Queen’s Birthday – a public holiday without meaning

Queenslanders took the day off work today, not in recognition of their hard work, but to recognise a monarch who will most likely be sleeping through the public holiday held in her name.

Australian’s love their public holidays even if the reason for the occasion is a little vague. For goodness sake, we even have a public holiday in Melbourne for a horse race and in Brisbane for an agricultural show. Nevertheless, the Queen’s birthday purpose is the most vague of them all.

But where are the community events with Queenslanders feasting on finger sandwiches, washed down with a pot of Earl Grey tea, followed in the afternoon with re-watching The Crown. The lack of any public activity around the Queen’s Birthday Queen’s Birthday public holiday shows how the concept of monarchy is out-of-step with contemporary Australia. 

National Director of the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) Sandy Biar said the Queen’s official website indicates the date didn’t rate a mention at Buckingham Palace:

The head of our country should be someone who lives here, is proud to be an Australian and is in touch with Australians.

Apparently more than 5.1 million Australians holding a day in the Queen’s honour still isn’t enough to get the attention of Buckingham Palace. It’s time the day was set aside to honour those who would truly appreciate it instead, such as our frontline service men and women and volunteers”.

So, on the day more than 5.1 million Queenslanders acknowledge the ‘Birthday of the Sovereign’, the Queen and Buckingham Palace appear not to be aware about it at all. Despite an entire day being set aside in honour of Queen Elizabeth II, Queensland’s tribute – the state named in honour of her great-great-grandmother – seems to have gone entirely unnoticed.

It has always seemed absurd that Australians acknowledge the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II at a completely different time to her actual birthday. Around Australia in 2020, the Queen’s Birthday public holiday will be held on the second Monday in June — except in WA on Monday, 30 September and in Queensland on Monday, 5 October,

Queen Elizabeth II will turn 94 on Tuesday, 21 April 2020. You have to wonder when will she be allowed to put up her feet? Most 93-year-olds are long retired, but not that trouper the Queen. My grandmother will be 95 later this year. She’s a hardy soul, but there’s no way she would be up to the frantic pace needed to be a world leader. Even though retirement plans for many people keep going further and further beyond 60, Queen Elizabeth II has still well and truly exceeded this. Prince Philip was able to officially retire in August 2017 at 96 after his dramatic announcement of his intention to retire from active royal duties in May 2018. So surely it’s time for the British monarch to step down and start having afternoon naps.

After the election of the LNP Newman Government in 2012, until its shock electoral loss in January 2015, there was a steady outpouring of ideological revisionism aimed at bolstering the concept of monarchy in Queensland. During 2011, there had been widespread consultation by the Bligh Labor Government on changing the public holiday system in Queensland. It was agreed, in 2012, that Labour Day would remain in May and the Queen’s Birthday public holiday would move from June to the first weekend in October, while retaining a one-off Queen’s Diamond Jubilee public holiday in June 2012. However, Australia completely ignored the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

All this was thrown out the window later in 2012 when legislation was passed through the Queensland Parliament by the newly elected LNP Newman Government to move the 2013 Labour Day public holiday from the historically traditional 1 May to the first Monday in October and the Queen’s Birthday public holiday back to its previous June timing. The change in attitude towards the public holiday timetabling suggested the Newman Government was determined to take a conservative monarchical stand. With the election of the Palaszczuk Labor Government in Queensland in 2015, one of the first actions was changing the Queen’s Birthday public holiday for 2016 to the first Monday in October and restoring the Labour Day public holiday to the first Monday in May. With this move Queensland had become a little less ‘Queenie’, but no one seemed to have noticed the move.

Surely, this must be the most irrelevant and outdated of all public holidays? Although the Queen’s Birthday public holiday is observed as a mark of respect to the Sovereign, there are never any public celebrations or community engagement around it whatsoever. The Queen’s Birthday holidays don’t remind us of anything good about our country. At worst, they tell us Australia’s head of state gets the job by inheritance and that Australians are subjects of a foreign crown — the opposite of democracy and liberty. The lack of any public activity in Australia around the Queen’s Birthday holiday is a clear example of how much the entire concept of monarchy is out-of-step with contemporary Australia. It appears Australians will turn out and show respect to the Queen when she is here but when she is not, then the concept of monarchy becomes irrelevant. Australians may like the celebrity surrounding the monarch and the royal family when they visit Australia but are then totally uninterested in any form of royal celebration when the “party girl” is not here. You can’t have a party without the “party girl” — which brings up the issue of an absent head of state.

We have our own identity as Australians. The Royals represent Britain, but cannot represent us or unite us as Australians. Australians believe in freedom and equal opportunity, not that some are born to rule over others. Monarchist’s can prattle on endlessly about how retaining the monarchy brings stability and is cheaper than having a homegrown head of state and the like. But when you boil it all down, you can’t escape the fact there’s something a little unnatural about a grown child of, shall we say, 230 years, still electing to live in mummy’s back bedroom.

It is a disgraceful fact that without constitutional change the citizens of Australia will not even be consulted on our next head of state. Since his birth, Prince Charles has known he will take over the top job. One morning we will simply wake up to hear news from England that will change our country for decades to come.

Deciding to pack our bags and finally leave our Buckingham Palace nursery room isn’t being rude to the Queen. It’s just the natural order of things and the Queen has reportedly acknowledged as much to past prime ministers. We can have respect and affection for Britain and its celebrity royals but still question why we do not have our own head of state. The royals are welcome to visit as representatives of Britain, but I look forward to when the British people and their royal family will welcome a visit by the first Australian head of state.

How many more Ashes tours must we endure with the Barmy Army taunting us with their song, ‘God Save Your Queen’? Time to cut the apron strings, assert our independence and let one of our own people serve as Australian Head of State.

Reference List

For the past nine years I’ve been arguing the lack of any public activity around the Queen’s birthday shows how the concept of monarchy is out-of-step with contemporary Australia.

7 October 2019 | When the Queen’s birthday isn’t even a birthday, it’s time to move on

1 October 2018 | Paving the way for independence: Citizen’s Day instead of Queen’s Birthday

22 April 2018 | The Queen’s (real) birthday — time to talk succession planning

2 October 2017 | Royal poll shows there may not be a King’s Birthday holiday in the future

12 June 2017 | Queenslander’s silent on no Queen’s Birthday holiday 

21 April 2017 | Operation London Bridge: For the term of ‘her’ natural life

3 October 2016 | Three birthdays for the Queen — Isn’t it time for a Republic? 

13 June 2016 | Bring on the Republic of Queensland

9 June 2015 | Goodnight knights and dames: Taking the Queen out of Queensland 

9 June 2014 | Another Queen’s Birthday — isn’t it time to break free?

21 April 2011 | Happy 85th birthday Queen Elizabeth II. Time to retire? 

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