Why Australia might be about to ditch the queen
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As we in Britain are beginning to discover, referendums have a habit of haunting their own consequences. The last referendum in Australia on the monarchy was in 1999 when 55% of the population chose to keep Queen Elizabeth and her representative, the Governor-General, as head of state. But the Australian Labour Party has recently vowed to hold another referendum on whether it should remain a constitutional monarchy. Australians may drink tea, use single quotation marks and speak English, but the rough canvas of their sun and soil has bred a unique, fierce, humorous, multicultural, and patriotic people. It’s high time they got what they really do deserve - not an Ashes defeat, but a Republic. That it is the Labour Party calling for this referendum is unsurprising. Unlike the British (and original) Labour Party, the Aussie LP never revoked its socialist clauses, and the Party’s republicanism, therefore, flows from its constitution, but the philosophy imbues every level of the Australian government. Its current Liberal Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is head of the Republican movement but calls himself an Elizabethan to express what many British Republicans do in fact feel: that Elizabeth Windsor ought to be allowed to expire, as it were, before dismissing the heredity principle. That principle was nearly dismissed wholesale in 1975 when the Aussies underwent a constitutional crisis that has become known as ‘The Dismissal’. Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed from office Labour Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and commissioned Liberal leader of the opposition Malcolm Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister. This did a good job of revealing the ambiguities of just who was in charge in Australia, an ambiguity that wasn’t fully (if at all) resolved until 1986 when Britain and Australia passed the Commonwealth Act. It was passed simultaneously because neither country could work out who had the authority to do so, and it officially ended the UK’s power to legislate at the federal or state level - unless, it seems, the Queen is ‘personally present’ in a State.
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