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Queen Elizabeth II’s death rekindles debate about the Australian republic

CANBERRA, Australia –

Many see Australians’ respect and affection for the late Queen Elizabeth II as the biggest obstacle for the country to become a republic with its head of state.

Now, after her death and with the republican Labor government in charge, Australia’s constitutional ties to the British monarchy will be open to debate for the first time since. since the change was rejected at the 1999 referendum.

During her long reign, the queen has connected with Australia in ways no other monarch before her has.

In 1954, she became the only reigning British monarch to visit Australia. Such was her star power, an estimated 70% of Australia’s population saw her on the punitive two-month journey that took her and her husband Prince Philip to 57 towns and cities spanning the vast distance. She has visited 16 times, the last time in 2011 when she was 85 years old.

Her face is the only monarch to appear on Australian currency since the decimal currency was introduced in 1966 when the Australian dollar and cents replaced the British pound, shilling and pence.

Her eldest son, King Charles III, was officially proclaimed head of state by the representative of the King of Australia, Governor-General David Hurley, at a solemn ceremony at Parliament House. , ending with a 21-gun salute.

Anthony Albanese, who described himself as the first candidate with a “non-Celtic Anglo name” to run for prime minister in the 121 years the office had existed, began to lay the groundwork for a communist country. peace in Australia when Labor is elected in May after nine. opposite year.

Albanese created a new position as Assistant Secretary of the Republic and appointed Matt Thistlethwaite to the position in June. Thistlethwaite has said that nothing will change in the life of the queen.

The prime minister has said that a republican referendum was not a priority during his first three-year government term.

He has scheduled a referendum to be held during his current term to keep Indigenous Voices before Parliament in Australia’s constitution. While details are yet to be finalized, Voice will provide a mechanism that will allow Indigenous representatives to present to Congress the laws in effect in their lives.

Since news of the queen’s death was announced Friday in Australia, Albanese has denied questions about an Australian republic.

“Now is not the time to talk about our system of government,” Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“Now is the time for us to pay homage to Queen Elizabeth’s life, a life of good, a life of dedication and loyalty, including that of the Australian people, and let us honor and grieve.” sad,” Albanese added.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton, a monarchist, has also avoided similar questions about why Australia needs a king.

The Australian Republic Movement, an organization that campaigned for Australia to become a republic and not affiliated with any political party, was widely criticized for a political statement made shortly after the announcement. news of the queen’s death.

The statement referred to the queen’s comments surrounding the 1999 referendum that voted to maintain the British monarch as Australia’s head of state.

“The Queen supported the right of Australians to become a fully independent nation in the referendum saying she has ` `always made it clear that the future of the monarchy in Australia is a matter of the people. Australians and they can decide alone, according to democracy and constitutional means,” the statement said.

That referendum largely failed because Australians were divided on what kind of president they wanted. The monarch is represented in Australia by a governor-general, who in recent decades has always been an Australian citizen. Governor-General is appointed by the king on the advice of the prime minister.

The referendum recommended that the monarch and his representative be replaced by a president chosen by at least two-thirds of the lawmakers in Parliament.

But many Republicans wanted voters to elect the president as they do in the United States, so joined the monarchists to oppose the proposed republican model.

The Little Greens, influential in the Senate, where no party has a majority, has also been criticized for upending the republic within hours of the queen’s death.

“Now Australia must move forward. We need the First Nations Pact, and we need to be a Republic,” Greens leader Adam Bandt tweeted on Friday. . Australia is rare among the countries of the British Empire that did not have a treaty with its indigenous peoples.

Support for the republican movement grew in 1975 when Governor-General John Kerr used Queen Elizabeth II’s powers to remove Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to end the constitutional crisis.

There are suspicions that the British royal family instructed Kerr to bring down a democratically elected Australian government.

Whitlam historian and biographer Jenny Hocking has been fighting for four years to get correspondence between Kerr and Buckingham Palace published by the National Archives of Australia in 2020. Lower courts accepted that the letters between the monarch and the governor-general, two central figures in the Australian constitution, are private and may never be made public.

But the Supreme Court backed Hocking in a 6-1 majority ruling allowing the letters to be released.

Kerr fired Whitlam to end a month-long deadlock in the Senate. Kerr has appointed opposition leader Malcolm Fraser as prime minister on the condition that Fraser immediately call the election, which Labor lost.

While the queen was monarch at the time, King Charles, then Crown Prince Charles, also influenced Kerr’s decision to fire Whitlam, Hocking said.

Charles discussed with Kerr the possibility of firing Whitlam three months before Kerr became the sole governor to bring down the Australian government.

“Clearly that was an influence on Kerr’s decision to dissolve the government – ​​no doubt about that,” Hocking said.

“It’s a scary engagement. No one can pretend it’s not. We need to admit it,” she added.

Albanese said the 1975 crisis reinforced the need for an Australian head of state instead of a British monarch.

John Howard, a monarchist who served as prime minister when Australians voted against severing constitutional ties with their former colonial master, says those ties may persist after death of the queen.

Howard said: “The strength of the monarchy in Australia has been greatly increased by the personal popularity of the queen.

“That doesn’t mean it won’t continue. It will continue in a different form,” Howard added.

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