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 27.

    "14.David Horton
    If there was an election for the Head of State in Britain, how would you cope if the Queen won?

    Which she would."

    Fine. The key word is *elected*. Though no longer a royalist I don't actually mind QEII and Philip being publicly funded, it's the hangers-on, family and associated out-dated 'establishment' that I do mind funding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I just wish politicians in Britain were more pro-active in promoting trade within The Commonwealth rather pushing the alien European Community all the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Do we have an Elizabeth the Second?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    @19 You do realise that those elected representatives have to swear an oath of allegiance to the queen before they can represent us? So even if @17 got elected in theory to try and replace the queen in parliament he couldn't actually take his seat! Do you think that's democratic?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Much prefer a monarch as H of S instead of another lying, thieving politician and do really think an elected H of S would be any cheaper. Just end up with another old politician on an ego trip eg Blair.Also like the the H of S being above politics as it is a safeguard against the politican who can promise one thing before election,do something different afterwards, just remember Hitler was elected

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.


    Funny that, I've looked back over my posts and I can't find one in which I say that I'm to decide anything. I've expressed my view that my preference is for a republic (I believe I'm entitled to do that and intend to continue doing so).

    I think you'd find that constitutional changes ARE decide by referendum - like they're going here in Scotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    10. Bruxical
    Make Robert Mugabe head of the commonwealth. A true man of the people.
    Does no one recognize irony.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    @17 I think the Queen would win any election. I would still feel more comfortable if her right to rule was because the people chose her rather than because she was born into it though. Having said that though there is lots to feel uneasy about our electoral system with its gerrymandering of constituencies and politically appointed Lords and the Queen as head of it is by no means the worst excess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    17.Cofi in Exile
    No because we don't hold a referendum every time you decide something is important.

    We have elected rep who are empowered to act in our best interest and decided it is UK's best interest to remain constitutional monarchy. For you to decide you know better is undemocratic.

    If you don't like it. Get yourself elected to parliament on a referendum platform and change it

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    #14.David Horton
    Well, as a republican, I'd be perfectly happy to accept the queen as HoS if she won an election. Unlike you I don't think she'd win though - and I'm absolutely certain that Charlie boy wouldn't, were he to be the candidate.

    But we're not going to be asked are we - so we'll never know.

    Which is one more big reason why I'm a republican.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    It is inconceivable for a British monarch not to be head of the Commonwealth also:therefore Ms Gillard's comments are a statement of the obvious.Whether Britain should remain a consitutional monarchy or whether a British sovereign should reign in Australia are quite different matters,and she is entitled to her opinion,I suppose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I have not come across any convincing arguments for abolishing the monarchy. It's mostly meaningless comments about 'democracy' and '21st century' and principles. Well, my principles say we should have a non political head of state. They say that we should respect tradition and not butcher it on behalf of a small minority.

    As far as I'm concerned the monarchy is an integral part of Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    12 cont:

    In fact, how about it?

    If there was an election for the Head of State in Britain, how would you cope if the Queen won?

    Which she would.

    The Republican argument might gain credence elsewhere, but not in Britain. Ergo, if living in a Republic is that important to you, you will need to leave these shores.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I am assuming that a reverence and desire for democracy over hereditory monarchy is the fundamental reason for Republicanism?

    How then do republicans square the paradox of the majority preferring to retain the Monarch as Head of State?

    You Republicans surely wouldn't to IMPOSE an elected, but unwanted Head of State on a people?

    Would you?

    Oh, you would.

    Bit fascist, isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I am not a monarchist but have been able to accept the Queen as head of state but dread the idea that a buffoon like Charles taking the throne, he is a first class idiot. Once the Queen has gone, we should become a republic

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Make Robert Mugabe head of the commonwealth. A true man of the people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    does anybody actually care ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    #6.The Village Idiot

    You don't necessarily need to have political/politicised president of a republic - sufficient gravitas to command respect is the role needs. An executive style presidency (USA model) is not the only alternative. The office could be filled from academia for example.


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