By Dr George Venturini
Not only does the Queen receive tips from British financiers, but she also has access to all the state secrets, through the ‘boxes’ she receives daily. Thus, if the Queen learns from among all public and private intelligence and economic warfare entities reporting to her, for example, that a country is about to be destabilised – Libya, for instance, or Iraq, she can immediately call her broker. Under the secrecy laws which protect the monarchy, it would be unthinkable for anyone to consider pressing charges of insider trading and conflict of interest against the sovereign. That would be the ultimate lèse majesté!
There have been seven monarchs between George III and Elizabeth II. While George III considered himself, was proclaimed and regarded as the owner of entire countries, not only Britain as it then was, but also Australia and Canada, for instance, the situation has changed, albeit in the usual muddling through way.
Thus, while initially George III became the owner the whole of Australia, even though at successive times, the Crown still has title on the continent. Nothing of it is as clear as one would think: in Australia, public lands are referred to as Crown land, which is described as being held in the ‘right of the Crown’ of either an individual State or the Commonwealth of Australia. There is not a single ‘Crown’ – as a legal governmental entity – in Australia. Most Crown lands in Australia are held by the Crown in the right of a State. The only Crown land held by the Commonwealth consists of land in the Northern Territory – surrendered by South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, Jervis Bay Territory, and small areas acquired for airports, defence and other government purposes.
Each jurisdiction has its own policies towards the sale and use of Crown lands within the State.
Thus, for instance, in Victoria there is a number of Acts of Parliament and regulations relating to land dealings. See: Transfer of Land Act 1958; Sale of Land Act 1962; Property Law Act 1958; Subdivision Act 1988; Subdivision (Procedures) Regulations) 2011; Subdivision (Registrar’s Requirements) Regulations 2011; Subdivision (Body Corporate) Regulations 2001; and Subdivision (Registrar’s Fees) Regulations 2004.
The Registrar of Titles is responsible for managing land titles in Victoria and has roles and responsibilities covering more than 200 Acts of Parliament, including the Transfer of Land Act 1958 and the Subdivision Act 1988.
Crown land is land owned by the government. Approximately one-third of Victoria is Crown land and is used by a range of people, from families who visit local parks and reserves, to developers who use it for major projects such as freeways.
As for general law titles, this type of title came about from land sold by the Crown (State of Victoria) prior to the introduction of the Torrens system in 1862.
General Law titles are based on a common law system, which originated in England. The General law title system relies on a ‘chain of deeds’ to prove ownership. This ‘chain’ is made up of all documents since the land was sold by the Crown, and is still valid proof of ownership.
What remains to be decided – if possible – is where the Crown ends and the Queen’s rights – and wealth – begin. The confusion is exacerbated by the fact that, ordinarily, one may ‘own’ the land, but not what is under it – a limitation which does not belong to Royal property.
Restitution to the original inhabitants and lawful owners of the land began after the Mabo case of 1992, and laboriously with the Native Title Act of 1993.
There was a precedent, and one can only guess how alarmed the largest land-owner in the world might have been with the solemn conclusion of the Wave Hill walk-off and of the Gurindji strike.
Briefly, in the late 1800s the lands of many Indigenous people in the Northern Territory and Western Australia had been invaded by pastoralists eager to exploit the large areas of grazing land the Indigenous peoples had called home for thousands of years. The land of the Gurindji was taken, and Wave Hill Cattle Station was established with huge numbers of cattle brought into the area. A police station was built and one of the functions of the police constable was that of killing the Indigenous people who dared to stand up against the invasion.
In 1914 the Vestey Brothers, now Vestey Group Ltd. – a privately held United Kingdom group of companies, comprising an international food product business and significant cattle ranching and sugar cane farming interests around the world – took over the Wave Hill Station and employed Indigenous labour to increase the size and capacity of the station. The Indigenous workers were paid – when they were paid – less than a quarter of the minimum wage of non-Indigenous workers and sometimes only received salt, beef, bread, tobacco, flour, sugar and tea instead of a salary. They were just part of the land.
Over the next fifty years the Gurindji were treated appallingly, the women often used as prostitutes, the men who would not bow to the command of the landowners beaten or killed. The place was isolated and managed in a dictatorial manner. Still, through contact with visiting anthropologists, union officials and other Indigenous people, the Gurindji began formulating their plan to free themselves from Vesteys.
After the second world war and the collapse of centuries of colonialism the fight for independence, civil rights and rights to traditional lands was well under way for people around the world. Gandhi in India, Mandela in South Africa, Martin Luther King in the United States and many, many more took their fight for justice and equality to the streets and the courts.
In Australia in 1965 Charles Perkins led a group of activists on a bus trip around New South Wales. It was called ‘The freedom ride’. Inspired by the ‘Freedom riders’ of the American Civil Rights Movement, students from the University of Sydney formed a group called the Student Action for Aborigines. They travelled into country towns on what some of them considered a fact-finding mission. What they encountered was de facto segregation. At the time Indigenous people were counted separately in the census. They counted for nothing in public life. Only in 1967, through a referendum which was approved by 90.77 per cent of the voters certain discriminatory provisions of the Australian Constitution were removed.
The main focus of the ride was to protest against the discrimination Indigenous people suffered in rural and regional New South Wales, but the protest became a driving force for awareness and a campaign for Indigenous rights across Australia.
On 23 August 1966, led by their organiser Vincent Lingiari, the workers and their families walked off Wave Hill Station and began their strike. A report by the Northern Territory government had found about Vesteys: “It was obvious that they had been… quite ruthless in denying their Aboriginal labour proper access to basic human rights.” This said Billy Bunter Jampijinpa, who worked on Wave Hill Station. “We were treated just like dogs. We were lucky to get paid the 50 quid a month we were due, and we lived in tin humpies you had to crawl in and out on your knees. There was no running water. The food was bad – just flour, tea, sugar and bits of beef like the head or feet of a bullock. The Vesteys mob were hard men. They didn’t care about blackfellas.”
Vincent Lingiari, the Gurindji and other Indigenous people from the area left the station and formed a new grouping at nearby Wattie Creek – at a place they named Daguragu. Many believed that the action by the Indigenous people would not last and was simply an attempt to gain slightly-improved workers’ rights. There were many cynical attempts by Vesteys, other pastoralist companies and also the territorial government to convince the people to return back to work. But the workers would not be moved; the price they sought was and would be nothing more than the rightful return of their lands. During those years the conditions were not easy for the Indigenous people, but they did not waver. Vincent Lingiari, Billy Bunter Jampijinpa and others toured Australia with the assistance of a number of workers unions to inform the broader Australian community on the issues they faced and to lobby politicians for changes which would improve the lives of all Indigenous people. So impressed by a speech given by Vincent Lingiari was one man who had never met an Indigenous person before, that he was moved to give $500 to the cause. This was a very sizeable donation at the time, that donor was a young Dr. Fredrick Cossom Hollows, a New Zealand-Australian ophthalmologist who became known for his work in restoring eyesight for countless thousands of people in Australia and many other countries – all told more than one million persons can see today because of his work.
During the period of the strike the cause of Indigenous People was becoming, for the first time in the nation, an issue of national significance in politics – for many, anyway. In time, it is now clear, the overwhelming majority of Australians would not be prepared to go beyond the formal recognition of the Indigenous people as … people!
There was the 1967 referendum in which 90.77 per cent of all votes cast were in favour of the question on Aboriginal people, while the other question on the ballot raising issues on the composition of parliament was soundly defeated. Indigenous People and many students, unions and other groups began large protests in the southern states, not only to raise awareness of the strike in the north, but on broader issues facing Indigenous people. (M. Hodgson, ‘Lingiari’s legacy: from little things big things grow).
Many in the political establishment would ignore or go out of their way to sabotage these efforts and heavy-handed police tactics were used.
This condition of basic indifference, when not of straightforward plain hostility, changed with the election of the Whitlam government in December 1972.
For the first time since the invasion of their land, Indigenous people would see an Australian prime minister interested in their cause and willing to make changes.
Justice Edward Woodward was appointed as Aboriginal Land Rights Commissioner in February 1973 to inquire into appropriate ways to recognise Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory. The Northern Land Council and Central Land Council were established in the same year to assist with the work of the Commission. The Aboriginal Land Rights Commission worked from 1973 to 1974.
There had been court cases, such as the Gove land rights case in which the Yolngu people fought the mining of their land through the courts and finally the passing of the 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
But it was only on 16 August 1975 that victory for the Gurindji arrived by the hand of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. After nearly a decade of strike action, facing down one of the world’s largest landowners at the time, police brutality, government interference and the ignorance of much of the broader community on the issue, the Gurindji had obtained justice.
The Australian government had struck a deal with Vesteys to return the Gurindji a portion of their land and in front of a crowd at Kalkaringi Prime Minister Whitlam rose to speak. He said:
“On this great day, I, prime minister of Australia, speak to you on behalf of all Australian people – all those who honour and love this land we live in. For them I want to say to you: I want this to acknowledge that we Australians have still much to do to redress the injustice and oppression that has for so long been the lot of Black Australians.
Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people and I put into your hands part of the Earth itself as a sign that this land will be the possession of you and your children forever.”
Nothing so serious and solemn has occurred since.
The land ‘owners’ – wherever residing – have been reassured by the ‘return to normalcy’, and the reassertion of the provincial version of the ‘Westminster system’ after the ‘Whitlam (ever-so-polite) experience’! For if Whitlam could do that to the Vesteys, who are often guests of the Windsor-Battenberg, what would some ‘uncouth socialist’ do to the Queen’s patrimony?
One could indeed very well wonder whether such ‘radical’ event as Whitlam’s restitution was not the cause of much concern at ‘The Palace’, and of anxiety on the part of Kerr as loyal courtier to the Queen. Would there be something to that effect in that famous, and yet un-visible, correspondence?
One wonders. So 1992 was not only an annus horribilis with the beginning of ‘voluntary as well as optional’ taxation ‘at home’, but also with that dreadful Whitlam folly down-under!
Things did not improve much when the New Statesman – admittedly ‘a socialist sheet’ – attempted to establish how much land does the Queen owns.
It came out on 10 March 2011 with a ‘Preview: who owns the world?’ Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of the New Statesman used this jarring opening: “Today we have two kinds of feudal state,” to announce a special investigation into land ownership.
‘From the Queen of England to the Kidmans of Australia, from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to the media tycoon Ted Turner’, the New Statesman’s piece [would reveal] the globe’s biggest landowners.
The two kinds of feudal state are “the inherited state, usually with a monarch at its head, such as the UK; and the state that claims ownership of all land and is feudal in its conception and often totalitarian, such as China. But the core surviving feudal structure in the modern world is inherited, transnational and covers many countries. It has no formal name. It is, in fact, the British crown and its wearer, Elizabeth II. Her legal title runs thus: ‘by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith’. [Emphasis added]
This constitutional statement includes some vast territories where the Queen is quite separately the sovereign head of state and legal owner. First among these is Australia, which, if its Antarctic territories are included, is the second-largest country on earth. And the Queen, in effect, owns it. She also owns the third-largest country, Canada. [Emphasis added]
When the Queen’s territories are added together, the Russian Federation ceases to be the largest single political entity on earth. Like the Queen’s realms, the Russian Federation is dramatically underpopulated and immensely rich in mineral wealth of all kinds.” (‘Preview: who owns the world?’ – New Statesman, 10 March 2011).
The world’s total land mass consists of 36.8 billion acres of inhabitable land. An incredible 21 per cent of this land is owned by a short list of landowners.
Out of the world’s biggest landowners, Queen Elizabeth II comes first with 6.6 billion acres of land worldwide including Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia and a few other spots here and there. Also, the all-important Falkland Islands.
With her 6.6 billion acres, Elizabeth II is far and away the world’s largest landowner, with the closest runner-up (King Abdullah) holding control over a mere 547 million, or about 12 per cent of the lands owned by Her Majesty, The Queen. (‘The World’s 15 Biggest Landowners, Business Insider, 19 March 2011).
In 1976 the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in hearings chaired by Frank Church (D-Idaho), and attended by Attorney General Edward H. Levi, found that an international cartel, of which R.T.Z. was a major partner, had been formed in 1971 to fix the world’s uranium prices. A federal grand jury found corroborating evidence of R.T.Z.’s role. Also discovered to be part of the cartel was Mary Kathleen Uranium of Australia, which had been encouraging Indigenous People’s agitation to occupy large uranium-bearing lands, taking them out of production.
When, in May 1976, power companies brought charges against the U.S. Westinghouse Electric Corp., claiming that it failed to supply uranium according to contract, Westinghouse responded with the allegation that R.T.Z. and other corporations had formed a cartel which was forcing up world prices, preventing Westinghouse from meeting its contracts. Lord Denning and the Law Lords quashed Westinghouse’s ability to take depositions in the United Kingdom, even under grant of immunity from self-incrimination, in order to protect R.T.Z.’s directors and their shareholder, the Queen, from exposure. But, on 16 June 1976, in hearings in the U.S. House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Jerry McAfee, chairman of the Gulf Oil Corp., admitted that the cartel in which R.T.Z. was his partner had, in fact, increased the world price of uranium. (W. Lichacz, Famous moments in FoE history: ‘Exposing the Uranium Cartel in 1976’, The National Times, August 16-21, 1976; see also: E. Jones, (reviewing) Venturini, George, 1982, Partners in Ecocide: Australia’s complicity in the uranium cartel, Victoria, Rigamarole Books., at tinyurl.com/u-cartel).
When the Tennesee Valley Authority tried to sue R.T.Z., Gulf released new documents inculpating R.T.Z. and its Rio Algom subsidiary in Canada, at which point, the U.S. Attorney General demanded immunised testimony. However, the directors of R.T.Z. and the Queen were once again protected by the Law Lords, who claimed that the R.T.Z. directors did not have to appear before an American court, as this was “an unacceptable invasion of British sovereignty.” So, despite the fact that a cartel involving H.M. Queen Elizabeth II was hampering nuclear energy development in the United States, the ‘free-trader’ Queen was protected by her appointees among the Law Lords.
The Queen was embroiled in a tax row after it emerged her private estate is among the ranks of the mega-rich secretly investing cash in offshore tax havens.
More than 13 million leaked financial documents, dubbed the Paradise Papers, alleged that the Duchy of Lancaster, which handles the Queen’s £ 500 million estate and investments, has held funds in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
Around £10 million of the Queen’s private cash is said to have been tied up in offshore portfolios, the B.B.C. reported.
There is nothing to suggest that any investments are illegal, the broadcaster added.
The estate also had small investments in the controversial rent-to-buy retailer BrightHouse and the Threshers chain of off-licences, which went bust owing £17.5 million in tax and costing almost 6,000 people their livelihood.
BrightHouse was ordered to pay £14.8 million pounds to 249,000 customers after the financial watchdog found it had treated them unfairly.
The Duchy told the B.B.C. it was not involved in decisions made by funds and there is no suggestion the Queen had any knowledge of the specific investments made on her behalf. Of course! (L. Harding, ‘What are the Panama Papers? A guide to history’s biggest data leak, The Guardian, 5 April 2016).
At the end of June 2018 The Irish Sun returned to the question: “What is the Queen’s net worth and how much does Queen Elizabeth II earn every year?”
The reader should be cautioned about the source: The Sun is a tabloid newspaper published in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. As a broadsheet, it was founded in 1964 as a successor to the Daily Herald; it became a tabloid in 1969 after it was purchased by its current owners. It is published by the News Group Newspapers division of News U.K., itself a wholly owned subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
The answer to question of how rich is the Queen was simple: 370 million pounds.
According to Forbes, it would be US$ 550 million. The same source estimated in November 2017 that the entire “Royal Family’ would be worth US$ 88 billion (C. Rodriguez, ‘The British Royal Family Is Worth $88 Billion’, Forbes, 23 November 2017).
How such estimates were arrived to was not said. What was certain is that “The Queen’s income is set to increase by eight per cent from £76 million in 2017-18 to £82.2 million the following year.”
The Queen was to receive a £6.2 million funding increase thanks to a record performance by the Crown Estate.
It comes after another boost in taxpayer cash to cover the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace.
Increased revenues from the Estate, which owns properties and land across Britain, will see the Queen’s sovereign grant rise by eight per cent.
The Queen’s funding is based on a percentage of the Estate’s profits, which rose £24 million to a record £329 million in the financial year 2016-17. (S. Roberts, ‘What is the Queen’s net worth and how much does Queen Elizabeth earn each year?, 28 June 2018).
Continued Saturday – A conga line of bludgers (part 1)
Previous instalment – A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 16)
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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