Australia plans referendum on becoming a Republic

The vote, to test Australia’s appetite for a republic, will take place after the referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament.

Indigenous groups and others held protests to draw attention to the pervasive legacy of colonialism and question the widespread, relentless coverage of the queen’s life and funeral Ali MC

Melbourne, Australia – The recent death of Queen Elizabeth II has reignited a simmering republican debate in Australia, where the United Kingdom’s monarch is head of state, with Anthony Albanese’s government planning to put the issue to a vote.

Already committed to a referendum for a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous ‘Voice to Parliament’, the government plans to hold a similar vote to test Australians’ appetite for a republic.

Assistant Minister for the Republic of Australia, Matt Thistlethwaite, told Al Jazeera that while “the priority for this government is the Voice to Parliament, the next natural progression for Australia is look to have one of our own as a head of state and we’d seek to do that in a second term if we are successful with the Voice in the first term.”

“Australians have always been willing to look to ways to improve our system of government and improve our country and our nation,” he said.

“This is an opportunity for us to build a new system to select our head of state and at the same time improve the rights of citizens in the choices that we have but also strengthen the democracy we have.”

With an Indigenous history stretching back more than 60,000 years, the continent now known as Australia was colonised in 1788 and, while politically independent, has remained part of the British monarchy.

Backs of two rows of soldiers, with Albanese and Hurley standing in the middle, in front.
The UK monarch is represented in Australia by the governor-general, currently David Hurley (left) who has mostly ceremonial powers [File: Mick Tsikas/Pool via AFP]

Under the current system, the monarch is represented in Australia by the governor-general who plays a largely ceremonial role.

However, governor-generals retain constitutional and statutory powers, swearing in ministers and acting as the commander-in-chief of Australia’s Defence Forces.

They also have the power to dissolve parliament and sack the prime minister, most controversially done in 1975 when Gough Whitlam was removed.

The death of Queen Elizabeth in September came four months after Labor, long supporters of the republican movement, were elected to power in Canberra

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