First it was the bushfires and the choking smoke, then the economic impact of the coronavirus, followed by the floods and now the announcement that we are about to endure yet another Royal tour. Even worse the Australian Government has invited Prince William and Kate Middleton to tour the devastated bushfire areas and take part in Australia’s bushfire recovery.
That of course is the cynical point of view and one more likely to be held by those who can’t stand a bar of the British Royal family. However, it’s also a view expressed by many Australians who have questioned the cost of parading the Royals around the country and the need for such a visit at all.
As far as cost is concerned, the argument is that the considerable budget required to mount the tour would be better spent directly on rebuilding people’s houses, businesses and infrastructure. The bill for these Royal junkets is seldom revealed but given the need for intensive security, travel costs for a large entourage and all the other regal requirements it could easily top a million or more. The Government justifies this expensive by claiming William and Kate will be instrumental in raising more funds for volunteer fire fighters and survivors. I would have thought the Australian public has done a pretty good job already with all their donations and fundraising endeavours – not to mention the money that has flooded in from overseas.
Whilst William and Kate no doubt have good intentions when it comes to supporting the bushfire recovery, the PR element of the whole exercise needs some scrutiny. There’s no doubt that a large section of the media will embrace the tour and see it very much as a commercial opportunity when it comes to boosting TV ratings, as well as newspaper and magazine sales. We are already inundated with mindless reportage about the Royals and the bushfire tour will only boost the amount of TV news time and print space they already occupy.
It’s no secret that Kensington Palace is always up for any opportunity to push the popularity of the Royals worldwide, particularly as a counterplay to the scandal surrounding Prince Andrew and the sudden departure of Harry and Meghan. Given the hostile reception that Scott Morrison received when he toured a number of bushfire areas it’s easy to see why he would be a willing partner in this kind of public relations side show. The Royals are the ideal antidote to smooth over any hostility that still exists between many in the public and the Morrison government, heavily criticised for their lack of preparedness for the bushfires and the way they initially reacted to the emergency.
If any real good is to come out of this Royal circus, it could well fall on the shoulders of Prince William to speak his mind on climate change and global warming, echoing the thoughts of other notable Brits including his dad Prince Charles, David Attenborough and Boris Johnson – all of whom endorse the accepted science of man made climate change. This of course could be a real embarrassment if he were to actually do so, given that many of the politicians, public figures and media scribes he’s likely to encounter on the tour are still shameless climate deniers.
Perhaps in the interest of a controversy free, feel good, meet the public journey around our scorched landscape he’ll get a gentle reminder from both the ‘firm’ back home and Scott Morrison’s crew to keep well away from any political comment. Just smile, shake as many hands as you can, hug a few koalas and pose for those endless selfies. The paparazzi will go crazy!