Bill Shorten is renewing a push for Australia to become a republic with an Australian as head of state.
The Opposition leader pledged before a Melbourne event staged by the Australian Republic Movement that a future Labor government would put the issue to a referendum during its first term.
Earlier in the day, at a Queensland Labor conference in Townsville, Mr Shorten also pushed the republic vote, painting it as a two-stage process.
‘We will put forward a simple, a straight forward ‘yes or no’ question to the Australian people. One question! ‘Do you support an Australian republic with an Australian head of state?’ Mr Shorten said.
“If the vote prevails – and I’m optimistic it will – then we can consider how that head of state is chosen.”
“We are not Elizabethan, we are Australian and our head of state should be Australian too,” he said.
The Opposition leader’s advocacy of removing the Queen as Australia’s official head of state drew a contemptuous dismissal from Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who said Australians “give a toss” about their power bills and jobs.
“The day will come at some point in time where people have another referendum, I suppose,” Mr Joyce said. “That is not what is pressing at the moment.
“If you want to see what is pressing at the moment, go to any office and say what is the issue … and they will say, ‘I cannot afford my power bill’.”
Pitching his case for a republic, Mr Shorten pointed to federal politicians ensnared in an ongoing dual-citizenship saga to illustrate the importance of loyalty and national sovereignty.
The speech also criticised Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s recent calls for prospective Australians to “join us as patriots”, arguing submission to the British monarchy can hardly be considered as an example of Australian patriotism.
Mr Turnbull founded the republic movement and led the ‘yes’ campaign, which failed at the 1999 referendum.
‘Australia shouldn’t wait for change’: Shorten
Mr Shorten argued the republican debate does not reflect a lack of respect for the Queen or his personal high regard for her service, but that Australia shouldn’t wait for a change of monarch.
“I know an Australian republic isn’t front of mind for everybody, but I don’t buy the argument that we can’t have this debate until every other problem in the nation has been solved,” he said.
Mr Shorten cautioned that holding a referendum akin to the republic referendum that failed in 1999, where Australians were given one vote to settle two questions.
He argued many voted “no” because of the model, not because the country was against a republic.
His two-stage approach would mean Australians would need to vote on what form of republic Australia should become.
Mr Shorten’s new emphasis on the republic question comes after the Prime Minister met Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace earlier this month.
Mr Turnbull did not disclose any discussion about Australia becoming a republic.
“All I can say is… most Australian republicans are Elizabethans as well,” Mr Turnbull said at the time.
On Saturday, Buckingham Palace confirmed the Queen would not be attending the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.
– with AAP and ABC