Former prime minister Tony Abbott has rebuked one of his predecessors, Paul Keating, for suggesting Prince Charles is supportive of an Australian republic.
An angry Mr Abbott, a staunch monarchist who was criticised during his prime ministership for awarding a knighthood to Prince Philip, said it was “disrespectful” of Mr Keating to make the comments.
Writing in an opinion piece published in The Sunday Times of London ahead of the Crown Prince’s arrival in Australia for the Commonwealth Games, Mr Keating said the heir to the throne believed Australia should cut ties with the British monarchy.
“I have no doubt he believes Australia should be free of the British monarchy and that it should make its own way in the world,” Mr Keating wrote.
“Why would he or any one of his family want to visit Australia pretending to be, or representing its aspirations as, its head of state?
“But none of that is to diminish the commitment and sense of duty that Prince Charles displays towards Great Britain and, as constitutional arrangements stand, towards Australia.”
In comments republished in The Australian, Mr Keating said the Prince of Wales was an enlightened, conviction-driven person who was often treated poorly by the British media.
“Prince Charles will always be welcome in Australia – as the crown prince or as monarch of Great Britain. But the pretence of representing this country and all that it stands for is something he and we could well do without.”
Mr Keating, who was prime minister of Australia from 1991-1996, has long supported a republic.
But speaking on social media, Mr Abbott suggested Mr Keating’s comments were untrue.
“Prince Charles would just want to do his duty and he shouldn’t be verballed by an ex-PM,” the former Liberal prime minister and now right-wing backbencher posted on Twitter.
Australian Republic Movement chair Peter FitzSimons said it would be great if Prince Charles would use his Australian tour to formally support a republic.
“We have heard that (he supports it) for many years and we don’t doubt it’s true,” he told AAP.
“It’d be wonderful if he’d come out and say that outright, not that we have an actual expectation of that.”
He also said waiting for Prince Charles to take the throne, only to ditch him as head of state early in his reign, would be unfair.
“It is very disrespectful to Prince Charles himself, and as a nation, to say we were happy with your mother reigning over us for 80 years but we don’t want you at all.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a former chair of the Republic Advisory Committee prior to an unsuccessful 1999 referendum, has previously said the issue of a republic is unlikely to be publicly debated during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
Publicly, both Prince Charles and the Queen have stressed it’s up to Australians to decide whether to follow the republic path.
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will be officially welcomed at a reception in Brisbane on Wednesday, before opening the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in the evening.
Queensland’s Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who will greet Prince Charles on Wednesday, wouldn’t be drawn on the issue.
“I’ll be asking him how much he’s looking forward to the Commonwealth Games,” she told reporters on Monday.