Julia Gillard backs Queen's successor as Commonwealth head

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Julia Gillard's comments on the Commonwealth may surprise some

A quick internet search reveals how Julia Gillard has made headlines in recent days.

The Australian prime minister survived a leadership challenge; reshuffled her cabinet; and apologised to the victims of her country's policy in the past of forced adoptions.

But an answer she gave in parliament doesn't appear to have registered at all.

It was in response to a question about the Commonwealth Charter.

The organisation's attempt to set out, for the first time, its core principles is not a topic which obviously excites the minds of headline writers. But what Ms Gillard had to say was significant and potentially historic.

The key passage was delivered as the prime minister paid tribute to the "distinguished" service of the Queen as head of the Commonwealth over many decades.

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She clearly envisages a future where Charles wouldn't be her king but would be head of the Commonwealth”

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She went on to say this: "The institution of the head of the Commonwealth, standing as it does above individual governments, has been an asset of the Commonwealth since its foundation, and we need not be reticent about its future.

"For Australia's part, I am sure the Queen's successor as monarch will one day serve as head of the Commonwealth with the same distinction as her Majesty has done."

This straightforward and clear statement that the Prince of Wales will one day follow in his mother's footsteps - as the symbolic head of a body which represents 30% of the world's population - is striking for a number of reasons.

Until recently, it had been the accepted view that Charles, unlike Elizabeth, would not automatically take on this role.

The heads of government of the 54 countries would have to decide what to do when the prince became king.

But that accepted view has been challenged gently in recent weeks.

As I have written before, the Commonwealth secretary-general, Kamalesh Sharma, has spoken of how Prince Charles' support for the Commonwealth had "deepened" its links to the Crown.

And, at the same event, the Queen thanked Mr Sharma for his "thoughtful" words about the "enduring value" of this bond.

Added to these remarks, we now have Ms Gillard's far from opaque or delphic comments.

Removing uncertainty?

They have added resonance because of her view of the value of maintaining Australia's link with the British crown.

She's made it clear she would favour her country becoming a republic once the Queen is no longer on the throne.

So, she clearly envisages a future where Charles would not be her king but would be head of the Commonwealth.

Her endorsement of that role is an important one for the heir to the throne.

The days and weeks after he fulfils his destiny could be tricky ones.

He has his critics, countries other than Australia could seek to remove him as their head of state, and uncertainty over whether or not he would take on the Commonwealth could prove to be destabilising.

Julia Gillard has sought to remove that uncertainty.

One has to assume that her public statement followed private soundings. The mood music, for now, is that a body born out of the collapse of the British empire appears content to have an unelected monarch as its next head.

This will bolster the reign of Britain's next sovereign.

Without fanfare or fuss, a republican named Julia has come to the aid of Charles, a future king.

Peter Hunt Article written by Peter Hunt Peter Hunt Diplomatic and royal correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Chasmilla rarely set foot in Oz-land and the minute those two come to the throne, there will be a massive rush for the exit door as far as Commonwealth countries still retaining the British monarch as head of state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    114.Rebecca Riot:
    "But the soldiering is just temporary. Something that all Royals do? They all have to have a bash at the services. Army, navy, whatever...

    So what does Harry do?"

    That's up to Harry isn't it? His choice will show his mettle, or lack thereof. Personally, I'd be disappointed with him if he settled for being one of the idle rich but he does have that option.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    122 REPUBLIC

    Are you suggesting off with their heads?

    The Bourbons were ridiculous but so was George IV. Queen Victoria did spend most of her time hiding on Isle of Wight particularly after Albert went to heaven?

    The government wanted her to abdicate particulary as they had to row across the Solent every time something important had to be signed? They got really fed up with her!

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Julia Gillard wanted to withdraw her comments but no-one was at home at the beeb to take her call. Striking for half a day before a bank holiday, you wouldn't catch proper Royalty doing that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    In this age of globalisation, perhaps we should consider outsourcing the monarchy via an auction? The highest bidders would probably be a Russian oligarch, The Chinese Communist Party, one of the Middle East Sovereign Wealth Funds - or possibly McDonalds and Cocoa Cola?

  • Comment number 122.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    @ 119 human psychology just means that the post of head of state instead of a monarch would be a self-serving political crony. Look how Australia rejected a republican status when it came to light that after the referendum the politicians would nominate Presidential candidates .... But they allowed the public to believe that anyone could stand for the post.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    119 REPUBLIC

    I agree with you, scrap the lot, but unfortunately we have heaps of left luggage bunging up democracy. The House of Lords for a start.

    Cameron and Boris don't help. Conformist Eton chaps upholding the class system, although Boris gets a better balance from his socialist wife, except when she bans him from the house for infidelity.

    Toffs, Beaus & Royalty are very ureliable?

  • Comment number 119.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    116 BanuG

    Dishonesty is a bit heavy. In the case of Charles, the D of E & Mother were down on him like a tone of bricks to conform to what they thought was expected.

    Being very out of touch I suspect they were quite mistaken.

    I also suspect the fathering & mothering left a deal to be desired, They were probably still using to the Kensington method, as approved by Queen Victoria??

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    My family is from here but I was born in NZ as a staunch monarchist. That's changed only a little as I get older and see the realities of an unelected family dynasty that wields far more power than is at first obvious, but nonetheless I marvel at how stable the democracies that spring from it are. There is something to be said for a dignified dictatorship moderated by democracy. God save the Q.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Rebecca Riots (good name!) It is the middle level civil servants who get landed with the task of replying to HRH not the ministers hence the cost to the public purse of his interference.

    Billy Goat Gruff - my point was about the vows he took and his dishonesty not about how the marriage came about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    The Royal Family needs a severe pruning. Britain cannot afford such extravagance?

    We just need a small top team to represent the nation while the rest of the extended family should all seek qualifications and then try and find work. They can all keep their titles but live as ordinary people

    The current Royal goings on in this day and age are completely out of date. No more scrounging!

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    111 Scott0962

    Soldier Harry?

    But the soldiering is just temporary. Something that all Royals do? They all have to have a bash at the services. Army, navy, whatever.

    It is afterwards? Royal duties are very dull. He will soon get fed up with that & then of course he has to marry? And still no proper job. Edward tried film making but to no outcome?

    So what does Harry do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    An unelected, ceremonial Head of State is better than an elected one. Just look how divisive the US Presidency is. Everyone can warm up to a monarch, only Labour supporters will warm up to a Labour President.

    ...Lets not forget that in the referendum ten years ago, 56% of Australia voted to keep the monarchy but since then, not a single Aussie government has ever won more that 50% in an election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Why do people get so worked up, using this forum to slag off politicians who have nothing to do with what's in the story..

    Like Gillard I lean to republicanism , but as far as the Commonwealth goes, as long as the British monarch is apolitical then that person is probably the best choice to be at the head of this politically, racially, and culturally, enormously diverse organisation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    88.Rebecca Riot:
    "Harry appears to be sharp shooter, clever with machine gun, but he did not even attempt higher education? What will become of him as he gets older? Another public expense like Prince Andrew?"

    He's a soldier, its an honorable profession and by all acounts he's good at it. Would you be happier if he had an MBA and was a banker in the City?

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    What's wrong with a democratically elected head of state or is that too democratic? The Aussies are bottlers. Here was an opportunity to ditch Ruritania and they have endorsed a meddling prince. Perhaps Britain will become a republic, when Queenie shuffles on, and the Aussies will be left with the faded remnants of empire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    What we need is somebody who will have no hesitation in bringing to the attention of as many people as possible that the planet is overpopulated.

    To point out that more is being demanded from less as we turn this planet to a waste ground and that we are heading for an abyss we will be unable to save ourselves from unless we get a grip on our numbers !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Love to have been reading the Queens thoughts when she has had to sit opposite some of cretins we have had as Prime Minister of the UK during her weekly updates!

    She is beyond the corruption of Westminster, imagine having a President Blair.....


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