Royal row: Leader presses case for re­pub­lic

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Syd­ney

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull has re­newed his call for a re­pub­lic, but only af­ter Queen El­iz­a­beth II’s reign, as he out­lined a road map for break­ing away from the Bri­tish monar­chy.

Turn­bull — a staunch repub­li­can who led the cause be­fore a failed ref­er­en­dum in 1999 — said his sup­port for an Aus­tralian head of state stemmed from pa­tri­o­tism.

“The cause of the Aus­tralian Repub­li­can Move­ment is a cause for Aus­tralia,” Turn­bull said dur­ing a key­note ad­dress to the ARM on Satur­day night.

“We do not di­min­ish or dis­re­spect the pa­tri­o­tism of those who take a dif­fer­ent view, but we have no other mo­tive, no other rea­son than love of coun­try.”

The Bri­tish crown’s power in Aus­tralia is seen as largely sym­bolic, and while the Queen is hugely pop­u­lar Down Un­der, the monar­chy is viewed by some as an anachro­nis­tic colo­nial relic.

Crit­ics within Turn­bull’s own con­ser­va­tive Lib­eral Party ear­lier in the week said his sup­port for a re­pub­lic would be dam­ag­ing to the gov­ern­ment.

But Turn­bull said there was no ap­petite among Aus­tralians for an­other ref­er­en­dum dur­ing Queen El­iz­a­beth’s reign.

“The less party po­lit­i­cal the repub­li­can move­ment is, the broader its base, the deeper its grass­roots, the bet­ter po­si­tioned it will be when the is­sue be­comes truly salient again,” the Aus­tralian leader added.

Op­po­si­tion La­bor leader Bill Shorten ap­peared to crit­i­cize Turn­bull’s lack of ac­tion on Twitter fol­low­ing the speech.

“Cli­mate change, mar­riage equal­ity, hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity, now Re­pub­lic too hard for Turn­bull. Time for the PM to lead his party, not fol­low,” Shorten tweeted.

He also of­fered to “work to­gether to de­liver an Aus­tralian head of state”.

Sup­port for a re­pub­lic has wa­vered over the years, with a Fair­fax-Nielsen poll in 2014 find­ing that 51 per­cent of the 1,400 peo­ple sur­veyed fa­vored the sta­tus quo com­pared to 42 per­cent sup­port­ing a re­pub­lic.

Turn­bull said question marks about how an Aus­tralian head of state would be elected — di­rectly by the peo­ple or via a par­lia­men­tary ap­point­ment — had weak­ened sup­port for a re­pub­lic dur­ing the 1999 ref­er­en­dum.

“We need to en­sure that the Aus­tralian peo­ple feel they have cho­sen the model to be pre­sented,” Turn­bull said.

“Of course ev­ery mem­ber of the par­lia­ment is elected, but we can­not be blind to the lev­els of cyn­i­cism about pol­i­tics, par­lia­ments and gov­ern­ments. If any­thing they are greater to­day than they were back in 1999.”

A child looks through the win­dow at an an­tique Christ­mas spec­ta­cle in Van­cou­ver, Canada, on Satur­day. The dis­play formed part of an ex­hi­bi­tion that show­cases fes­tive col­lec­tions dat­ing back to the 1960s.

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