Mbabane, Swaziland | 22 October 2014
Picking up from where I left off last week, and with the fear of self-indulgence, let me write one more column about my homeland — the Commonwealth of Australia.
It seems natural to do so as I am still here visiting old friends.
Just like Swaziland, Australia remains part of the British Commonwealth. Although unlike Swaziland, which was a British protectorate, the land which is now known as Australia was used by our common colonial masters as a huge island-jail for petty thieves.
Many of whom were shipped away to the other side of the world for nothing more than stealing a loaf of bread to feed their starving family.
And while the British brought with them ideas such as civilisation and democracy, they also brought alcohol, disease. And, for some, the desire to kill off the the black people — Aboriginal Australians — from the land where they had lived for more than 40,000 years.
Good people, those British.
But they have come a long way since — they’re not all bad.
Basically, in the 1770s, the British jails were full so they needed to find somewhere to put all those bread and butter criminals. They had wanted to send these excess crims to what was then the British colonies in America, today known as the Mighty United States of America. Of course I added the word “mighty”, just to give the acronym a Swazi touch – MUSA.
However, just like today, the early Americans were kicking up a fuss about things such as freedom and human rights, and were rebelling against the unjust and heavy-handed British rule.
The American colonies, therefore, were not a stable place to send a bunch of thugs from the backstreets of London.
So it was, then, that these so-called convicts were shipped to a large chunk of land in the southern hemisphere that the British had just claimed as their own: what would become modern Australia.
That land remained under British control from 1788 until 1901, when the separate colonies joined together to become an independent nation, the Commonwealth of Australia.
The founding constitution states that whoever is the king or queen of Britain will be Australia’s head of state. In practice, however, the British monarch has no say over Australian politics or life.
Not that she ever would, but if Queen Elizabeth II tried to influence Australian events, we might tell her, in the most respectful of terms, to p*ss off.
Many Australians are fond of the Queen, much as children are fond of old family pets. Many Australians also feel it’s time to grow up and become a true republic — in practice and symbol.
The constitution also says the Queen must have a representative in Australia, known as the Governor-General, who acts as a mostly symbolic head of state with limited but real political power.
The Australian prime minister, elected by the Australian people, chooses the governor-general, who serves for a term of five years.
Oddly enough, the governor-general has the power to sack the prime minister, which brings me to the point of today’s column.
Australia’s most controversial prime minister died yesterday, aged 98.
A sobering moment.
Gough Whitlam was PM from 1972-1975.
He was undemocratically sacked by the then-governor-general. Love him or loathe him, Whitlam was not a man of jargon, he spoke his mind.
After learning of his dismissal in 1975, he uttered the most famous words in Australian politics: “Well may we say, God save the Queen, because nothing will save the Governor-General.”
This column was originally published in the Times of Swaziland on 22 October 2014