Malcolm Turnbull, perhaps Australia’s best-known republican, declared himself “an Elizabethan” during his recent visit to London. Turnbull insists the quest for an Australian republic is on the backburner until Queen Elizabeth’s reign ends.
But Bill Shorten is pushing for an earlier timetable, as is the Australian Republic Movement (ARM). The ARM’s national director, Michael Cooney, argues that becoming a republic would give Australians, who are facing a political system that is breaking if not broken, important new symbols of national unity.
The road to a possible Australian republic has steep obstacles. One is getting an appropriate model. Cooney admits that even within the ARM there are differences over whether the president of an Australian republic should be directly elected or chosen by parliament.
Another challenge is that the younger royals have given the Crown a rather more modern image. But Cooney is confident that when it comes to making decisions about Australia’s head of state, the public will make judgements on the substance. “Australians know the difference between celebrities and the Constitution,” he says.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra