Face value: Australians seek free portraits of Queen Elizabeth

FILE PHOTO - Britain's Queen Elizabeth arrives at Westminster Abbey for a service to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force (RAF), in central London, Britain July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australians by the dozen are demanding portraits of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, after a news item drew attention to an obscure rule entitling them to such articles from local politicians.

Federal politicians in Australia, a constitutional monarchy whose head of state is the British monarch, are not obliged to hand out the pictures, but can claim an allowance to provide them, as well as items such as flags, at constituents’ request.

The allowance has existed since 1990, but was little known or drawn on until reported by Vice News on Wednesday.

“I can say before the story was published, I had received zero requests for portraits of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth,” Tim Watts, an opposition Labor Party politician representing parts of Melbourne told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

About four dozen requests arrived in the last 24 hours, he said, adding, “I think 99 percent were tongue firmly in cheek.”

A national vote in 1999 defeated a motion that Australia should drop the monarchy to become a republic.

Though support for the move has hovered around 50 percent in opinion polls since, there is little appetite to put the issue back on the agenda, at least during Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

Her popularity is secure in Australia, where people line streets during royal visits and thousands watched Prince Harry’s May wedding to Meghan Markle on television.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Clarence Fernandez