Head of state: MPs bom­barded with re­quests for free por­traits of Queen

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Luke Hen­riques-Gomes

It’s a great Aus­tralian tra­di­tion borne of our par­lia­men­tary sys­tem – con­tact­ing your lo­cal MP to com­plain about bin col­lec­tions and un­savoury prop­erty de­vel­op­ments next door.

But it turns out that par­lia­men­tar­i­ans’ real obli­ga­tion to Aus­tralian vot­ers is to be the na­tion’s least-known but best-stocked royal mer­chan­diser.

Un­der the bizarre quirk, con­stituents are en­ti­tled to re­ceive cer­tain “na­tion­hood ma­te­rial” un­der the “con­stituents’ re­quest pro­gram”.

The best-known obli­ga­tion is to pro­vide Aus­tralian flags, which MPs’ of­fices have du­ti­fully com­plied with many years. But the pro­gram also ex­tends to other ma­te­rial, such as record­ings of the na­tional an­them, and por­traits of Queen El­iz­a­beth.

An ar­ti­cle in the the on­line mag­a­zine Vice this week high­lighted the lit­tle-known par­lia­men­tary code and has sparked a flurry of re­quests to MPs.

“As a good con­stituent and ap­par­ent roy­al­ist, I sent an email to my MP, An­drew Hastie, and re­quested Liz’s por­trait,” Vice’s Ni­cholas Lord wrote.

“While I was ini­tially told his of­fice was out of stock – I ap­par­ently wasn’t the first West­ern Aus­tralian to want El­iz­a­beth on my wall – three weeks later I had my por­trait, along with some com­pli­men­tary Aussie flags for good mea­sure.”

Por­traits of the Duke of Ed­in­burgh, Prince Philip, are also avail­able.

Tim Watts, the La­bor MP for Gel­li­brand and a re­pub­li­can, said he had re­ceived dozens of “tongue in cheek” re­quests for a por­trait since the Vice story.

“I love my con­stituents. They have re­sponded to this ar­ti­cle in that Aus­tralian tra­di­tion of tak­ing the piss,” Watts said on Sky News, while bran­dish­ing var­i­ous por­traits of “Her Madge”.

Watts said con­stituents who re­quested a Queen El­iz­a­beth por­trait from his of­fice would also re­ceive pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial for the Aus­tralian Repub­lic Move­ment.

Not every­one was happy with the sud­den flurry of re­quests.

De­part­ment of Fi­nance guide­lines state that MPs may spend as much as they like on the ma­te­rial, pro­vided it does not push their over­all of­fice ex­pen­di­ture above the re­quired an­nual bud­get.

While Aus­tralians can re­ceive the por­traits from their MPs for free, those in the UK may pay for them. In Canada, the por­traits are avail­able for down­load.

Pho­to­graph: An­thony Devlin/PA

Some MPs have run out of royal mer­chan­dise, which they are obliged to hand out to con­stituents.

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