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What the royal visit really says about Australia

Posted by On 11:58 AM

What the royal visit really says about Australia

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The completely breathless coverage of the visit to our shores by Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex? The slavish insistence by some in the celebrity-obsessed section of the media that because we have been visited by uber-celebrities and large crowds have turned up to see them, this means that somehow the Australian Republic Movement, which I chair, has been set back? Please.

Britain's Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, on Bondi Beach on Friday.

Britain's Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, on Bondi Beach on Friday.Credit:AAP

It means no more and no less than that a lot of people, including many of the commentariat, go weak at the knees when in the presence of very famous people and will seize any opportunity they can to see them up close. Good luck to them. As to political ramifications, there are none. We live in a nation where one in four people still believe Australia is not yet ready to be independent, that we must find our heads of state from a family of aristocrats living in England. That is their perfect right. But with four or five million monarchists still among us, it would be amazing if the visiting Royals didn’t draw a crowd.

As one who was interviewed by British television on Bondi Beach on Friday morning with the royals as a backdrop, I was interested to see how many people came up to me and endorsed remarks made by one of the lifesavers: "Don’t worry mate, we’re with you, but it was fun to see them up close." No worries, mate.

Honour for our greatest ga rbo

Vale Ian Kiernan, who, after being diagnosed with cancer on August 1, passed away in the wee hours of Tuesday night, surrounded by his family at home in Kirribilli, aged 78. A fine man, and a great environmentalist, Kiernan was the founder and driving force of Clean Up Australia and did so much to clean up the city, state, country and world into which he was born that Philip Adams would rightly call him the "the greatest Garbo since Greta".

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How should we honour the legacy of this former Australian of the Year? I suggest the obvious â€" by revisiting the original plan to name a Sydney ferry after him. As you will recall, Kiernan had been told he would have one of the six new ferries named in his honour â€" after he came up trumps in a public ferry-naming ballot â€" only to have the honour snatched away when Transport Minister Andrew Constance named it, and I am not making this up, Ferry McFerryFace.

No one did more to clean    up our harbour than Ian Kiernan.

No one did more to clean up our harbour than Ian Kiernan.Credit:Fairfax Media

Such was the controversy that the new name was withdrawn and replaced bythe name May Gibbs, ostensibly because Kiernan had a mid-range drink-driving charge against his name. So be it. But in the measure of his life, no one ever did more to clean up our beautiful harbour than he did and for what it’s worth, I urge the NSW Government â€" which has had the decency to give him a state funeral â€" to name the next ferry we get the Ian Kiernan. Farewell Ian, you were a great Australian and we are all in your debt.

No Mathias, it's not OK

In a week of political cock-ups, it is a hard task to pick the one that will linger longest in the memory and likely have the most lasting impact but I cannot go past Tuesday’s disgrace of 26 Coalition senators supportingPauline Hanson’s slogan â€" better known as the rallying cry of white supremacists - that "It’s OK to be white". Not for nothing would Malcolm Turnbull’s son refer to it as "Nazi dog-whistling.". Still reeling from that, we were then told by the Coalition's Leader in the Senate, Mathias Cormann, that it was because of an "administrative error". No, really, I said.

At least the whole ludicrous episode might serve as a reminder to the Coalitionâ€" this Sunday morning after the extraordinary result in Wentworth â€" of just where it is they took the wrong turn. It was when they shifted over to try and capture the Hansonites. If they want to find their way back, they need to undo every move that ever backed her so we might recognise the Liberal Party once more.

Pauline Hanson in the Senate on Thursday.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Joke of the week

Police: "Open the door!"

Man: "I don’t want any balls!"

Police: "What? We don’t have any balls!"

Man: "I know."

Quote of the week

"Being the leader of the Liberal Party and being sane is like being Bruce Willis in a Die Hard movie. It’s always crazy and bad but hopefully you come out and get some stuff done." - Alex Turnbull, reflecting on the experience of his father, Malcolm.

They said

"A gay teacher doesn’t teach gay maths. They just teach maths." - Labor’s Terri Butler on ABC's Q&A, speaking against the idea that religious schools should be able to dismiss teachers on the basis of their sexuality.

"With the federal election looming I’m starting to think that Senator Hanson and her former colleague Senator [Fraser] Anning are now locked in a race to see who can be the biggest, the loudest, racist bigot in their contest to see who can get to the bottom of the sewer first." - Senator Derryn Hinch. Hilarious!

"As an LGBTI Australian, I was delighted at that poll because it shows that the so-called base and that the alt-right and the religious fundamentalists have only one place to go and that's [Cory] Bernardi's party â€" and that's the end of it ... They can go to Bernardi if they want to pray their way to an election seat." - Catherine McGregor about the poll this week that showed most Australians want laws changed s o students and teachers can’t be expelled from private schools because of their sexuality.

"He never liked to be alone. He always wanted to be at the centre of everything. I like to think that between Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, he will never be alone again." - Lucy Hawking, daughter of Stephen Hawking, saying that her father would have been "very honoured" by the decision to inter his ashes at Westminster Abbey â€" between the graves of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

"This is the catch-cry of people who wear white hoods on their heads." - Senator Richard De Natale speaking in Parliament against Pauline Hanson’s "It’s OK To Be White" motion.

"We have been acting on these issues. We haven’t been doing it by making public statements about it every day, but we will always consider each and every case on its merits and in the interests of the child."- Sco tt Morrison pretending that it’s just fine to keep people locked up on Nauru with no hope of getting themselves or their children off the island.

"A blanket ban on entry to Australia is really cruelty for cruelty’s sake. We certainly will not be supporting a bill along these lines." - Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff as Scott Morrison thinks about taking up New Zealand's long-standing offer to accept 150 refugees from Nauru and Manus Island on the condition the Parliament passes a stalled bill that would ban any of those people ever coming to Australia.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

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  • Royal family
  • Opinion
  • Ian Kiernan
  • Pauline Hanson
Peter FitzSimons
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Peter FitzSimons is a Herald journalist, columnist and author, based in Sydney. He is also a former Wallabies player.

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