5 questions about the push for an Australian head of state.
What’s wrong with the Queen?
Queen Elizabeth II is the only reigning monarch to have visited Australia, and many Australians hold her in high regard for her service to the nation.
Some republicans, like former-Prime Minister Julia Gillard, even support the idea that Australia should become a republic once the Queen leaves the throne.
But the issue isn’t about the Queen, nor the prospect of Charles and Camilla. It’s about the highest office in Australia being occupied by an Australian rather than an unelected figure on the other side of the world.
Didn’t you already have a referendum on this?
Yes, in 1999.
Support for a republic was high then, but disagreement over how the head of state would be selected saw the movement splinter. Faced with the prospect of a President who would be selected by parliament rather than public vote, Australia voted against what many described as an undemocratic model.
But like the British referendum on EC membership in 1975, a single vote rarely puts to rest such a contentious issue. What was right for Australia (and Britain) then is not necessarily right now.
Support is once again climbing, with the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and almost every state and territory leader supporting the notion of a republic. But consensus on a republican model will be needed before change can happen.
Isn’t Australia loyal to the UK?
The republican movement isn’t about loyalty to Britain, but one of Australia growing as a nation.
Australia and Britain share many political and legal similarities, but our cultural differences can be profound.
In 2014, then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott was ridiculed for resurrecting the distinctly-foreign honours of knights and dames almost 30 years after they were abolished.
The derision was only surpassed when Mr Abbott awarded a knighthood to Prince Philip without consulting his peers – an act that would eventually cost him his job as PM.
An Australian head of state would be exactly that – Australian. Not an unelected foreign aristocrat, nor the product of a haphazard attempt to apply foreign titles in a far-off context.
Why leave the Commonwealth?
Australia is firmly placed in the Commonwealth, with no plans to leave.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of countries who share common values. Although the Queen is the head of the group, she has no official title within the member states due to her position.
India is a republic, Tonga has its own monarch (Tupou VI) and Mozambique was never a British colony, and yet they all come together as members of the Commonwealth.
Because symbols matter.
Australia is slowly but surely coming to terms with the fact that our country has more than 40,000 years of history, most of it indigenous.
As we recognize both the treasures of our history and the suffering of so many Indigenous Australians over the past 228 years, it’s little surprise that the symbols we created for white Australia are coming into question.
From singing the national anthem in indigenous languages to slowly recognising the National Day as a day of pain for many, Australia is taking baby steps to ‘walk the walk’ and not just ‘talk the talk’ of equality and fairness.
It’s about choosing symbols that reflect us as a diverse but unified nation, and with a head of state who represents our unique values.
Originally published by The Huffington Post “A British Guide to an Australian Republic”