Politicians and officials are sometimes accused of being lost and out of touch with citizens. This is especially true for Australia’s head of state – geographically.
Because it is about 17,000 kilometers from the capital Canberra in London. For 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II ruled not only Great Britain, but also Australia.
But this connection may now be severed. For the first time, the Australian Government has appointed an Assistant Minister for the Republic.
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Matt Thistlethwaite, as Secretary of State, is now set to address all the questions that need to be answered about Australia becoming a republic.
“As the evening light falls on the Queen’s era, many Australians are wondering what’s next for their country,” Thistlethwaite told Sky News.
He at once put to him the decisive question: “Do we want a King Charles, or are we grown and free enough to appoint one from among ourselves as our head of state?” He wants to use his new office and drive. Discussion about it. “We must look to the future and recognize our unique identity and culture, our independence as a nation,” Thistlethwaite said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is a self-confessed Republican
The Social Democratic Labor Party, which has been back in power for a few weeks, has long supported the idea of an Australian republic. So it’s no surprise that she’s now taking the first steps on her way there.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is also a self-confessed Republican. “The relationship between Australia and Britain,” he said during the Queen’s recent jubilee. That is not the case now between parents and teenagers. We are at eye level.
And at an Australian Republic Movement event in 2019, Albanese said, “The Australian Republic is an idea whose time has come.”
The organization’s leading representatives are already celebrating the new Secretary of State. “This is the biggest breakthrough for the republican movement in 30 years,” said Peter FitzSimons, president of the Australian Republican Movement.
But is it realistic? To become a republic, the Australian Constitution must be amended. That is possible only through a referendum. Most opinion polls in recent years have shown a narrow majority in favor of a republican form of government and against a monarchy.
Polls show a Republican majority
But for many Australians, it’s still 1999. At that time there was already a referendum on the matter. And while polls show a Republican majority, nearly 55 percent voted against it.
In reference to this decision, there has been no serious debate about the form of government in recent years. “Monarchy doesn’t hurt anybody,” Dennis Altman, a professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne, described the country’s mood to the “New York Times.”
Especially since the Queen as a person is popular even in the farthest reaches of her kingdom. Although not particularly currently. He last set foot on Australian soil in 2011. It is represented by the current Governor General David Hurley.
Lessons learned from the mistakes of the 1999 referendum?
He certainly holds the closest position to that of the Australian President. His functions are primarily symbolic: he swears in ministers and members of parliament, confirms laws or announces elections. However, in theory, he is also the supreme commander of the armed forces and can dismiss the government. The Governor General is of course appointed by the British Regent.
But the new assistant minister post for the republic may also show Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has learned from the mistakes of the 1999 referendum. It failed because the parliament wanted to decide who would become the head of the country in the future. However, many citizens wanted the people to vote and therefore voted no in the referendum.
Now Matt Thistlethwaite has to figure out under what circumstances a referendum can be successful and how the office of a head of state should be shaped so that Australians can abandon the monarchy.
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