The debate over whether Australia should become a republic has been raging for years, but now Labor have vowed to hold a fresh referendum if they win the next federal election – and it would reportedly cost $160million.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Bill Shorten has already signed off on the staggering funding plan for the national plebiscite, should he win over Scott Morrison when the time comes.
The Labor spokesman on an Australian head of state, Matt Thistlethwaite, insisted to the news outlet that it was far from the party’s top priority, but that they hope to choose a public ballot over a postal survey to end the debate once and for all.
“We’re not saying it’s the most important issue but we are saying that if we are elected at the next election, it’s one of the issues that Labor will attempt to deal with during our first term,” he told the news outlet.
Past polls have shown a major split in opinion on the issue, with a survey in May finding 48 per cent of voters were in favour while 30 per cent were opposed. The Essential poll also found Labor voters were the biggest supporters, with 61 per cent backing the move.
If given the green light, the public ballot is set to cost the same as the government’s initial plans for a same-sex marriage plebiscite. However, they were later changed to make it a cheaper postal survey costing $80.5 million.
“We want to make this the cause that unites Australians around the principle of having one of our own as the head of state,” Thistlethwaite added to the news outlet.
It comes after former PM Tony Abbott branded Shorten’s plans for a plebiscite “toxic”.
Speaking at the Samuel Griffith Society Conference in Brisbane in August, the politician hit out at opposition leader Shorten and his desire to ask the Australian people whether they wanted the country to become a republic in the form of a plebiscite.
“Quite apart from people’s views on the merits of Australia becoming a republic, there’s a fundamental problem with Shorten’s proposal for bringing it about,” he said. “He’s putting the cart before the horse, seeking to gain approval for an end without any agreement on the means for making it happen.
“It’s a sneaky, devious, tendentious ploy that should be opposed by everyone concerned to protect constitutional due process, regardless of where they stand on the substantive issue.”
Shorten isn’t the only leader who has flagged the idea of Australian becoming a republic. Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was head of the Republic Advisory Committee in 1993, (although he later said he wouldn’t call a referendum until the Queen passes away), while former PM Paul Keating proposed a plan for a head of state to be elected by both houses by a two-thirds majority at a joint sitting of Parliament.