Palaszczuk joins push for an Australian republic

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has joined other state and territory leaders to call for an Australian republic. Photo: Robert Shakespeare Seventeen years before his prime ministership, Malcolm Turnbull conceded defeat after leading the Australian Republican Movement campaign in the 1999 referendum. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has joined her counterparts in every other state and territory, bar Western Australia, to sign a declaration calling for Australia to become a republic.

The declaration, released by the Australian Republican Movement the day before Australia Day, called for constitutional change to allow an Australian head of state.

The only state leader not to sign the charter was West Australian Premier Colin Barnett, although he has long been on the record as a republican.

“I firmly believe Australia is ready to have an Australian as our head of state,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“We lead the world in so many areas, it’s about time our country is led by one of our own.”

The declaration reads: “We, the undersigned Premiers and Chief Ministers of Australia, believe that Australia should have an Australian as our Head of State.”

While 45.13 per cent of Australians voted for a republic in the 1999 referendum, Queensland proved to be constitutional monarchists’ heartland, with just 33.44 per cent of Queenslanders writing “yes” on their ballot papers.

Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy Queensland state secretary Malcolm Badgery said that was a figure Ms Palaszczuk should remember.

“Queensland had the highest ‘no’ vote in the referendum when this issue was settled once and for all in 1999 and I’m surprised that Ms Palaszczuk is so out-of-step with the views of her electors,” he said.

“Every Australia Day, this comes up, but in my view this republic thing is going nowhere fast.”

ARM national director Tim Mayfield said his organisation’s membership in Queensland had increased five-fold in the past year, compared to a four-fold increase nationally.

But Mr Mayfield, who would not disclose the membership numbers, conceded that improvement had come off the back of a small base.

“To be honest, when it’s not super popular in a particular jurisdiction to begin with, then there are more gains to be made,” he said.

“But I also think, in Queensland, you’ve got a state that’s rapidly changing.

“Brisbane is more cosmopolitan than it’s ever been and the face of Queensland is changing and you’ve seen causes that might be described as progressive by others being taken up with more gusto.”

The Australian constitution can only be changed through a “double majority” – which includes an overall majority of voters plus a majority of voters in a majority of states – in a national referendum.

That, Mr Mayfield said, made Queensland vital to the ARM’s campaign.

“We can’t give away a single state in the campaign for a republic, because we have to bring everyone with us to get this over the line, to meet that second hurdle of the constitutional amendment process of carrying at least four of the six states,” he said.

“That means putting more effort where we’ve traditionally been less popular, rather than focusing on our base, or our key areas.

“What that means for Queensland is that it’s an absolute top priority for us – the more we lost by in ’99, it means the higher priority it is for us now.”

As then-head of the ARM, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spearheaded the unsuccessful ‘yes’ campaign in the lead-up to the 1999 referendum.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was also a republican.

Mr Mayfield said such political consensus across the board had never been seen in Australia.

A spokesman for the Queensland Opposition Leader said Lawrence Springborg remained strongly in favour of retaining the constitutional monarchy.

DISCLOSURE: The reporter is a member of the Australian Republican Movement.

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