The Australian republican movement has had a real shot in the arm in recent days, and from a mostly unlikely quarter – the monarch herself.
Across Australia, MPs have been flooded with requests from constituents for pictures of the Queen after a Vice Media report highlighting the little-known “constituents’ request program”.
The program lets voters receive free “nationhood material”, including flags, recordings of the national anthem and images of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, just by asking their federal member.
Tim Watts, MP for the inner-west Melbourne seat of Gellibrand, said his office had been inundated with 50 requests on Thursday and Friday alone.
“Talking with other members of parliament, it does seem to be a bit of an ironic monarchist trend … with a higher concentration in the younger electorates,” he said.
“It’s great to see that young Australians are jumping on this in that great Australian tradition of taking the piss.”
The pictures available through the program are poster-sized portraits of the Queen in front of gumtrees, in a formal setting or with her husband, Prince Philip.
Getting my pictures of the Australian Head of State ready for the dozens of #Melbswest constituents who have now requested them from me as their MP.
Making appropriate local adjustments before sending them out…. pic.twitter.com/UXwlyr7Pfe
— Tim Watts MP (@TimWattsMP) August 8, 2018
Mr Watts’ office has been dutifully fulfilling the picture requests – and taking the chance to add a bit extra to the parcels.
“I’ve chosen to respond to these tongue-in-cheek requests with a bit of nationhood material of my own from Melbourne’s west,” he said.
“Some portraits of [retired Western Bulldogs captain] Bob Murphy and [former prime minister] Julia Gillard, some Australian Republican Movement membership forms and an invite to our Wattle Day barbecue at Williamstown beach.”
Mr Watts is far from the only MP to be inundated with requests for the Queen’s portrait. Mayo MP Rebekha Sharkie has said she received 25 inquiries in 12 hours, while Melbourne MP Adam Bandt had his own message for voters:
To every concerned constituent who has just flooded my office asking for a picture of the Queen, I trust you’ll be happy when you get this in the mail. pic.twitter.com/0r1Q3F5NTE
— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) August 9, 2018
Mr Watts said, however, he was generally supportive of the overall program. Flags for youth groups or young people representing Australia, for instance, were especially worthwhile.
“I take national identity and national symbols quite seriously,” he said.
“But the Queen doesn’t bring us together. Different symbols bring us together today than they did at Federation.”
Mr Watts said the idea of what it meant to be Australian was always evolving.
“It’s crucial that we have a debate about who we are as a nation and what unites us,” he said.
In the mean time, there are always portraits of our head of state to ponder. If you want one from your MP though, you might need to be quick – Mr Watts said he thought his office, at least, was about to run out of supplies.