Death of British Queen sparks debate in Australian Republic

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Many viewed Australians’ respect and affection for the late Queen Elizabeth II as the biggest obstacle to the country becoming a republic with its own head of state.

Now, after her death, and with a pro-Republic Labor Party government in power, Australia’s constitutional ties to the British monarchy will once again be open to debate for the first time since the change was rejected in a referendum in 1999. the first order.

During her long reign, the Queen allied with Australia in ways no monarch had done before.

In 1954, she became the only reigning British monarch to visit Australia. Her star power was so great that an estimated 70% of the Australian population came to see her on a grueling two-month journey that took her and her husband Prince Philip to 57 cities and towns over vast distances. She visited 16 times, the last time in 2011, when she was 85.

Her face is the only monarch to appear on Australian money since the decimal currency was introduced in 1966 when Australian dollars and cents replaced British pounds, shillings and pence.

Her eldest son, King Charles III, was officially named Australia’s head of state on Sunday by Australian Representative Governor General David Hurley in a protocol-heavy ceremony in Parliament House that ended with a 21-gun salute.

Anthony Albanese, who describes himself as the first candidate with a “non-Anglo-Celtic name” to run for prime minister in his 121 years of office, began laying the groundwork for an Australian republic when Labor after nine o’clock was chosen. years in opposition.

Albanian created a new post of Assistant Minister of the Republic and appointed Matt Thistlethwaite in June. Thistlethwaite had said there would be no change in the Queen’s life.

The prime minister has said a referendum in the republic is not a priority of his first three-year term in office.

He is already planning to hold a referendum in the current term that would enshrine an Indigenous vote to parliament in the Australian constitution. While the details are yet to be finalized, the vote would provide a mechanism for Indigenous representatives to address Parliament about laws affecting their lives.

Since news of the Queen’s death broke in Australia on Friday, Albanians have brushed aside questions about an Australian republic.

“This is not the time to talk about our system of government,” Albanian told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“Now is the time for us to pay tribute to the life of Queen Elizabeth, a life well lived, a life of devotion and loyalty, also to the Australian people and for us to honor and mourn,” Albanian added.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton, a monarchist, has likewise avoided questions about why Australia needs a king.

The Australian Republic Movement, an organization campaigning for Australia to become a republic and not affiliated with any political party, has been criticized for a political statement issued shortly after news of the Queen’s death.

The statement referred to the Queen’s comments about the 1999 referendum that voted to keep the British monarch as Australia’s head of state.

The Queen supported the right of Australians to become a fully independent nation in the referendum… by saying that she has “always made it clear that the future of the monarchy in Australia is a matter for the Australian people and they alone to to decide, by democratic and constitutional means,” the statement said.

That referendum failed largely because Australians were divided about what kind of president they wanted. The monarch is represented in Australia by a Governor General who has always been an Australian citizen for decades. The governor-general is appointed by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister.

The referendum recommended that the monarch and the monarch’s representative be replaced by a president elected by at least two-thirds of the legislators in parliament.

But many Republicans wanted voters to elect the president as they do in the United States, so joined the monarchists in opposing the republic model being offered at the time.

The small Greens party, which is influential in the Senate, where no party holds the majority of seats, has also been criticized for establishing the republic within hours of the Queen’s death.

“Now Australia has to move forward. We need a treaty with First Nations people and we need to become a republic,” Greens leader Adam Bandt tweeted Friday. Australia is rare among the former countries of the British Empire as it has no treaty with its indigenous peoples.

Support for the republic movement rose in 1975 when Governor General John Kerr used Queen Elizabeth II’s authority to sack Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to end a constitutional crisis.

There were suspicions that the British Royal Family had ordered Kerr to topple a democratically elected Australian government.

Historian and Whitlam biographer Jenny Hocking fought a four-year legal battle to have the correspondence between Kerr and Buckingham Palace released by the National Archive of Australia in 2020. Lower courts accepted that letters between the monarch and the Governor-General, two central figures in the Australian Constitution, were personal and would never be made public.

But the Supreme Court ruled in Hocking’s favor in a 6-1 majority ruling that allowed the letters to be released.

Kerr fired Whitlam to end a months-old standoff in the Senate. Kerr appointed opposition leader Malcolm Fraser interim prime minister on the condition that Fraser call an immediate election, which Labor lost.

While the Queen was the monarch at the time, King Charles, and then Prince Charles, had also influenced Kerr’s decision to fire Whitlam, Hocking said.

Charles had discussed with Kerr the possibility of firing Whitlam three months before Kerr became the only governor general to topple an Australian government.

“It clearly affects Kerr’s decision to fire the government — there’s no doubt about it,” Hocking said.

“It’s a terrible engagement. It doesn’t do anyone any favors to pretend they don’t. We have to recognize that,” she added.

Albanian has said the 1975 crisis reinforced the need for an Australian head of state rather than a British monarch.

John Howard, a monarchist who served as prime minister when Australians voted against severing their constitutional ties with their former colonial master, said those ties could survive the Queen’s death.

“The power of the monarchy in Australia was immeasurably magnified by the Queen’s personal popularity,” Howard said.

“That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It will continue in a different form,” Howard added.

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