Thursday, 20 October 2011

Not much hullaballoo, Mrs Windsor

A visit from the Queen of England is not an every-day event. When it happens, there's a lot of kids carrying bunches of flowers, a lot of headlines, and a lot of speculation as to how the Australian prime minister of the day will behave - at least since Paul Keating place his arm on the Queen's back in 1992. But this time there's been a noticeable lack of excitement compared, say, to when my mother and father each grabbed a chair at the Melbourne cafe where they were eating to carry down the street to stand on to watch the Queen drive past (she thinks it was 1954 or 1956). "She was a beautiful woman," says mum.

This time, journalists got their underwear in a knot on the Queen's arrival in Canberra because Julia Gillard did not curtsey, even though protocol does not require such a manouevre from the sitting prime minister of Australia.

But apart from that undignified conjecture the visit has been very low-key, with Dame Windsor going about her duties in a relative obscurity that has been illuminated only by regular broadcasts and the nightly segments on the news. It's a bit of a dud, in reality, when titular majesty has been overtaken by irony, as in the Brisbane Courier Mail's humourous itinerary - on their website - showing 'Where one's been', 'Where one's at' and 'Where one's going'. We take our leaders with a grain of sarcasm and we don't chew for very long, unless we really care. The light touch these last few days contrasts glaringly with the soil liberally thrown at Gillard during the run-up to the recent carbon tax legislation where the attention - 'Ditch the witch', 'Bob Brown's bitch' - attests to the person's importance. Likewise, the recent ABC comedy At Home With Julia got a lot of airtime because it drew a lot of public comment. The scene where Jules and Tim do the dirty on the carpet in the prime ministerial office has been recycled multiple times by other comedians because it resonates with earthy reality.

We really do have a woman as a leader. The other woman - always away, never writes, and anyway she's stopped making payments - is not held in great esteem by the majority of Australians except in so much as we remember what it used to be like when dominion held real meaning. Now, we resolve our problems on-shore. We are independent in all ways. We are a strong and successful country and we do not need a foreign monarch to tell us what we should value, and what we should ignore.

It's fitting that the Queen should be spending most of her time in Canberra, this time round. It's where Jules lives, after all. We can only hope that the two women will discuss when and how to transfer the final vestiges of state sovereignty from the northern hemisphere to ours. A trip to visit the Aussie PM Down Under, the headlines should read. "Queen recommends native head of state in Australia." We can only hope.

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