Shorten backs new vote for republic
THE man who is betting favourite to be Australia’s next prime minister has reignited the republic debate, saying the royal family were “lovely people”, but he did not believe they should be in charge of our country.
Fresh on the heels of Harry and Meghan’s royal visit, Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Australians were “open to the case being made” for a republic.
He committed a future Labor government to a plebiscite, which would ask the question, “Do you support an Australian republic with an Australian head of state?”
Mr Shorten said he did not want to be our new head of state, but WA could hold the key to him becoming prime minister.
“I met them (Harry and Meghan),” he said. “I liked them.
“I like Charles, I like lots of people from overseas — I like the Dalai Lama, I like the Pope. It doesn’t mean I want the Pope to be in charge (of Australia).
“(But) 230 years after European settlement of Australia, I think the rest of the world needs to see that Australians are comfortable in their own skin.
“Having an Australian head of state says to people in our region and the rest of the world that there is a distinct, Australian identity.
“We no longer need to borrow someone else’s king or queen. I think Australians are open to the case being made. We can still stay in the Commonwealth.”
But before being able to guide Australia towards becoming a republic, Mr Shorten needs to become PM. He said Labor was targeting five Liberal seats in WA — Pearce, Hasluck, Swan, Stirling and Canning.
“I can’t remember when there was another Federal election where WA mattered to the result as much as this one,” he said.
“There is a clear chance that WA will decide the election. A clear chance. Labor has only won government from Opposition three times since World War II. It doesn’t happen very often. So, everything matters and the west matters more than ever.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Shorten said he had scrapped plans for a $2 billion Fair Share of WA Fund, saying it had been “superseded” by the soon-to-be-passed GST legislation.
He said the Treasury Laws Amendment Bill 2018 was expected to pass the Senate this month, delivering WA a $4.7 billion GST windfall over eight years, meaning there was no need for an extra $2 billion.
But he said a Shorten government would still fund projects it had committed to, such as $700 million for the Ellenbrook rail line. He also said being an unpopular opposition leader was not keeping him up at night.
“I don’t lose any sleep (over it),” he said. “A lot of people don’t know me. The people who do know me, let’s have a poll of them.”
King hit: Bill Shorten says Labor would hold a plebiscite on Australia becoming a republic. Picture: Justin Benson-Cooper