Q&A - A Republic in Australia
Question & Answer on a Republic in Australia
Alice Scarsi, Royal Reporter, Express.co.uk
Q: I have recently noticed one republican group in Australia has experienced an increase in membership. Which factors do you think may have contributed to this growth?
A: We are fully aware that the Australian Republic Movement are claiming an increase in their membership. However, we shouldn’t forget that it has paid staff with administrative and online technical expertise, funded mainly by big-business, working continuously to push their cause.
On the other hand, the Australian Monarchist League has no paid staff and operates solely with the support of volunteers. We are reliant on small donations from our membership and receive no corporate contributions.
Our social media platform, our website together with our administration are all managed on a voluntary basis and yet this past year we have been experiencing a rise in membership and a greater interest from the general public in supporting the Australian Constitution.
Whilst a republic is not an official issue with the government and is low on the list of priorities of people in general, it is probable that the pandemic and the previous lockdowns in this country have led people to browse more online and express their interest in either our system of constitutional monarchy or in change to a republic.
Q: Do you think Australians may be leaning towards the idea of electing their head of state or you don't believe republicanism has a real chance to succeed in your country?
A: In 1999 the republican vote was divided between an appointed president or a president elected by the people. Politicians supported the former whereas many republican sympathisers in the community supported the latter. The same still applies. If there is a referendum to change to a republic, it probably won’t take place until there is absolute bipartisan support from the Liberal/National party Coalition and the Labor Party. However, this would be a rare thing because a move by the Coalition to a republic would split the party and it would be a very brave leader who would do this. Even when Malcolm Turnbull, who led the Australian Republican Movement into the 1999 referendum, became leader of the Liberal Party, and Prime Minister, he never promoted a republic referendum for that very reason. He called himself ‘An Elizabethan’.
Republicans quite openly said some 20 years ago that they only had to wait for the old people to die off to bring on a republic. The problem with this scenario is that the percentage of monarchists amongst younger generations are even higher than that of the older generation. In fact, the majority of our membership today is under 50 years of age. We have very active young monarchist groups comprising youth in their teens and early 20s as you can see from the attached photos.
Q: Do you think there is anything the Crown needs to or should do to retain the support of the majority of Australians?
A: Whenever the Queen, the Prince of Wales or his children and their families have visited Australia, enormous crowds have come out to greet them. Far more than ever for a visiting US president or British prime minister. Royal visits put heart into and personalise the monarchy in this country. It is hoped that once the pandemic has subsided and the planes are flying again, we will have a visit from either the Prince of Wales or the Duke of Cambridge.
Q: Do you think the fact that Queen Elizabeth II's reign is coming to an end may be a factor pushing people to call for a change in the country's system of government?
A: The Queen’s passing will certainly be used by republicans in this country to push for change. However, we shouldn’t forget that the Queen has been Queen of Australia for all or most of everybody’s life in this country and the grief felt by all people, regardless of whether they are monarchists or not, at her passing will be enormous. Any move by republicans, particularly in the media, to promote a republic will be greatly resented by Australians.
Q: Moreover, do you think the prospect of Prince Charles becoming King could make Australians lean more towards republicanism, given he is not as liked as his mother and he has been criticised in the past for meddling in politics?
A: A number of older Australians still mourn Princess Diana and blame Charles for the breakup of the marriage. However, their numbers are declining and younger generations of Australians are not interested in the past and have no problem in welcoming Prince Charles as King. Prince Charles has made it clear that at present he is not governed by the same restrictions as his mother but when he becomes king he will be. The advent of King Charles, or King George as he has earlier indicated he would wish to be called, will, of course, be far different from the reign of the Queen. William and Kate will become Prince and Princess of Wales and it will be a new royal family which I believe will strengthen the monarchy in Australia.
Q: Do you think the end of the Queen's reign could ignite calls for a new referendum on the monarchy
(much like it happened in Spain after King Juan Carlos abdicated in 2013)? Or you think the monarchy has stable support among Australians?
A: Our constitutional system is very different from that of Spain. Immediately the Queen passes, Charles will be king. Once people have overcome their feeling of grief, plans will be in place for the new coronation and they would have got used to having a King instead of the Queen. Our governance will continue without interruption, the only difference being that official actions will be carried out in the name of the King, not of the Queen.
I can quite categorically say that there will be no referendum on a republic immediately following the Queen’s passing. By the time the republicans’ stars are in alignment, if they ever are, many years will have passed and William and Kate together with Prince George, will be the active representation of the monarchy in Australia and sentiment for the monarchy will undoubtedly be higher than ever.
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