“Well may we say ‘God Save the Queen’, because nothing will save the Governor-General.” When Australia’s Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam said this in 1975, the power of the monarchy wasn’t being downplayed. After all, Whitlam had just been unfairly dismissed by the Crown-appointed Governor General, John Kerr.
This scandal shook Australia to its core and demonstrated that the UK’s monarchical structure wasn’t just a passive symbol of British culture.
However, decade after decade, this moment faded into history quizzes and pub trivia. The culture forgot about the power that the Crown commanded in Australia. Well, that was the case until Queen Elizabeth II died.
It all began rather innocuously with the NSW Premier, Dominic Perrottet, declaring that the state’s public transport was free on September 11. This was to encourage the public to attend NSW’s proclamation of King Charles III.
Which, all in all, was a fine thing to do. This free public transport would have helped struggling royalists and republicans alike get around during a cost of living crisis. Who really cares that King Charles gets free train rides while he’s across the ocean?
However, this situation went from absurd to terrifying after Anthony Albanese announced a public holiday to mourn the death of Elizabeth II. This is because it was called for September 22, which is falling on a Thursday when a lot of surgeries were scheduled. A significant number of these surgeries have now been cancelled due to said holiday.
It’s worth noting that we wouldn’t be facing such difficulties if this day of mourning was scheduled to be later in the year. But maybe Queen Elizabeth’s last wish was to transform Australia into a bureaucratic disaster zone.
Moreover, Albanese has also pushed back the sitting of our Federal Parliament in honour of the Queen. As he stated in a presser, “If the Parliament was sitting this week, to do the counterfactual, the idea that we could be debating Question Time as usual, that we could be having the engagement as if it was business as usual is, I believe, not correct.”
There will be a day of condolences in Parliament on September 23, and then business as usual starting up again on September 26.
The fact that such changes can happen, and will continue to happen, exemplifies the power that the royals still wield in Australia. King Charles got free trains in NSW. Queen Elizabeth received a second public holiday, the greedy lady. Moreover, it indicates that our leaders will still bend the knee to its power.
As long as we remain in the Commonwealth, we will be ruled by kings and queens. Even if most of the time it doesn’t feel like it.