Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten says he will work with the government to help deliver an Australian head of state if there is a renewed push for the country to become a republic, .
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last night reaffirmed his support for an Australian republic in a speech at the 25th anniversary dinner for the Australian Republican Movement in Sydney.
But in the speech, Mr Turnbull said the next referendum on the matter would need to be more inclusive than the movement’s failed bid in 1999.
On Twitter, Mr Shorten said his offer to work with the government on the issue remained.
“My offer still stands — let’s work together to deliver an Australian head of state,” he said.
But he also criticised the Prime Minister, saying: “Climate change, marriage equality, housing affordability, now Republic too hard for Turnbull”.
Mr Turnbull outlined a new road map that would involve a two-stage national vote.
He said “our head of state should be one of us” and that an Australian republic was a “straightforward issue of principal and national pride”.
He favoured a plebiscite to first to allow voters to determine whether an Australian president should be elected by a popular vote. But he said he would not support a referendum during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, suggesting it would be doomed to fail.
“Timing is absolutely critical,” he said. “The vast majority of Australians have known no other leader than the Queen. I do not believe Australians would support another referendum during her reign.’’
A second sydney airport has been approved and Malcolm Turnbull is the guest at a Republic dinner. Make 1999 great again!
— Mark Di Stefano (@MarkDiStef) December 12, 2016
“I also speak to you as Prime Minister, recognising that the Constitution does not belong to the Parliament, or the judges, it belongs to the people. Only they can amend it,’’ he said.
Although his proposed two-tiered vote would prove substantially more expensive, Mr Turnbull suggested it was imperative to ensure Australians felt they “owned’’ the new republic model.
He said “a directly elected president is feasible’’, but warned it would also involve risks.
Mr Turnbull has long been a supporter of Australia’s movement towards a republic, and was a founding member of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM).
— ABC News (@abcnews) December 17, 2016
He spoke at the gala dinner about “a profound commitment that every office under our constitution should be held by an Australian”.
After the 1999 referendum rejected the idea of a republic, he famously said John Howard would be remembered by history as “the Prime Minister who broke this nation’s heart”.
“25 years ago we founded the ARM with the same spirit that has brought us together tonight. Patriotism, pure and simple,” Mr Turnbull said.
“When we founded the ARM in 1991, we never thought we would be celebrating in 25 years.”
Nevertheless his decision to address the gala function was branded controversial by monarchists and was seen as provocative towards the nation’s conservatives.
“It is a provocative move because he’s thumbing his nose in the eyes of the majority of Liberals who support a monarchy,” chair of the Australian Monarchist League Phillip Benwell told the ABC.
During the address, Mr Turnbull celebrated Australia’s multiculturalism and said he favoured constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.