By Blake Hampton
For the first time since Malcolm Turnbull sat in opposition to Kevin Rudd in 2008, both major political parties are led by Republicans. The turmoil and rapid rate of change for the Liberals and Labor killed off any chance the movement had to gain momentum for the foreseeable future. Now Turnbull is riding the crest of a wave of popularity and Bill Shorten is pushing desperately to get traction via a progressive agenda, the time is right to officially table a proposal.
The Australian tax payer last week was given a fresh $500,000 reminder how costly, pointless and redundant the nation’s ties are to the British Monarchy. Ironically the drop in from Princes Charles and wife Camilla coincided with talks to address carbon pricing and climate change, but Australia does not need to be lectured on this issue from a couple of ageing royals gallivanting on an all-expenses paid overseas trip.
During their stay down under, Shorten penned an article in the Fairfax press advocating for an Australian Republic. “I believe that chance has now come,” asserted the leader of the opposition. “Both Malcolm Turnbull and I support a republic, so why wait?”
Throwing the ball firmly into the Prime Minister’s court, Turnbull failed to walk the talk by deflecting the topic. Whether he thought it was in bad taste to address a republic in the company of Charles and Camilla is only for Turnbull to know, but a potential softening from the Prime Minister at this moment demonstrates the level of power and influence the monarchy continues to hold over Australia.
Fortunately the change in leadership within the Australian Republican Movement to Peter FitzSimons provides a dog with sharper teeth for the fight. The former Wallaby and provocative Sydney Morning Herald columnist was not backward in coming forward during his National Press Club address in August.
“We respectfully submit that in the 21st Century it is against the natural order of things that a secure and sophisticated nation, multicultural and independent as we are, proud of our egalitarianism and more than ever aware of our indigenous heritage, in this land right here, not a nation with a history of 114 years or even two centuries, but more like 40,000 years should still be finding our head of state from one family of English aristocrats living in a palace in England. Please.”
FitzSimons’ impassioned plea did not fall on deaf ears. A new poll indicated that the country is ready to abandon the royals once Charles becomes King. The concerns over national priorities will never disappear and similar to the gay marriage debate, the movement for change requires a well articulated argument supported by a public majority. With these boxes ticked it is now up to the Prime Minister to decide whether the heartache of the 1999 referendum loss was all for nothing. He will never get a better opportunity to right that wrong.
Photograph: AAP/Lukas Coch