Australian leaders unite for a republic

25th January 2016, Comments 0 comments

Australian state leaders Monday threw their support behind a republic, with one saying the nation should not have to wait for the end of Queen Elizabeth II's reign to cut ties with the British monarchy.

Ahead of Australia Day on Tuesday, seven of the nation's eight state and territory leaders signed a declaration calling for an Australian head of state to replace the reigning royal in London.

The only state leader not to sign the declaration, Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett, said he also supported a republic but did not think "the time is right".

Federal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is a long-standing republican and the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) said the new enthusiasm was thrilling.

"All of Australia's political leaders now support an Australian head of state," ARM head Peter FitzSimons told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"Never before have the stars of the Southern Cross been so aligned in pointing to the dawn of a new republican age for Australia."

Turnbull, who led the republican movement ahead of a failed referendum on the issue in 1999 before he entered politics, has previously said that the issue was not an immediate priority.

For Turnbull the next occasion for a republic referendum would be after the Queen's reign.

But South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said it would be "the ultimate act of respect" if the Queen presided over the transfer of Australia from a monarchy to a republic.

"And I think that's something that she could preside over and do it in the elegant and expert way in which she has handled her relationship as head of Australia," he told the ABC.

"I mean if you think about it, what are we waiting for? Are we waiting for her to die? I would have thought that it's much more respectful to have her supervise this transition."

The British crown's power in Australia is seen as largely symbolic, and while Queen Elizabeth II is hugely popular Down Under the monarchy is viewed by some as a colonial relic.

Support for a republic has ebbed, with a Fairfax-Nielsen poll in 2014 finding that 51 percent of the 1,400 people surveyed favoured the status quo compared to 42 percent supporting a republic.

Weatherill said there had always been "an underlying sense of support for a republic" despite the 1999 referendum failing by 45 to 55 percent.

"It's just a question of rekindling that," he said.

© 2016 AFP

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