Australian politicians have been inundated with “tongue in cheek” requests for portraits of Queen Elizabeth II after a writer uncovered an obscure law allowing voters to request one at taxpayers’ expense.
Under the Constituents’ Request Program, Australians can ask their MPs for “nationhood material” including a photo of the Queen wearing a wattle brooch — a gift from former Australian prime minister Robert Menzies — and a pin featuring the country’s coat of arms.
The Queen is Australia’s head of state as it remained a British dominion after gaining independence in 1901.
Other material on offer includes the national, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags, “nationhood documents” such as booklets on Australian flags and national symbols, and a portrait of the Duke of Edinburgh.
MPs said they had not received any requests for Queen Elizabeth portraits — until Vice’s Nicholas Lord pointed out the archaic provision in an article on Wednesday.
“Excellent trolling @VICEAU, I do find this to be comfortably the dumbest part of my job,” tweeted Labor MP Tim Watts, representing the Victorian seat of Watts Gellibrand.
“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.”
The “other material” in his package included photos of retired Aussie Rules’ Western Bulldogs captain Bob Murphy and former Australian Labor PM Julia Gillard.
Watts told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he had received four dozen requests for portraits of the Queen in 24 hours after the Vice article was published.
“I think 99 percent were tongue firmly in cheek,” he added.
Another Victorian Labor MP, Ged Kearney, tweeted that while her office did have portraits of the Queen available, she usually received more requests for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.
The government-funded programme, introduced in 1990, was criticised by former Greens party leader Bob Brown in 2012, who told parliament that public money could be better spent elsewhere.
“If there is extra money available, I suggest that it go to ensuring that Indigenous people in Australia who are being deprived of their first languages be given an education in their first languages and that we stop some first languages going to extinction in this country,” he said.
“I think that might have priority. However, if there are members opposite who cannot find a picture of Her Majesty, I would be happy to provide them with one.”
The Queen is hugely popular Down Under, although there are some who view the monarchy as an anachronistic colonial relic. Those pushing for Australia to become a republic failed to win a national referendum on the question in 1999.