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The coronation of King Charles was a spectacular event in which the British are experts. It’s perhaps no surprise after a millennium of practice, but even for many Republicans like myself, it was hard to ignore the historical and religious pageantry at its height. Even the chance to hear Handel’s monumental work Zadok the Priest at a real coronation was reason enough to see it.

While enjoying the coronation broadcast and being moved by the music and the masterful spectacle, I was left with two other overwhelming senses.

The first was how alien the coronation was to anything we would want or find in Australia today. It was the stuff of another place, alien to our own. Our societies have much in common, but the Australian egalitarian spirit contrasts with the “old world” hierarchy that still permeates parts of Europe, including on Saturday at Westminster Abbey.

The second was a reminder of how quintessentially British the Crown remains. Although Australia is constitutionally our king, the coronation script lumped it in with other realms as unemployed, and the presence of Australian flags, soldiers and dignitaries was largely symbolic. I was particularly struck by the arrival of former British Prime Ministers in a grand procession at the Cathedral – no such honor was bestowed on the former leaders of other nations of which Charles is King.

It is understandable that the coronation in Australia has prompted a surge of interest in the Republican cause before the focus reverts to the more immediate constitutional reforms proposed in the vote in Parliament.

Equally important should be how we as a nation define the next chapter of our ever-evolving relationship with Britain itself. Too often our ties to Britain are confused with our ties to the Crown. This is a mistake and ignores the broader benefits that our relationship can and does bring.

Our connection to Britain runs deep for historical reasons – for better or for worse. However, it has been shaped in recent decades by a political and cultural reluctance to maintain a relationship with a nation that was our colonizer and the perceptions associated with it.

This, combined with Britain’s post-war shift to Europe and our own orientation towards the Asia-Pacific region (including the US), has meant that our relations with Britain have been undercooked as we asserted our own independence and priorities.

This is of course not the case everywhere and risks oversimplifying Aussie-British relations. Although we did not dominate our trade as we did in the 19th century, economic ties have remained strong and we have benefited from continued British investment in our economy. Migration from the UK has been a consistent feature of our immigration program although recently it has been overtaken by other countries. And for many young Australians, the opportunity to work and live in the UK on a work visa remains popular and a kind of rite of passage.

But at times there was almost a political fear, if not outright resistance, to developing closer ties, clouded by perceptions of colonial forelock-tugging. Paul Keating’s comments regarding the Aukus Agreement, which he described as an anachronistic Anglosphere, embody this line of thinking.

Australia should avoid giving in to this approach for two basic reasons.

First, with Britain’s separation from the European Union and our own realization that we need to diversify our trading base, there will be economic benefits from stronger ties. This is reflected in the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement negotiated by the Morrison government and supported by its successor. Last week in London, Prime Ministers Anthony Albanese and Rishi Sunak announced the start date and the benefits that will flow at both ends of the “Kangaroo Route”. Crucially, the agreement includes a strong focus on innovation and technology, where we have much to learn and share as our economies develop.

Second, and arguably more importantly, we live in a time when democratic liberal values, which have been the cornerstone of our respective nations, are under attack around the world and are on the wane. We consider these values ​​to be universal and are therefore reflected in the charter and human rights conventions of the United Nations.

Not since the end of the Cold War has it been more important for democratic nations to unite and defend these basic human rights. After the advances made after the collapse of the Soviet Union, this century has been marked by its erosion – either by the type of armed aggression we see in Ukraine today, or by the actions of leaders with authoritarian intentions within their own borders.

This is not Keating’s Anglosphere, but should better be called the “demosphere” of free nations. It must and must embrace democracies wherever they are found, as we will see in an iteration when Australia joins India, Japan and the US at the Quad meeting in Sydney later this month.

Both bilaterally and through joint multilateral fora, Australia and Britain have an obligation to be democratic evangelists alongside other nations that support the democratic ideal for their own citizens.

A thriving relationship is in both of our interests. Our relationship could only mature and grow even more if Australia had its own head of state instead of sharing a king and crown.

• Trent Zimmerman is a former Confederate Member for North Sydney


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