Albanese Is Famously Pro-Republic, So Why Is He Shooting Down Calls For A Republic Referendum?


Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has stymied calls for a referendum or even debate on whether Australia should become a republic with a piss-weak “now is not the time” response. But if after the death of our head of state is not the right time to at least discuss their role in Australia’s future, when is?

“Now is not a time to talk about our system of government, now is a time for us to pay tribute to the life of Queen Elizabeth,” he told the ABC on Sunday.

Albanese reiterated on Monday morning the only referendum he wanted to see during this term of parliament was the referendum on the Indigenous Voice to parliament, which is already in the works. So what about the rest of the three-year term?

“The Labor Party’s position is clear. We don’t have a timetable,” he said.

“I made it clear before the last election what our intention was during this term. That is the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait people in our constitution.

“I said at the time I couldn’t envisage a circumstance where we changed our head of state to an Australian head of state but still didn’t recognise First Nations people in our constitution. And the fact that we live with the oldest continuous culture on earth. So that’s our priorities this term. I made that very clear before the election.”

Albanese has been famously pro-republic for much of his long political career. Two years ago he talked about “the need for us to have an Australian head of state … the need for us to stand on our own two feet”.

A year earlier he called Australia becoming a republic as an idea “as simple as that” for a mature state like ours.

He even created the new Assistant Minister for the Republic role when he was elected, which is held by Matt Thistlethwaite. Labor’s 2021 national platform stated it “supports and will work toward establishing an Australian republic with an Australian head of state” and Thistlethwaite’s task would be to oversee that transition.

The government has been clear all along none of this would happen in the Labor government’s first term, so they’re not breaking any promises here. But you’d think the queen’s death could warrant a change in plan or at least a discussion.

So why is Albanese shooting down calls for debate or calls for an earlier republic referendum now?

The last time Australians were asked whether we should have the Queen as our head of state, 54 per cent of the country said no and since then the issue hasn’t really been touched.

Republicanism became a hot issue in Australia in the 1990s and it was finally put to a public vote in November 1999 when the Howard government reluctantly called the Australian Republic Referendum. But it failed due to a rather unexpected wash of monarchist regional votes.

In inner-metropolitan areas like Melbourne, however, more than 70 per cent voted to become a republic. In Albanese’s own seat of Grayndler in Sydney that vote was 64.77 per cent.

So he wants it anyway and if the people do too now, why delay?

Perhaps he got cold feet, perhaps he’s worried it could cause his strong lead in the polls to drop, or perhaps he’s worried about being called out for opportunism.

But these “opportunities” don’t come along often — republicans have waited 23 years since the 1999 referendum to have another go and I can’t think of a better time than right now.