SYDNEY is in a flap. Monarchists in the city say the Australian way of life is under threat, republicans say they are tired of affairs of state being conducted over cucumber sandwiches.
Australia's biggest metropolis has been in a tizz ever since New South Wales premier Bob Carr announced this month that the largely-symbolic post of state governor would be made part-time.
Even more galling to those with strong attachments to the Crown, Mr Carr announced that in keeping with this more modern concept of state governors, the 160-year-old Government House would not be used by the part-time governor.
Instead, to the abject horror of what one Labor minister has referred to as the anachronistic 'bunyip aristocracy', the 100-room mansion overlooking Sydney Harbour will be opened to the public.
It may house a museum or an art gallery.
All this is too much. The wife of outgoing Governor Rear-Admiral Peter Sinclair declared on the day of one her husband's farewell dinners last week that there were elements 'trying to undermine the Australian way of life'.
It is unclear whether Mrs Sinclair included the dinner of salmon mousse, roasted Guinea fowl and poached peach stuffed with wild berries in the way of life she was describing.
Monarchists have also declared they will march on Government House at the end of the month to express their outrage.
Mr Carr announced on January 16 that Admiral Sinclair would be replaced by eminent state jurist Gordon Samuels QC when he left his post next month.
And he said that Mr Samuels would conduct his affairs from a city office and would continue to live near one of Sydney's inner-city beaches.
Mr Carr announced Mr Samuels would continue his work for the Law Reform Commission on a voluntary basis.
He added that the changes would result in savings of around A$1 million (HK$5.70 million) a year.
The new governor's staff would also be cut from 42 to five, he said.
'There will be no return to the antiquated concept of governor,' he said.
'This is a modern definition, a definition appropriate for a modern, democratic, egalitarian country.' State governors and the governor-general in Australia do have constitutional power to reject the advice of the Government.
But that has only happened rarely and in controversial circumstances and the post is now largely ceremonial.
However, Mr Carr's modernisation drive has not gone down well with many who value old traditions and it is not clear whether Prime Minister Paul Keating, an avowed republican and facing an election within weeks, will thank him for his timing.
Even Sydney's churches have joined the fray.
The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Harry Goodhew, accusing Mr Carr of 'eroding the integrity of the governor's office' and inviting the 'distrust and cynicism of the people'.
But the Government shows no signs of backing down.
In response to the conservative opposition calls for a special session of Parliament to discuss the issue, one minister replied there was a conflict between a 'modernising government and the bunyip aristocracy'.
He said that: 'The facts are that it is just no longer appropriate for New South Wales affairs of state to be conducted over cucumber sandwiches in draughty old castles with batmen and footmen and butlers.'