The Daily Telegraph
‘Not the time’ for Australians to vote on ditching monarchy
Anthony Albanese, the republican-leaning leader, says the country ‘should pay tribute to Queen, not pursue constitutional issues’
AUSTRALIA’S prime minister ruled out a referendum on becoming a republic on a day when the new King sought to shore up his support in the Commonwealth.
In one of his first public duties as monarch, the King held a reception yesterday afternoon at Buckingham Palace for the High Commissioners of the 14 Commonwealth realms of which he is also head of state.
Beforehand, the monarch met Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth in private, in a further indication of the importance to him of cementing the loose alliance.
There are reports, unconfirmed, that the King could embark on a tour of the Commonwealth’s key players in the coming year to bolster support.
There had been dire warnings that the death of Queen Elizabeth II could threaten to unstitch the Commonwealth with a number of countries agitating to ditch the monarch as head of state and form republics.
But yesterday, Anthony Albanese, Australia’s prime minister, appeared to rule out a referendum in his first term in office despite the Labor Party leader’s own republican leanings.
Mr Albanese, who was one of the first world leaders to confirm he would be attending the Queen’s funeral, said in an interview with Sky News that now was the “time to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II” and to show “deep respect and admiration”, rather than to pursue “questions about our constitution”.
Mr Albanese, who was elected in May, has previously called for an Australian to replace the monarch as head of state.
But yesterday he rallied around the new King, saying: “He’s someone who has a deep relationship with Australia”, before adding “Bigger questions about our constitution are not ones for this current period.” Australia announced a
public holiday on Sept 22, three days after the late Queen’s funeral.
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, issued a statement expressing his country’s support for the new King as head of state taking further, initial pressure off His Majesty in his further new role as head of the Commonwealth.
It is not a title that the monarch is guaranteed to inherit but before her death Queen Elizabeth ensured the title would pass to her son.
Mr Trudeau gave the new King his full backing. “We have no doubt that his deeply felt commitment to education, the environment, and the empowerment of young people will provide a strong foundation from which he will continue to work toward the betterment of the Commonwealth and its people,” said Mr Trudeau.
“On behalf of the Government of
Canada, we affirm our loyalty to Canada’s new King, His Majesty King Charles III, and offer him our full support.”
The meeting with the High Commissioners, which will also be attended by James Cleverly, the new Foreign Secretary, will give the King an opportunity to press his case to remain head of state in those realms.
There are a further 41 member countries of the Commonwealth with a total population of 2.5 billion that includes India and other former colonies.
But new members, not part of the British Empire, such as Rwanda and Togo, which joined as recently as June this year, have found the loose affiliation increasingly attractive
In an indication of choppy waters ahead, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, one of the Caribbean realms, said yesterday that he would be calling for a vote on the country becoming a republic within three years.
Gaston Browne, the country’s leader, signed a document confirming Charles III’ status as the new King but then, minutes later, said in a television interview: “This is not an act of hostility or any difference between Antigua and Barbuda and the monarchy, but it is the final step to complete that circle of independence, to ensure that we are truly a sovereign nation.”
Asked when any vote on independence might take place, he said: “I’d say probably within the next three years.”
The agitation for a republic is not new and in April, Mr Browne said that the Earl and Countess of Wessex, on a visit to the island, should use their “diplomatic influence” to achieve “reparatory justice”, and outlined his country’s wish to “one day become a republic”.