Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Kindred Spirits

There's an old Cold War quip by the late American cartoonist, Charles M. Schulz (1922-2000), that reasons humanity's survival: “Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.” September the 11th happened of course, but it was already September the 12th in Australia when it did. And so it goes for all of Western history: no matter that it always happens a day later there, it usually gets commemorated a day earlier than it otherwise would. Australia and New Zealand may lie far off to the East and Down Under, but they are firmly anchored to Western time.

What an honour it must have been to have become the first Canadian prime minister to address a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament, and in the process becoming only the sixth foreign leader to be given such an honour in the country's 106-year history, and on no less a date than September 11, the sixth anniversary of 9/11. It is no secret that Harper and Howard are political soulmates (Prime Minister Howard was reciprocating the honour), but even so it's hard to believe that it took so long for two almost perfectly identical nations to come together in this way.

As usual I was looking for references to our historical commonalities as "strategic cousins", the world's "bookends" and other catchy antipodean bridge phrases, as well as any evidence of a lingering affection for our shared British Monarch. I thought it came up a little short, but you be the judge:

I believe that the warmth and closeness of our relationship today is a remarkable thing. For it was not born of proximity or necessity. We started at opposite ends of the earth. Our dreams guided by the North Star, yours by the Southern Cross. Australia was born in English, Canada in French – at Quebec City four hundred years ago next year – reflected to this day by the presence of Francophones and the “Quebecois nation” within our united country. But even after Canada came under the British Crown, for centuries our countries doggedly pursued their own destinies.

Ultimately, it was through our shared values that we discovered our true kinship. The epic struggles of the twentieth century – against imperialism, fascism and communism – pitted us against the common enemies that threatened our greater civilization. Though our troops rarely fought on the same battlefield, Canadians and Australians fought for the same ideals. And, of course, in the First World War, the spark of our national identities was lit: Ours at Vimy Ridge, yours at Gallipoli.

In these great national tests and those ever since, our familial bonds have been renewed and strengthened. We have become like cousins – “strategic cousins” in the words of your military historian John Blaxland. Today, despite the vast distance between us, Canada and Australia follow remarkably similar paths. We have built on the enduring strengths which we inherited from our European ancestors, added the common experience of multicultural, immigrant nations, and sought to achieve reconciliation with our first peoples.

Of course, Canada and Australia have also both borrowed and adapted the traditions and institutions of British government and American federalism. I can’t help but notice, however, that you have done a much better job than us with at least one of our Westminster institutions, the Upper House. As one Canadian political scientist I know likes to say, when we look at Australia, we suffer from “Senate envy.”

[...]

Ladies and gentlemen, in the course of our week-long visit to Australia, I heard a suggestion for a new metaphor to describe the relationship between our two countries. Bookends. Spaced well apart, but holding together a vast store of knowledge and experience – not just for ourselves, but for all those who aspire to share it.

But perhaps the comparison to family is still the best one. As proof, let me conclude with an amusing anecdote from one of my predecessors, Lester Pearson. In the 1940s, when he was a young diplomat in Ottawa, he one day found himself with your Prime Minister J.B. Chifley, the young Princess Elizabeth and her infant son Charles. At the time, Canada-Australia relations were, I gather, in somewhat strained condition, so when Pearson wrote of the encounter in his diary he said and I quote: “(I) hope that relations…were not further disturbed by the fact that I was able to make the baby laugh while Chifley was not.” That sounds like a family to me.

Thank you.

God bless our great nations.

It was not an altogether bad speech, I suppose, though I must confess I was somewhat miffed that he would assert that we fought an epic struggle together against imperialism, when the record shows that Australia and Canada fought for King and Empire during the Great War? In fact, it was still fashionable to talk of the British Empire as late as the Suez Crisis, so this is revisionist pap to say the least (unless, that is, he was only talking about the bad empires). There were other traces of banality and political correctness laced throughout the speech, and nothing to really sink your teeth into, but I will nonetheless give it a passing grade.

I could have really gone for a little more in the way of kindred spirits though. Where's Russell Crowe when you need him: God bless America. God save the Queen. God defend New Zealand and thank Christ for Australia!

For further reading see The true meaning of the Land of Oz. Also: Politics of Australia and Canada compared.

18 comments:

Greg Benton said...

The message to Australia was not to Australia at all...it was to Quebec.
The 'official' version of 'People's History Canada' is that Canada, the country, began French. Of course, much of North America was colonised by the French, but a 'country' it was not.
The 400 years celebration in Quebec City coming up isn't to celebrate Canada 's founding as a French country but the fictious founding of Quebec as a 'nation'.
When the French lost (it is not permitted to Je me souviens the fact that 'Canada' also did not exist as a country. There were the 'Canadas' and there was Rupert's Land and other British colonies, but there was no country called 'Canada'.
The fact that Canada became an identifiable 'country' in 1867 is now in the dustbin. Yet, it was confederation, an act of the British Parliament, that created a country called 'Canada'.
The people of Quebec do not want to be reminded of this. The government doesn't to remind them either.
The history books will change.
Vimy was no Gallipoli.
The outrageous hyper-mythology about the Battle of Vimy Ridge is such a perversion of truth it makes one sick.
Gallipoli is remembered for the awful carnage and loss that the ANZACs suffered...and fostered an abiding hostility towards the 'Poms' who were 'responsible'.

This speech could have been given by a Liberal Prime Minister deep in the revised historical muck that they created and entrenched in the Canadian civil service...including 'heritage'.

As far as Her Majesty is concerned, I have noted that whilst at the beginning of the 'New Government', the Conservatives showed The Queen at the top of the list of 'how we are governed'. Like this speech, she has been purged and the GG is top dog now.

The British Army may have defeated the French in Quebec. The British government may have established a new kind of country called a 'Dominion' in 1867. The British monarchy may be called a 'Canadian' monarchy...but that country has now become a virtual Quebec Nation with the Quebec Nation at it's political and historical heart.

It's rubbish.

Beaverbrook said...

Given that the speech was to the Australian people, I thought he spoke far too much in French. It's not half English, half French, all the time. You've got to be mindful of your audience, which should not have been Quebec, at all.

If I was to choose a battle, I would have chosen Amiens and "Black Day" for the GErman Army, when the Anzacs and Canadians Corps first fought together and smashed the line, unhinging the German High Command in the process.

You're right, Padre. This whole thing about Quebec being a nation, leaves the rest of us where, exactly?

Kyle said...

"Two almost perfectly identical nations" is going a bit far, I would say.

We both have the Crown and a majority population of English speakers of British descent, true, but let's not forget the significant differences either.

We're located in vastly different parts of the world, with very different geography, regional neighbours, allies, and trade partners. Our political systems, though both inspired by 19th Century Britain, have since evolved in markedly different ways (with Australia coming off the better, in my opinion) as Harper noted.

Australia still has much fewer immigrants per capita than Canada, not to mention the fact that they have no Quebec, separatist debate, or bilingualism. They also have a much more conservative political culture overall, one that resembles the US much closer than Canada. Maybe even more conservative, in some senses. Same sex marriage is certainly more dead there than it ever will be in North America.

Like it or not, as David Frum once said, the nation Canadians most closely resemble is the Americans, in their flaws as well as their virtues. I admire Australia greatly, but mostly because it represents an ideal that Canada will never be able to fully achieve.

Red Tory said...

Good catch on the "imperialism" reference.

Beaverbrook said...

Get off your high horse, Kyle. Take Quebec out of the equation and you've got two of the most similar countries in the world by almost any measure. The U.S. is nine times the size of Canada and has a vastly different political culture and tradition, so I don't buy it. And I'm not the least bit covinced that Australis is more "conservative" than English Canada, though it may be more republican. But even there, I suspect that if both countries held a referendum on the monarchy, the results would probably be similar. They have a more hostile and vocifereous republican press though, that you can be assured.

The similarities: roughly same size, shared history, institutionally identical politically, militarily, culturally, both federations and immigrant nations, both resource economies... so they have more tumbleweed and less snow, more cricket and no hockey, those barely count as differences. The big difference I would say would be Quebec and our proximity to the U.S., but other than that, you'd be hard pressed to find two more identical countries.

Ben said...

I'm quite disappointed that the Australian media didn't report this at all. All we've heard is APEC, APEC, APEC and the up and coming federal election which is looking like a landslide victory for Labor.

Actually to be honest i never knew that Harper was only the sixth foreign leader to address our Parliament.

Splendor Sine Occasu said...

Actually, I quite liked this speech. It's nice not to have that feeling of putting a paper bag over one's face after listening to a PM speak publicly overseas!

Kyle said...

Well, take a Canadian and put him in the US and take a Canadian and put him in Australia. Who would have an easier time assimilating?

I will grant you that if you take a Canadian POLITICIAN and put him in the Australian parliament, he'll almost certainly have an easier time adjusting than he would in the US Congress. But certainly political systems are but one small facet of what defines a country.

Again, I am not denying that there are huge similarities, I just think one should be a realist. Australia is obviously our closest ally in the Commonwealth, but overall they’re more akin to cousins, while Americans are our brothers.

Scott said...

Actually, Gallipoli was never, till relatively recently, the monster it has become in the minds of Australians. More Brits died in the attempt of that campaign than ANZACS. Churchill wasn't to blame, as all too many people even now still believe. He was never allowed to orchestrate the campaign as he planned and hoped to.

Splendor Sine Occasu said...

I've always thought that we in British Columbia had more in common with those in Australia, New Zealand, Washington, Oregon and California, than we did with those from Alberta, Ontario, or Newfoundland...

Not a flame, but an observation from my travels.

David Byers said...

Good points, just one little point, when the attacks happen in New York on 11 september it was still 11 september here in Australia but only just.

Matt Bondy said...

Interesting commentary.

I think it's fair to say there was indeed some historical revisionism and PCism at work in this text. Politically, perhaps this is wise, perhaps it is not. But it's unfortunate all the same.

In my view, Harper has flirted in the past with a real solid nationalist streak (Ensign at Vimy, significant focus on the CF, etc.,) and there are a lot of votes here. He's doing a good job positioning himself as a genuinely internationalist prime minister, and should take opportunities like this last one to assert a confident and manly vision for the nation.

And he should start by heeding your fantastic petition.

Anonymous said...

Shame that the row of Australian flags behind Harper, resplendent with their Union Jacks, isn't more similar to the Canadian flag than the post-Diefenbaker logo which the Senior Dominion currently enjoys. That would be quite something...

Cato

Aeneas the Younger said...

Harper proves yet again that he "ain't" a tory ...

Scott said...

The Tories have long been infiltrated by Whigs. The fun, love, tradition, religion - it isn't quite there, but where is it these days?

Aeneas the Younger said...

It ever dwells within me ...

Anonymous said...

I see that Harper's speech has had such an electrifying effect on Australia's sense of commonality with the Commonwealth family that they're finally going to dump the monarchy:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=3HDDRTKIUYLHDQFIQMFCFFWAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2007/09/21/wqueen121.xml

I have to say, that I have no doubt that Rudd will win, and that this time the republicans will just about get their noses over the line in the referendum.

As a monarchist, it will be a very sad day; but as an Englishman, the fact that the Aussie republic/monarchy debate is not about political philosophy but about how much they hate the British, I can't help but feel that it will have something of the satisfaction of lancing a rather painful boil...

Cato

Anonymous said...

As an Australian, I will unequivocally state that republicanism here is not motivated by antipathy towards the British; this seems to be a common misconception among some Britons and it is fallacy. Australian republicanism is an expression and manifestation of Australian nationalism, pure and simple: Australian republicanism is not anti anything, but rather simply pro-Australian and nationalist in origin and cause.

It is significant that the seed of Australian republicanism was planted in the mid to late colonial period by one of Australia's most ardent and articulate advocates of a united Australian republic who was a Scottish Presbyterian minister, the Rev. John Dunmore Lang, whom one could not consider to "anti-British" in any way, shape, or form. And it is significant that to this day republicanism enjoys most support in those areas in the country, as shown in the 1999 referendum, which have the highest proportion of British-descended, Anglo-Saxon/Anglo-Celtic Protestants. Indeed, even a substantial proportion of British-born, naturalised Australians are in favour of a republican form of government for Australia.

This is nothing new. There were many calls across the Australian colonies for a federated Australian republic in the 1880s and 1890s when the country's constitutional founding fathers gathered to draft a written constitution for the nascent federation that was to become the Commonwealth of Australia on January 1st, 1901. Since Federation, our constitutional ties with Britain have diminished with each passing generation, most especially since the enactment of the Statute of Westminster in 1931: practically all our constitutional ties with Britain have already been severed with the passage of various legislation since 1945, patriating over the decades to the Australian Parliament and the federal government most of the laws passed by Westminster acting in its imperial function with the more anachronistic legal and constitutional provisions removed with the passing of the Australia Act, 1986. Effectively only the shared monarchy with the UK remains as a constitutional link with Britain and the other realms of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Be that as it may, there is broad consensus on the republican issue here in Australia, right across the spectrum of political thought and opinion. If Australians who want a republic and constitutional change and if Australian republicanism were truly motivated by some widespread and dread anti-British sentiment or even hatred, we would have become a republic and left the Commonwealth decades ago, such as Afrikaner-dominated South Africa did in 1961. However, most Australian republicans are quite content to remain within the Commonwealth as a republic and not withdraw, and maintain our long-standing and friendly relations with countries such as Canada and the UK, just without the British monarch as our head of state.

An Australian Republican Perspective on Port Jackson,
Sydney, Australia