State and territory leaders have signed a declaration calling for an Australian republic.
Seven of the eight state and territory political leaders have signed an Australian Republican Movement (ARM) declaration supporting an Australian republic, meaning there is now almost total political support for the end of the constitutional monarchy.
The declaration they have signed states: “We, the undersigned premiers and chief ministers of Australia, believe that Australians should have an Australian as our head of state.” This proposition, along with a change.org petition signed by over 4000 Australians, were timed for release by Australia Day.
The petition has been signed by all but one of Australia’s state and territory leaders, and the push for an Australian head of state has also been backed by Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten. The only hold-out is Western Australia’s Premier Colin Barnett, who himself believes an Australian republic will happen in his lifetime, but says he “did not think that the time is right to prosecute the argument for constitutional change”.
ARM head Peter FitzSimons says that the almost-unanimous political support for the proposition, which now spans the top two tiers of government, is quite significant.
“We thought what better time to make [the] affirmation of the strength of feeling there is within the 21st century,” said Mr FitzSimons. “2016, it is time to get moving, and I must say I was thrilled by how enthusiastic the premiers were.”
“This is an indication to the Prime Minister,” said Mr FitzSimons. “The significance of this is, if you want the majority of people from the majority of states [to back a republic in a referendum], well, the premiers and chief ministers are behind you. That’s a hell of a start.”
The finer details are yet to be ironed out, such as when and how the switch should be made, but there is a strong push for the process to begin by 2020.
Former head of the ARM Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who led the push for constitutional reform in 1999, has again pledged support for a republic, but stated that there are more important issues facing the nation at present.
“The next occasion for the republic referendum to come up is going to be after the Queen’s reign,” stated Mr Turnbull last year.
The ARM doesn’t deny that there may be more pressing matters with which to deal, but disagrees with the idea of waiting for the end of the Queen’s reign.
Mr FitzSimons has called for a plebiscite by 2020, believing that a national vote for a republic would “romp it home”.
“If you have got the support of all the political infrastructure behind you, there’s no question that you will get the mandate from the people and you will move forward on that,” he said. "Never before have the stars of the Southern Cross been so aligned in pointing to the dawn of a new republican age for Australia."
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The push for an Australian republic has been simmering ever since the failed referendum in 1999. Admittedly, back then, the argument for or against Australia becoming a republic was confusing at best, and I couldn’t really see any political leaders of the day as deserving of holding the position of Australian head of state.
Nowadays, with someone such as Malcolm Turnbull at the helm, I can actually see the appeal.
Public sentiment in favour of an Australian republic also seems to be stronger than ever, with the ARM quadrupling in membership over the past year alone. There are also close to 4500 Australians who have an online petition calling for an Australian head of state.
It’s nice to think that we can stand on our own two feet as a country, but what would Australia becoming a republic really mean for Australians? Which model would best suit us as a nation?
A minimalist republic model, as backed by Mr FitzSimons, would be where the Prime Minister selects a Governor-General as head of state, which would then need to be approved by Parliament.
The other model would involve all Australians going to the polls to elect a president of the new Australian republic.
It is widely believed that the 1999 referendum failed because of a lack of agreement on the best model for Australia. These are questions that still need to be answered if we are to move forward with such a proposal.
In the meantime, Mr Turnbull is right to concentrate on the more pressing issues we face as a nation, such as tax, economic and social reform.
Do you feel it is time we cut ties with the monarchy? Or do you still support the Queen as head of state? Which model do you think would be better for Australia? What do you think Australia becoming a republic really means for Australians?
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