Updated: Oct 20, 2020
What is a Constitutional Monarchy?
When Australia was settled by Europeans in 1788, the Brits brought with them their systems of justice, law and, yes, the constitutional monarchy. You might want to know what a constitutional monarchy is. I’ll tell you. It’s kind of like a democracy with a monarchy taped around it, or on top of it, essentially a monarchy where the monarch has very limited power. In the case of Britain, there is a parliament and a Prime Minister alongside Queen Elizabeth (the monarch). Compare this to the USA where you have a parliament (Congress) alongside the President - a representative elected by the people. This is a republic. England’s constitutional monarchy has existed since the years of King John when the nobles of England forced him to sign the Magna Carta - a document limiting the king’s power. In Australia, we have a parliament and a Prime Minister alongside the Queen - or the Queen’s representative, the Governor-General. The Governor-General is appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister (so, in practice, the Prime Minister appoints him) and has a range of roles and responsibilities.
For as long as Australia has existed, people have longed for independence from the United Kingdom. That independence came in 1901. It did not come via a revolution or rebellion (as in America) but via a UK Parliament bill giving full self-governance and power to the Australian people. But the Queen remained. Of course, she had no real authority and was subject to the Australian Constitution as well as British law. The question remained, however, whether we were truly free. In more recent years, support for the monarchy decreased to an all-time low and it soon seemed as though our Prime Minister, John Howard, was one of a small minority of die-hard monarchists. The change seeming inevitable, John Howard called a referendum (a vote by which the people decide on a question), in 1999, as to whether Australia should become a republic. On 30 November, when the result was declared, it was clear that Australia had elected to remain a constitutional monarchy. Although close, only 45% of people had voted for a republic. Incredibly, even while support was at an all-time low, the monarchy was evidently still the prefered option.
Since the 1999 poll, support for the monarchy has steadily grown, especially among the younger generations. Now, as Harry and Meghan Markle's royal wedding displayed (an estimated 4 million Australians watched the event) there is an increasing interest in, not only Queen Elizabeth but in the next generation of Royals. Cutting ties with the Royal family and the Monarchy would cut us off from one of Australia’s most significant pieces of cultural heritage. We are a young nation and must remember and celebrate what little history we have. Australia is a fully free and independent country and to undermine our constitutional monarchy would change little, except to further remove from our past. For now, it seems that Generations Y and Z will continue to enthusiastically support our monarchy.
The Royal Family. (2018). Australia. [online] Available at: https://www.royal.uk/australia [Accessed 29 May 2018].
Australia.gov.au. (2018). Federation | australia.gov.au. [online] Available at: https://www.australia.gov.au/about-government/how-government-works/federation [Accessed 29 May 2018].
Australia’s system of government. (2018). [online] Available at: http://moad-web.s3.amazonaws.com/heracles-production/054/a90/437/054a904372eb7953f0c545270fe9a77e94e5983013f86bfc16561a05ee55/61-System-of-government-75e046216.pdf [Accessed 29 May 2018].
ABC News. (2018). Vote Compass: Do Australians support the monarchy?. [online] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-10/republic-monarchy-vote-compass/5012360 [Accessed 29 May 2018].