an obvious example and Princess Mary of Denmark another.

  38. January 26th, 2015 at 21:47 | #38

    On the knighthood: What is the protocol. Who does the sword work? Isn’t odd that the Queen’s husband swears to be her liege either to her personally, or to the Vice Regal? Late in the day, or early in the night, I suggest, since Phil is now 93, not out.

    Perhaps symbolism aside we have moved past the Middle Ages, and so a formal democratic republic may be timely.

  39. Collin Street
    January 26th, 2015 at 21:50 | #39


    Sets it out in pretty tedious detail. He didn’t become a prince until five years after his father-in-law died, and it’s an explicitly british title, by letters-patent under the british seal and under advice of the british PM.

    Also, in 1948 George VI issued a warrant declaring the children of Princess Elizabeth would be titled as princes and princesses which they would otherwise not be entitled to their father not being a british prince.

    I cannot believe I went and did the research. Something like an hour I wasted here.

  40. ZM
    January 26th, 2015 at 22:00 | #40

    It seems there was rather a to do about what title to call Prince Phillip in the 1950s.

    The Queen felt he should have a very dignified and multi-realm title, but various people/countries said they didn’t want him to be called the very high sounding HRH Phillip, Prince of the Commonweath ; then Prince Phillip not being one to put himself forward said to HM the Queen not to bother with getting him a proper grand title, so the Queen told Churchill to drop the matter; then there was a newspaper article in the Evening Standard called “Well, Is It Correct To Say Prince Phillip?”; then PM Macmillan recommended that the Queen title him Phillip, Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Her other Realms and Territories; then when the Queen got her letters patents ready for the title , the last part – Her Other Realms and Territories was omitted; then many years later they thought about calling him Prince Consort but decided not to.

    And now here we are in 2015 arguing about what title the Queen of Australia’s husband and father of the heirs to our Crown should have, all due to the aforementioned omission of Her Other Realms and Territories in the 1950s title decision making process.

  41. Megan
    January 26th, 2015 at 22:10 | #41

    If we don’t need a “head of state”, let’s not have one – elected, appointed or hereditary.

    If we think they’re a rather quaint, useful or handy symbolic thing – let’s stick with the ones we’ve got.

    But if we somehow “need” to re-label from “federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy” to “republic” in order to make us feel better about ourselves, then perhaps WE have a bigger problem than labelling?

  42. January 26th, 2015 at 23:06 | #42


    A moments reflection would suggest that it is necessary to have someone to sign bills and turn them into law after receiving the ascent of Parliament. That is a symbolic process. Without a head of state, who will be the signee? What does this symbolic process connote about the society, particularly the responsibilities of citizenship and characteristic values, such as egalitarianism and the fair go.

  43. January 26th, 2015 at 23:33 | #43


    We could just appoint a person and give them the title “signatory”, and authorise them to sign documents on behalf of the parliament.

  44. Megan
    January 27th, 2015 at 00:16 | #44

    @John Brookes

    Very good point.

    In fact, think of the hundreds of millions of dollars we’d save by outsourcing the “signatory” to a much cheaper place – maybe Bangladesh?

    “Your legislation is very important to us, this Act may be monitored or recorded for security and training purposes…if your parliament and senate have just passed legislation because the ALP/LNP duopoly have slammed it through, press 1 and you will be fast-tracked without any media scrutiny.

    If your legislation required cross-bench support, press 2 and the media will endlessly complain about the ‘roadblock’ in the Senate and denigrate as ‘undemocratic’ all non-duopoly parties and politicians.”

  45. Megan
    January 27th, 2015 at 01:06 | #45

    “If you wish to call an election, press 3.

    If you wish to sack an elected prime minister without holding an election, please hold and we will connect you with a US ‘consultant’ – extra fees and charges may apply.”

  46. JKUU
    January 27th, 2015 at 02:10 | #46

    @John Quiggin
    I agree, there is nothing like a dame. Australians are in danger of becoming a benighted people.

  47. rog
    January 27th, 2015 at 04:03 | #47

    Upon further reflection T Abbott should be congratulated; in a single action he has united most if not Australians on Australia Day.

  48. rog
    January 27th, 2015 at 05:50 | #48

    Comments page in the Oz indicates it’s the conservatives who are most rattled by our tone deaf PM


  49. Julie Thomas
    January 27th, 2015 at 06:11 | #49


    lol Sheila’s are more Australian than Dames.

  50. Cambo
    January 27th, 2015 at 07:22 | #50

    This reminds me of the new President’s speech in Woody Allen’s “Bananas” (1971)

    People of San Marcos, I am your new president. From now on the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish …

  51. john goss
    January 27th, 2015 at 07:41 | #51

    Not just the Australian rog. Judith Sloan went ballistic about the decision on Catallaxy, and almost everyone is supporting her. I can’t recall such unity of left, centre and right. This could well be Abbott’s Karl/Rove McManus moment. The difference being of course that with Beazley it was a slip of the tongue whereas with Abbott it was a deliberate decision. But then Labor has always been held to a much higher standard by the media.

  52. James Wimberley
    January 27th, 2015 at 08:01 | #52

    Philip did not call to thank Abbott. He may have thought the award impertinent: since when do you offer a mere knighthood to the consort of your sovereign, even a purely ceremonial one? He couldn’t turn it down, as a younger Philip might have done, with Australian frankness. He is a very old man, pretty much retired, and not fit to travel to Australia.

    I agree that the bizarre incident suggests that Abbott’s loose screws are working free. Thank God Australia does not control nuclear weapons.

  53. I am always Not Trampis
    January 27th, 2015 at 08:46 | #53

    I think Angus Houston’s reaction says it all. He wants still to be called Angus. to call someone Sir is anachronistic and an embarrassment.

    Tony has completely lost the plot.

  54. paul walter
    January 27th, 2015 at 09:54 | #54

    Sloan is only antsy because it could blow the lid on what the back room market economics people like her are up to.

  55. paul walter
    January 27th, 2015 at 09:56 | #55

    @John Quiggin
    John, in recollection of the old saying,

    “There aint nuttin’ like a Dame”.

  56. paul walter
    January 27th, 2015 at 09:58 | #56

    Give us a break, ZM.

  57. January 27th, 2015 at 11:08 | #57

    The really odd thing is that Phillip was already an AC;

    The Duke’s full title is HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, KG (Knight of the Garter), KT (Knight of the Thistle), OM (Order of Merit), GBE (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire), AC (Companion of the Order of Australia), QSO (Companion of The Queen’s Service Order), PC (Privy Counsellor).

    When did that happen? I don’t remember any fuss about that, though you’d think it was just as objectionable.

  58. rog
    January 27th, 2015 at 11:10 | #58

    Yes, the palace might well be perplexed at this Abbott antic; usually a knighthood is bestowed by a monarch in recognition of service.

  59. January 27th, 2015 at 11:11 | #59

    Abbott is a secret republican. That is the only explanation.

  60. jungney
    January 27th, 2015 at 11:21 | #60

    I know that the ALP has been lying low on the issue of whether or not Abbott can produce certification of his renunciation of dual citizenship. I don’t think they’ve made a demand, that I’m aware of, in parliament for proof.

    I’m suspecting that Tony didn’t renounce his British citizenship, that he knows his days are numbered, that he is cracking up at the prospect of having to go to by-election to hold his seat (or take the long trek to the HC) and the prospect of inevitable and further public humiliation has him totally rattled. Maybe this knighthood is therefore either an attempt to secure himself a post parliamentary future, perhaps sucking up to Saudi Royals on behalf of British Royals, or it is the action of a man who has actually lost the (mental health) plot.

  61. Uncle Milton
    January 27th, 2015 at 11:48 | #61

    Phillip was a prince before he married the Queen. He was born Prince Phillip of Greece (and/or Denmark, I forget which). The Queen gave him the title Duke of Edinburgh.

  62. John Quiggin
    January 27th, 2015 at 12:44 | #62

    @paul walter

    Philip got his AC in 1988 apparently. Lots of foreigners have received honours in the Order of Australia, and lots of Australians vice versa. It’s the conjunction with the revival of knighthoods that causes the big problems.

    As an aside, Fraser gave Charles an AK in 1981. It didn’t get quite the same reaction, because it wasn’t as bizarrely anachronistic 35 years ago. But Hawke scrapped the AK as soon as he got in, and there was never any suggestion of reviving it under Howard.

  63. paul walter
    January 27th, 2015 at 16:06 | #63

    Not complainin’, John Quiggin.

    I had the best day I’ve had for months yesterday. If the PM keeps it up, he can have the job for life, such is his entertainment value, the gift that keeps giving.

    Just a little niggle at the back of my mind.. what’s it REALLY all about?

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