With the day of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II over, a republican lobby group is relaunching its campaign to separate Australia from the monarchy.
- The Australian Republic Movement says it is seeking to have a “conversation over the next few years” about a referendum
- The Albanian government has not ruled out a referendum if it is re-elected for a second term
- Polls since the Queen’s death suggest a majority of Australians support the British monarchy
Australian Republic Movement chief executive Sandy Biar will lead the campaign to push for an Australian head of state.
“We have respectfully observed the mourning period for Queen Elizabeth,” he said.
“But we now have a king we did not elect as Australians, a king who has nowhere near the level of support that his mother had and one who is not fit to be Australia’s head of state.”
The federal government has already ruled out a referendum on a republic in its first term, but has suggested it will hold a referendum on the republic if re-elected in 2025.
“I made it clear before the last election what our intention was this term, and that is the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our constitution,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told the ABC last week.
“I said at the time that I couldn’t imagine a circumstance where we changed our head of state to an Australian head of state but still didn’t recognize First Nations people in our constitution – so that’s our priority in this period.”
How would we adopt a new head of state?
It gives the lobby group at least three years to spread the idea of a republic to Australians.
“We recognize that there are a range of views out there in the community about what kind of changes need to happen,” Mr Biar said.
“So we’re looking forward to having that conversation over the next couple of years so we can get a proposal put to a referendum.”
The movement will push for King Charles to be replaced by an Australian head of state.
The most likely process would involve a shortlist of Australians nominated by federal, state and territory parliaments, from which Australian voters would be able to choose the new head of state.
But opinion polls do not indicate an overwhelming appetite for change.
The latest Guardian Essential poll, carried out after the Queen’s death, showed 43 per cent support for becoming a republic.
Another poll conducted by Resolve showed 46 percent support for the change.
And a Roy Morgan Research SMS poll found 60 per cent of respondents favored Australia remaining a monarchy, while only 40 per cent supported a switch to a republic with an elected president.
But Mr Biar said these results were not disheartening for the republican movement, following the mass media coverage and global outpouring of grief that followed Queen Elizabeth’s death.
“It is not at all surprising that in a time of mourning and wall-to-wall coverage, there is an increase in positive sentiment towards the monarchy,” he said.
“But this is probably the high water mark for the monarchy in Australia.”
“The real test will be in the coming years when we have a balanced national conversation.”
The Queen leaves a void that cannot be filled
David Hill, a former ABC chief executive and writer on Australia’s relationship with the monarchy, said Australia would inevitably become a republic now that the world had said goodbye to the Queen.
“It’s fair to say Australians have never warmed to Charles anywhere near the way they have his mother,” he said.
“I think the republic is inevitable, but the Queen was so effective and so popular that she has left the monarchy in the strongest possible state.”
“King Charles will take advantage of it, and the possibility of a republic will be far greater some time down the road than it is today.”
He also said Australians should be assured that not too much would change.
“Nobody wants to see a change in our political system,” he said.
“We just want to see a change where Australians appoint their own head of state.”
Australian National University historian Angela Woollacott agreed that the wait would help the Republic campaign’s cause, reflecting on the last referendum under the Howard government.
“That referendum failed only because the debate ended up dividing opinion on the question of how a president would be elected,” she said.
The Republic’s 1999 referendum was based on a model that proposed that a president would be appointed by two-thirds of the federal parliament.
But some Republicans wanted the president elected by the people, and this division helped kill the popular vote.
“My guess is [the current polls] reflect this moment in time, Professor Woollacott said.
“I think what we’re going to see over time is that those numbers are going to shift, and they’re going to shift toward more support for a republic.”
‘No need for change’
Meanwhile, former Liberal senator and president of the Australian Monarchist League, Eric Abetz, said there was no need for change.
“We don’t have a governor-general who can make his own laws – it has to go through parliament,” he said.
“That’s the beauty of constitutional monarchy.”
“Can I just say on a democracy index, the top 10 democratic countries, seven out of those 10 are constitutional monarchies,” he said.
“There is much to say about our wonderful system.”