Long to hang over us
August 9, 2018 3:27 PM   Subscribe

A rule in Australia's parliamentary rulebook states that constituents may request a portrait of the Queen from their federal MP, which they are entitled to receive free of charge. (The rule also includes portraits of the royal consort, Prince Phillip, as well as flags, recordings of the National Anthem and other “nationhood materials”.) This rule, which dates back to 1990, is unique to Australia: citizens in the UK may request portraits of the Queen but have to pay for them. Since the hitherto obscure rule was publicised in a story in VICE Magazine a few days ago, Australians have been exercising their rights, inundating their MPs with requests for monarchic merch, though not everyone is happy with this.

More republican-minded MPs, including Greens founder Bob Brown, have questioned the wisdom of spending budgetary funds on portraits of the Queen when there are more pressing needs; others, such as Labor MP Tim Watts, have been putting literature from the Australian Republican Movement, a group campaigning for the abolition of the monarchy in Australia, with each portrait sent. Others have pointed out how sending out all those portraits gets in the way of the MPs' more serious duties.
posted by acb (33 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
If only there were a set of global interconnected computer networks on which one could download pictures of the queen along with the rest of the sum of human knowledge for free!
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:46 PM on August 9 [12 favorites]


mods are asleep*

post queens

*of course they are, it's bloody australia, like 17 timezones away
posted by lalochezia at 4:05 PM on August 9 [7 favorites]


If only there were a set of global interconnected computer networks on which one could download pictures of the queen along with the rest of the sum of human knowledge for free!

Canada has you covered. Official portraits available for download, even for her subjects in the rebellious 13 colonies.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:08 PM on August 9 [7 favorites]


But with physical copies the Australians can queue up to get them signed at Buckingham Palace between pub shifts.
posted by biffa at 4:11 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]


Long to hang over us

What is it? The '70s? A far better pun would have been "Australians all let us rejoice for we get the queen's portrait for free".
posted by Definitely Not Sean Spicer at 4:14 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


This peculiar rule does raise a number of questions:

1. Is there a limit to the number of portraits of the Queen a constituent may request?

2. Once they are sent, do they become the constituent's property, or do they remain property of the Crown, the Commonwealth of Australia, or some other agency?

3. Does Australia have any laws restricting what one can do with portraits of the monarch that one owns? Would it be legal, for example, to paint a L.H.O.O.Q.-style moustache on one, or to use it in a mixed-media art piece, or to use it as cavity insulation or a budgie cage liner, or indeed to hang it insalubriously in the backyard dunny, rather than giving it a honoured spot above one's hearth?

(My best guess for the last one, given the chaotic strange attractor that is Australia's larrikin/authoritarian dynamic, would be that it's probably technically illegal to deface the portraits, but you won't be prosecuted unless the authorities conclude that the average bloke would consider you to be a “ratbag”. Or perhaps you're non-white.)
posted by acb at 4:28 PM on August 9 [5 favorites]


Disappointingly they're not painting custom portraits for each request.
posted by dilaudid at 4:29 PM on August 9 [19 favorites]


Can we have portraits of Her corgis instead?
posted by sexyrobot at 4:32 PM on August 9 [8 favorites]


Can't even imagine what weird form of playing-to-a-very-small-crowd electioneering led to this being introduced as recently as 1990. Is awesome though and I applaud any Aussie exercising their legal rights to obtain any such "nationhood materials".
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 4:33 PM on August 9 [6 favorites]


1990 would have been either Hawke or Keating. Given that Keating was a strident republican, I can't imagine him having signed off on this. I could imagine something like this emerging as culture-war red-meat from Howard or Abbott (who reintroduced knighthoods and gave Prince Phillip the highest Order of Australia, because tradition and/or hierarchy), but that would have been a decade or two later.

In 1990, I can imagine that it could only have come about as some kind of artefact of bureaucratic processes that didn't get caught before it made it onto the books.
posted by acb at 4:39 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]


Canada has you covered. Official portraits available for download, even for her subjects in the rebellious 13 colonies.

That page is great! As far as I can tell the actual royal family website doesn't have any portraits for download. The instructions on how to right click are perfect for my octogenarian mother, but is a 2858x4000 pixel jpeg the best they could do for a queen? "Please note that there are legal and etiquette limitations to the reproduction and use of Her Majesty's image..." Really?
posted by TedW at 5:16 PM on August 9


Is awesome though and I applaud any Aussie exercising their legal rights to obtain any such "nationhood materials".

The critics of this do have a point, in that money and (perhaps more urgently) the time of constituency staffers used for this could be allocated better. A British-style charge to cover part/all of the costs and discourage completely frivolous requests might not be a bad thing. After all, Australia has those for seeing a doctor (which the UK refuses to levy on principle), suggesting that the two countries have rather different priorities.

If free portraits of the Queen are to stay though (or even if a charge is imposed), one improvement I'd make is to have them sent out not from the constituency office but from a central location; perhaps the government printing office, or even a private fulfilment firm contracted to handle this. While the thought of local MPs' offices having a cabinet full of portraits of HRH, with staff there personally stuffing them into Postpak envelopes between answering complaints about passports and planning permission, may sound quaint, the lack of economies of scale would be the bulk of the costs of such a programme.
posted by acb at 5:26 PM on August 9


I have RTFAs, and I can't for the life of me figure out why they implemented this. It's not like it's a holdover on the books fro 1927 or something. Surely there must have been some political intent?
posted by slkinsey at 5:30 PM on August 9


Rowr, hot hot Prince Phillip downloads.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 5:45 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]


And in the US we have this and this available for download
posted by TedW at 5:56 PM on August 9


Can I still get a mezzotint of George III?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:07 PM on August 9 [6 favorites]


I ordered mine yesterday. I just hope Trevor Evans MP doesn't remember the scathing letter I sent when the Liberals were talking about wanting to privatise the ABC. Hmm, maybe this is a way to slow them down implementing their stupid "ideas" by sending a constant stream of requests for nationhood material. And they'll have to do it because respect for the Queen and the flag is the sort of crap they think is important and like to talk about, rather than, say, the rights of workers.
posted by drnick at 6:40 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]


The Canadian download page also has links to order hardcopy prints. This used to be free; don't know if it still is.

Canadians can also request to be sent a flag that has flown over Parliament hill (they use three new ones every day). The wait time when I ordered one for my daughter 14 years ago was estimated at 17 years.
posted by Mitheral at 7:00 PM on August 9 [6 favorites]


Can't even imagine what weird form of playing-to-a-very-small-crowd electioneering led to this being introduced as recently as 1990.

Without pictures of the Queen Australia would be knee deep in pretenders.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:50 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]




And in the US we have this and this available for download

Goddammit. I knew what it was and clicked it anyway.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 8:46 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


Can they order a picture of the Queen with that pooping pony from last week?
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:07 PM on August 9


And in the US we have this and this available for download

Goddammit. I knew what it was and clicked it anyway.

I didn't click...was it a Goatse?
posted by sexyrobot at 9:21 PM on August 9


No. Uglier.
posted by flabdablet at 9:23 PM on August 9 [8 favorites]


Mitheral: "Canadians can also request to be sent a flag that has flown over Parliament hill (they use three new ones every day). The wait time when I ordered one for my daughter 14 years ago was estimated at 17 years."

The US does this too, but I'm guessing they're doing a lot more than three a day, since they say they fulfill more than 100,000 requests per year.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:30 PM on August 9


I like that the national materials include the aboriginal flag.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:43 PM on August 9 [7 favorites]


The Canadian Parliament Hill flag situation has gotten a bit more dire... The wait for the Peace Tower flag (one per day) is currently 99 years and the wait for the other (4 or 5 a day I'm not sure) is 86 years.

You can however write to your MP and ask for a flag. My dad did this every other year for 20 years and pretty much always got one.
posted by cirhosis at 11:36 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]


https://maps.finance.gov.au/entitlements_handbooks/senators-and-members/Part_Six_Other_Matters_-_6.8_Constituents_Request seems to be to implementing regulation. Based on this and the 1990 act, it looks like MPs can expense these things or order them from the government, but I don't see anywhere that says they're obligated to do so.

I'm guessing the 1990 Act wasn't the origin of the practice, though, just an attempt to codify reasonable MP expenses.
posted by smelendez at 12:18 AM on August 10 [2 favorites]


Yeah, 99 years currently for a Canadian flag. I hope they can put flagpole on the jar my head will be in.

You can however write to your MP and ask for a flag. My dad did this every other year for 20 years and pretty much always got one.
I'm going to test this out when we move back home!
posted by arcticseal at 2:13 AM on August 10


I recently learned this, per Wikipedia, of the British national anthem.

The French Marquise de Créquy wrote in her Souvenirs that the words "Grand Dieu, sauvez le Roi!" were indeed composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully[10] in gratitude for the survival by Louis XIV of an anal fistula operation. (The surgical knife purpose-made for the occasion is on display in the Musée d'histoire de la médecine.[11]) Allegedly, Lully had set words by Marie de Brinon to music, and Créquy claimed that the tune was later plagiarised by Handel, and so adopted by the British as "un de leurs air nationaux". (The entire story might have been intended as a joke.) Translated into Latin under the title Domine, Salvum Fac Regem, it became the French anthem until 1792.
posted by Devonian at 3:24 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


I ordered mine within seconds of reading the Vice article and have a place on the wall already picked out, right next to Jebus. My MP is Bill Shorten, leader of the opposition party, and his office emailed me back quick smart to say yes, of course! But you have to come pick it up from the office and we have run out atm due to an unprecedented surge in demand.
posted by Wantok at 4:17 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


"The article continues below, but here's a related VICE doco: We visit a snake lolly factory" - related video, eh?
posted by freethefeet at 4:22 AM on August 10


The wait for the Peace Tower flag (one per day) is currently 99 years

Does that mean you can request a Red Ensign?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:25 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


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