Anger at Olympic `Insult' to Queen
Marks, Kathy, The Independent (London, England)
AN ARTICLE by the celebrated author Robert Hughes in Sydney's official Olympics programme has enraged the country's monarchists. Mr Hughes, the historian and art critic who wrote The Fatal Shore, a celebrated history of the nation's convict roots, was lamenting the country's failure to become a republic.
The eight-page article, An Australian Looks At Australia; Essays And Observations On The Land I Love, analyses class, multiculturalism and white Australia's relationship with Aborigines.
Mr Hughes says: "Our sense of identity, I feel, shows moments of folly, weakness and irresoluteness, as exemplified by our vote to keep Queen Elizabeth II, a foreign monarch, as head of state, as though no mere Australian was worthy of the office."
Later, he writes in the pounds 6 brochure of the "expiatory sacrifice" of 61,919 Australians who "died for British imperial interests" in the First World War. He describes the arrival of American culture in Australia as "an escape from the ghastly good taste and censorious conservatism associated with a monarchist culture".
Mr Hughes, New York-based art critic for Time magazine, was a passionate and high-profile campaigner for a "yes" vote in last year's constitutional referendum on whether Australia should become a republic. Australians voted by a narrow majority to retain the Queen as head of state.
Australian monarchists say his article is a politicisation of the Olympics and they want the programme to be withdrawn. Philip Benwell, national chairman of Monarchy 2000, said: "We take exception to this, not because Hughes has made these comments - it is his right to express his views - but because the organising committee has used the platform of the Games to incorporate comments which are essentially promoting a republic.
"The Games should be sacrosanct, above politics, above the monarchy-republic debate. It is a disgrace that this has been done."
In a section on "Britain And The Republic", Mr Hughes writes: "Well, obviously, I support the republic for one quite simple reason. The head of state of a country should be a citizen of that country. It seems ludicrous to me that anyone should believe that there isn't one person among more than 19 million Australians alive who isn't fit to be the head of state.
"Democracy is about looking on a level with your fellow citizens. This is not about hostility to Queen Elizabeth II or to any other member of the House of Windsor. It is about getting the last colonial anomalies out of our system."
The 168-page brochure was produced under licence by Sports Illustrated, the American magazine and Olympics sponsor. It contains a competition schedule and maps of the principal Olympic venues, but a large portion is devoted to lengthy and erudite articles.
Thomas Keneally, the award-winning author of Schindler's Ark, writes about his childhood in Homebush, the Sydney suburb which is the Olympic venue. …