When Queen Elizabeth II first visited Australia on a royal tour in 1954, then-Prime Minister Robert Menzies presented her with a gift: a platinum-and-diamond-encrusted brooch, featuring Australia’s national flower, the wattle.
And in the portrait of the queen that any Australian citizen is apparently entitled to request for free, she is shown wearing that same wattle spray brooch on her right side and an Australian coat of arms pin on the left.
Down under, individuals’ requests for official photos of the queen have dramatically increased over the past few days, after a VICE article shed light on the little known law that allows Australian voters to ask their Parliament members for a portrait of the monarch. The Vice article claims that only Australians are eligible for the taxpayer-funded photos of the queen. Even Brits have to pay for them, and Canadians can only download a photo, the article said.
What makes Australia special is its “constituent requests program,” which allows voters to request “nationhood materials” from their MPs. The Australian Department of Finance’s website lists such materials as the national flag, aboriginal flag, Torres Strait islander flag, the red ensign, and smaller handheld flags. Constituents can also request booklets on Australia’s flags and national symbols, CD and DVD recordings of the national anthem, and portraits of both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
A number of MPs have said that requests for flags are not entirely uncommon. But their offices are now being bombarded with requests for photos of the queen. Rebekha Sharkie, an MP for the division of Mayo, wrote on Twitter that her office had “received more than 25 requests for a portrait of [the] Queen in the last 12 hours.”
Tim Watts, an MP from Melbourne, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that “before the story was published, I had received zero requests for portraits of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.”
“The last 24 hours, I would say about four dozen,” he said. “I think 99 percent were tongue firmly in cheek.”
On Twitter, Watts said that providing constituents with portraits of the queen is “comfortably the dumbest part of my job.”
“But be warned youth of Gellibrand: if you request a portrait of Liz, there’s nothing stopping me sending you some other ‘material’ in the same parcel,” he wrote. He also claimed that it’s up to an MP to decide if they want to send the materials out or not.
“It’s discretionary, not mandatory,” he tweeted.
But if constituents are trolling MPs to ask for the photo of the queen, MPs are trolling right back.
Adam Bandt, an MP from Melbourne, tweeted a photo of the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” picture sleeve and wrote “To every concerned constituent who has just flooded my office asking for a picture of the Queen, I trust you’ll be happy when you get this in the mail.”