ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja? joins Labor’s Katy Gallagher in supporting a republic. Photo: Andrew MearesThe ACT’s Liberal and Labor senators both favour Australia becoming a republic, as the nation gets ready to celebrate Australia Day and argue about national identity and Indigenous dispossession.
Australian Republican Movement national director Tim Mayfield said a disproportionately high percentage of its members come from the ACT, where Chief Minister Andrew Barr is a republican.
ARM is using the national holiday as an opportunity to ramp up its campaign, saying all but one of the country’s state and territory leaders favour the move to an Australian head of state.
The declaration by the leaders comes as the movement is hoping its cause will be helped by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, an avowed republican, who moved into The Lodge on Saturday.
ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja joins Labor’s Katy Gallagher in supporting the republic.
His view is it would be “a good thing” to have an Australian head of state.
Senator Seselja supported Tony Abbott in the Liberal Party leadership ballot.
Senator Gallagher will chair a pro-republic parliamentary group but the other co-host, former treasurer Joe Hockey, has been made ambassador to the United States.
“We’re hoping to secure a [Coalition] person before the parliamentary year starts,” Mr Mayfield said.
The ACT was the only jurisdiction to vote in favour of an Australian head of state in the 1999 referendum.
“The ACT would make up a good 15 to 20 per cent of our membership which is clearly punching above its weight,” Mr Mayfield said.
“A disproportionate percentage of the ARM’s membership is from the ACT.”
Mr Mayfield would not reveal the national membership but said the number had quadrupled in the past six months and was between 5000 and 10,000.
“Obviously we’ve come off a reasonably low base and that reflects that the issue has been off the agenda for a while now but I think what that indicates is clearly we’re ramping up again, there’s plenty of momentum,” he said.
“There’s no doubt there’s the impetus there, having a republican in The Lodge and not just any republican – Malcolm is a former chair of the ARM and led the charge at the 1999 referendum.
“He leads a party where the issue is a divisive issue now so we know he really needs to solidify his control and authority over his party before he can take issues like this on.”
ARM advocates for a plebiscite by 2020 on the question of an Australian republic, to be followed by a referendum should the initial vote be successful.
It is inviting all Australians to join with the Premiers and Chief Ministers in demonstrating their support for an Australian head of state by signing its petition.
West Australian Premier Colin Barnett declined to sign the leaders’ declaration.
However Mr Barr’s statement of support says: “I believe Australians deserve to have a head of state who is Australian, someone who lives in our country and represents our values and belief. Our ties with the monarchy continue to reflect a nation of the past. It’s time for us to grow up and stand on our own two feet.”
ARM chairman Peter FitzSimons, who writes for Fairfax Media, said in a statement: “We are thrilled with this show of support from Australia’s political leaders.”
He said it amounted to a “declaration of desired independence”.
“All of Australia’s political leaders now support an Australian head of state, including Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten,” his statement said.
“Never before have the stars of the Southern Cross been so aligned, in pointing to the dawn of a new republican age for Australia.”
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