The empire slides back

Once, Queen Elizabeth II’s visits to Australia sparked such embarrassing fawning as Sir Robert Menzies’ “I did but see her passing by and yet I love her till I die”. Now her presence sparks intense debate about whether we need her at all.
I’m a republican but I think it’s appropriate for the Queen to be here opening the Commonwealth Games to the strains of God Save the Queen. It seems fitting that an anachronism such as the Games should be opened by one.

Australia is a de facto republic. Brilliantly, John Howard made the 1999 referendum about the constitutional model, on the assumption the change was so inevitable we could afford to dither about the details. Some Australians like the Queen, so support for a republic will probably become universal once Charles is crowned. We know too much about him and what we know, we don’t like. It’s impossible to respect and admire your sovereign when you’ve heard him expressing a wish to be a tampon.
The tabloid media’s intrusiveness will bring down an ancient monarchy and about time too. If only they could do the same for the Commonwealth Games. The sun has well and truly set on the British Empire, rendering the association irrelevant, and Commonwealth gold medals are so cheap they should be made of plastic.
The only interest in Melbourne was whether Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett would break their own world records; but now they won’t be there. We’d be better off doing what the rest of the world will be doing: ignoring the Commonwealth Games and looking forward to the World Cup. The Socceroos’ qualification alone created more excitement than the whole 12 days in Melbourne will.
Even the Queen will watch only two days of competition – and her tolerance for boredom is so high she’s spending most of her visit with John Howard.
It’s time we pulled out of the one-sided debacle that is the Commonwealth Games and let minnows such as Samoa, Namibia and England fight it out. As for the infrequent visitor who’s our head of state … we did but see her passing by. So we should dump her once she dies.

She’s back … the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive in Australia on Sunday. Photo: REUTERS/Tim Wimborne