Australians have always been divided over their country’s connection and relationship with the United Kingdom. The Royal family are always in the news, the Union Jack is on the flag, and the image of the Queen is still on the currency.
However, references to the Queen and the Monarchy have been scrubbed from Australia’s laws and oaths over the years. The UK now has very little power to directly influence Australian politics, although both countries tend to remain close on issues of foreign policy.
The idea of becoming a republic was popular before Federation but support for the movement has been up and down ever since. Former PM Malcolm Turnbull was a staunch republican throughout his political career.
He was the first Chairman of the Australian Republic Movement between 1993 and 2000. During this period, the 1999 Australian republic referendum was held and ultimately ended in a defeat for the movement despite strong public support.
Turnbull has continued to be a supporter of an Australian republic, however, he has recently made a very bold prediction about Australia’s future as a republic.
During an interview with The Briefing podcast, Turnbull said that if he had to choose a date, the earliest he envisions Australia becoming a republic is 2026.
Turnbull was asked if he thought Australia would still become a republic and was quite optimistic about the prospect, under a Labor government, but had a few caveats.
“I think it’s a question of timing. The Labor government will be feeling really burnt after the Voice vote. This has damaged them a lot,” he said.
“People will be saying we should be focused on the bread and butter – cost of living, housing affordability, the economic issues that affect people’s daily lives.”
Current PM Anthony Albanese has been a staunch republican as well but Turnbull believes the recent failed Voice referendum means that another Australian republic referendum is years away. Host Sacha Gatt quipped that she was “hoping you’d be able to give us a date,” in response.
Turnbull didn’t mince in words in his reply.
“OK, I’ll give you a date. I think the earliest date, assuming the Labor Party is returned to government in 2025, I would think the earliest date this would happen would be 2026. But it obviously could be later,” he said.
Turnbull believes that a republic movement would be successful if they could decide on how a president would be elected. This was a divisive topic amongst republicans during the 1999 referendum.
“The question is going to be one of leadership, advocacy, and above all, of making sure that the question of direct versus parliamentary appointment is decided beforehand,” Turnbull said.
He was dismissive of the idea that the King and Queen Consort visiting Australia would bolster support for the monarchy.
“The issue of the republic in Australia is not really whether you like or dislike a particular member of the royal family. It’s whether it makes sense for them to be the head of state of Australia. And one thing you can say is Charles and Camilla, charming people though they are, is that they’re both very English, and they’re not Australian,” he said.