The allure of the Crown: PNG & the Palace
18 September 2022
"The emergent PNG elite was mightily enamoured with aspects of monarchy, notably the awarding of various medals and honours. Such bilas never lost its allure, whether in PNG or elsewhere in the remnants of the former Empire"
ADELAIDE - I guess it is baffling to most outside observers that a foreign Queen, who was formerly an Empress, should have been the Head of State in Papua New Guinea and generally held in high regard.
In pre-independence times the Queen's status must have mystified Papua New Guineans.
Why, they would have wondered, did the white men venerate this undeniably glamorous but remote figure? What magical powers did she have to secure their obedience and respect?
The Queen's picture hung in many places throughout PNG for so many years that I think it developed totemic significance, almost by a form of osmosis.
I think the people were sufficiently impressed by the carefully cultivated royal glamour and mystique that they decided they also would adopt the Queen as 'theirs' in some way.
Of course, the emergent PNG elite was mightily enamoured with aspects of monarchy, notably the awarding of various medals and honours.
Such bilas never lost its allure, whether in PNG or elsewhere in the remnants of the former Empire.
After independence, there was soon a multitude of new Knighthoods, CBEs and OBE handed out, not to mention honours in the Order of Logohu, a new post-independence Indigenous award comparable to the Order of Australia.
I have no doubt that such recognition helped reinforce the notion that a constitutional monarchy was a low cost but high reward way to run a country.
Anyway, the respected and loved Queen has left us and King Charles III ‘reigns over us, happy and glorious’.
Whether Charles will come to enjoy the esteem and honour accorded to his mother remains to be seen.
That said, perhaps PNG might decide to become a republic despite the depressingly bad record of this form of government across the world.
If it does, one certainty is that the social cache attached to its national bilas would lose a lot of lustre.
Those badges of knighthood are cool, not to mention the Coats of Arms available from the Royal College of Heralds.
An award in the Order of Logohu is undoubtedly a fine thing to have but probably does not cut it amongst the royalist glitterati of Britain and Europe.
As was and is the case with traditional bilas some is much more colourful and impressive than the rest.
God Save the King and his bilas too!
And, on a related matter, I turn to John Menadue’s article, ‘Prince Charles, Kerr and the dismissal of Gough’.
While I have the greatest respect for Menadue and find myself in furious agreement with him on many issues, I think that he is drawing a very long bow indeed in this article.
I think that Prince Charles' reported comments, if you believe Kerr's self-serving account of the conversation, reflects a man desperately trying to think on his feet when Kerr broached what Charles must have known was a topic that would cause consternation in the Palace.
At most, Prince Charles was a very minor player in Kerr’s dismissal of Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam.
I would place little weight upon Kerr's report of his conversation with Charles, given what we know of Kerr’s nature and character.
My guess is that the Australian media reached the same view, hence the lack of interest in pursuing the matter.
My surmise is that Charles may have reported Kerr's comments to the Palace and left it to the Queen's advisers to deal with.
That the Palace's dealing with Kerr appeared to endorse his thinking about dismissing the Whitlam government is now well understood and this is a matter that should concern Australians much more.
I think it is vanishingly improbable that any Governor-General would now contemplate such an action as dismissing a duly and constitutionally elected leader of Australia.
As we have seen more recently, the larger problem may be that a Governor-General might feel compelled to take advice from the government that had the effect of undermining well established parliamentary conventions.
This is certainly what happened in the case of former prime minister Scott Morrison's bizarre and sinister recommendations that he be appointed as minister for various senior portfolios without telling the incumbent ministers, cabinet or parliament, much less the public.
This matter is still being investigated by the Australian parliament and government, and seems ready to yield even more disturbing revelations of a prime minister seeking to undermine both the Australian constitution and long-held democratic protocols.
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