Australian leaders call for country to become a republic

Debate resumes in constitutional monarchy ahead of national holiday

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull did not sign the declaration, but is a longstanding republican. Photograph:  Martin Ollman/Getty Images

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull did not sign the declaration, but is a longstanding republican. Photograph: Martin Ollman/Getty Images

 

The push for Australia to become a republic gathered steam on the eve of Australia Day – on Tuesday – with all bar one of the country’s state and territory leaders jointly calling for change.

Only Western Australian premier Colin Barnett declined to sign the Australian Republican Movement (Arm) declaration, because he says now is not the right time. “It is a matter of public record that I personally support Australia becoming a republic,” Mr Barnett said.

Peter FitzSimons, a former rugby international who is chairman of Arm, said there was a clear political will in favour of ditching the monarchy. “Never before have the stars of the Southern Cross been so aligned in pointing to the dawn of a new republican age for Australia,” Mr FitzSimons said.

He rejected suggestions the movement should wait until Queen Elizabeth died. “Australia can do better than to find our heads of state from one family of unelected English people living in a palace in England, ” he said.

“Have the queen come [to Australia] and instead of bowing and curtseying, the nation rises as one in a standing ovation and says ‘thank you, your majesty, we will take it from here’,” he said.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull did not sign the declaration, but is a long-standing republican. He led Arm at the time of the 1999 referendum on the issue, when Australians voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent to retain the queen as head of state.

The leader of the opposition Labor Party, Bill Shorten, is to deliver a speech on Tuesday in which he will say Mr Turnbull is too afraid of right-wing elements in his own Liberal-National coalition government to help Australia become a republic.

Mr Shorten does not believe Australia should wait “for a change of monarch” to renew the push for an Australian as head of state. “A new generation of Australians deserves their chance to have a say.”

David Flint, national convener of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy, dismissed the declaration signed by the seven state and territory leaders, saying the public did not want change.

“They can get all the support they want from celebrities and politicians, but they still haven’t . . . told us how it will improve the governance of Australia,” he said.

 Recent polling has shown that while middle-aged people favour Australia becoming a republic, both younger and older voters favour retaining the monarchy.