Prince William’s Australia tour - who cares?
On Tuesday 19th of January, Prince William – the 2nd in line to various thrones – will visit Australia for just the second time. It has been reported that he is doing this to “get to know Australia”.
Since this tour was announced in December, as Media Director for the Australian Republican Movement (ARM), I have been busy with requests from English broadcasters and newspapers.
The interest should have been surprising, since William is only stopping in on Australia for three days for a “semi-official” tour on his way to New Zealand. Moreover, he is visiting only two cities: Sydney and Melbourne. However, given that there has been a massive PR campaign by the Palace to present William as the youthful – cuter – face of the monarchy, it was inevitable that the English press would be awash with expectation about whether Australia would warm to the Prince like good little subjects.
Obviously, any villainous Australian republicans who might throw eggs or wave banners while he was here would greatly add to the spectacle.
So, English broadcasters have been hounding us to provide republican spokespersons to join them as they follow William around Australia, presumably to get contrarian comment at every point in the tour. So far, we have declined every offer. Why?
The three main spokespersons for the ARM live in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Canberra. None of these cities – Australia’s 3rd and 6th most populous, along with the nation’s capital – will be visited by William on this trip. Frankly, dropping everything to fly to Sydney or Melbourne to link up with an English Lord’s entourage is not really our thing. Mind you, some broadcasters have made plans to come to us and we have been amendable to those approaches.
The English newspapers want comment, but then seem surprised to discover that we are fairly underwhelmed by the prospect of Will’s visit.
“59 per cent of Australians want Australia to be a republic,” I told one reporter. “I don’t think William coming to Australia will make even 1 per cent difference”.
The reporter replied, “I think you might be wrong there, William is very charming and I suspect he will win over a great many Australians”.
Will is a strapping young lad, quite handsome, well spoken and seems most amiable. But I don’t think it would matter if he turned out to be Father Christmas; really, how much PR can anyone do on a three days stopover that includes just two cities in a land that covers more than 5 million square miles and has 22 million people spread across it?
Another question I have been fielding is about whether the ARM will be protesting, or picketing, William’s tour.
Unfortunately for the spectacle, no picketing is on our agenda. The truth is, we have nothing against someone who, by sheer chance, ended up being born royal. As republicans, it is the institution we object to, not the personalities. We have no interest in embarrassing William and causing a ruckus on his Australian holiday.
As for protesting, although we won’t be waving banners, we will be conducting a small media campaign.
Australians love sport. So, we will be pointing out that Prince William – the 2nd in line to become the King of England and Australia – last year launched England’s bid to host the 2018 Football World Cup. Of course, England’s bid is in direct opposition to a well regarded bid submitted by Australia to host this most prestigious of sporting events. William is doing this because he is English and will, of course, always put England’s interests in front of Australia’s.
And we will make the observation that it is an affront to Australia’s National Day that someone who admits to knowing little about Australia, has spent only a couple of days here, and who actively lobbies against Australia’s interests would be asked by Victoria’s Governor make the speech at an official Australia Day function. According to the itinerary, he is doing just that in Melbourne at the request of the Victorian Governor on January 21 in Melbourne.
We will be saying that Australia deserves a head of state that loves Australia, puts Australia first in every arena and wouldn’t dream of lobbying against the nation’s interests. An Australian, who lives in Australia, not one that pops in for 3 days every 3 decades.
What more need be said?
Australian’s don’t think about the monarchy much, and although most Australians are republicans, they rarely get passionate about the issue because the monarchy is so completely irrelevant to their daily lives. The 1999 referendum was won by monarchists largely by them making the argument that the Royals are effectively totally divorced from the Australian system, so why bother going to the trouble to change it?
Therefore, William’s tour – a tour by a 27-year-old who us not even next in line for the throne – will be a bonus for the ARM. It will remind Australians that every time a Royal condescends to visit our shores they make themselves part of our system again. Then, we are expected to get excited, tug the forelock and genuflect towards whoever it is as if we are an inferior class of human beings.
Australians remember the hysterical reaction by the English press when one of our Prime Ministers had the temerity to briefly touch the Queen’s back when she was in Australia on an official tour. The ‘Lizard of Oz’ Paul Keating was called by the tabloid press, yet all he did was gently guide the Queen, as any younger person would to help an elderly person who had begun to walk in the wrong direction at an official event.
If William’s tour has any significance for republicans, it is simply that it will demonstrate once again that this system of inherited privilege should not have any place in egalitarian Australia. As Australians, we should not need to humble ourselves to anyone, no matter what family of foreign nobility they may have been born into. The class system is tired, outdated, and has no place in Australia.
William is out here to present the fresh face of the monarchy. The monarchy hopes that this will keep us tied to an archaic system for a while longer. We think Will’s visit will backfire because it will remind Australians why it is so important that we move on.
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