Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who began laying the groundwork for an Australian republic following elections in May, said Sunday the time was not for change, but to pay tribute to the life of Queen Elizabeth II.
Many considered the respect and affection of Australians for the late monarch as the biggest obstacle to turning the country into a republic with its own head of state.
Albanese, who describes himself as the first candidate with a “non-Anglo-Celtic name” to run for prime minister in the office’s 121 years, has created a new position of Assistant Secretary for the Republic and appointed Matt Thistlethwaite to the post of prime minister. role in June. Thistlethwaite said nothing would change in the Queen’s lifetime.
“Now is not the time to talk about our system of government,” Albanese told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday. “The time has come for us to pay tribute to the life of Queen Elizabeth, a life well lived, a life of devotion and loyalty, including to the Australian people, and for us to honor and mourn.”
Albanese has previously said that a Republican referendum is not a priority for his first three-year term in government.
During her long reign, the queen was connected to Australia in a way that no monarch before her had done.
In 1954, she became the only reigning British monarch to visit Australia. Such was her star power, it is estimated that 70% of the Australian population came to see her during the grueling two-month itinerary that saw her and her husband Prince Philip visit 57 cities scattered over vast distances. She came here 16 times, the last time in 2011 when she was 85 years old.
Her face is the only monarch featured on Australian money since decimalization was introduced in 1966, when Australian dollars and cents replaced British-style pounds, shillings and pence.
Her eldest son, King Charles III, was formally proclaimed Australia’s head of state on Sunday by the monarch’s representative in Australia, Governor General David Hurley, in a protocol ceremony at Parliament House, culminating in a 21-gun salute.
Albanese is already planning to hold a referendum in the current term that would enshrine indigenous voting rights in Parliament in the Australian Constitution. While the details are yet to be finalized, the vote will provide a mechanism that will allow indigenous representatives to appeal to parliament about laws affecting their lives.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton, a monarchist, also avoids asking why Australia needs a king.
The Australian Republican Movement, an organization that advocates for Australia to become a republic and is not affiliated with any political party, was widely criticized due to a political statement made shortly after news of the Queen’s death.
The statement cited the Queen’s comments on a 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 a referendum… stating 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 decide democratically.” and constitutional means,” the statement said.
This referendum largely failed because Australians were divided on what kind of president they wanted. The monarch in Australia is represented by the Governor General, who has always been an Australian citizen in recent decades. The governor-general is appointed by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister.
The referendum recommended replacing the monarch and the monarch’s representative with a president elected by at least two-thirds of the members of Parliament. But many Republicans wanted voters to elect a president, as they do in the United States, so they joined the monarchists in opposing the then proposed republican model.
The minor Green Party, which has influence in the Senate, where no party has a majority of seats, has also been criticized for creating a republic within hours of the Queen’s death.
“Now Australia has to move forward. We need a treaty with the indigenous peoples and we need to become a republic,” Greens leader Adam Bandt tweeted on Friday. Australia is rare among the countries of the former British Empire, as it does not have a treaty with its indigenous peoples.
Support for the Republican movement soared in 1975 when Governor General John Kerr used the powers of Queen Elizabeth II to fire Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to end a constitutional crisis. There were suspicions that Kerr was tasked by the British royal family with overthrowing the democratically elected government of Australia.
Historian and Whitlam biographer Jenny Hawking fought a four-year legal battle to have the correspondence between Kerr and Buckingham Palace published by the National Archives of Australia in 2020. The lower courts have recognized these letters between the monarch and the governor general, the two central figures in the Australian Constitution. , were private and could never be made public.
But the High Court ruled in favor of Hawking by a 6-1 majority, allowing the letters to be released.
Kerr fired Whitlam to break a month-old Senate deadlock. Kerr appointed opposition leader Malcolm Fraser as acting prime minister on the condition that Fraser immediately called an election, which Labor lost.
Although the Queen was the monarch at the time, King Charles and then Prince Charles also influenced Kerr’s decision to fire Whitlam, according to Hawking.
Charles discussed with Kerr the possibility of sacking Whitlam three months before Kerr became the only governor general to overthrow the Australian government.
“This clearly influenced Kerr’s decision to fire the government – there is no doubt about that,” Hawking said. “This is a terrible participation. It doesn’t help anyone to pretend it isn’t. We must acknowledge this.”
Albanese said the 1975 crisis heightened the need for an Australian head of state in place of the British monarch.
John Howard, a monarchist who was 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 has been increased immeasurably by the Queen’s personal popularity,” Howard said. “That doesn’t mean it won’t continue. It will continue in a different form.”