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.

Start Quote

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

End Quote

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

Prince William in Japan: From one ancient institution to another

When Prince William met Emperor Akihito it was an encounter between the representatives of one ancient institution and of another, which is even more ancient.

Read full article


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    "34.The Village Idiot

    . Suggest you go there if you don't like a monarchy...its served us well for 1500 years."

    It's served a few very well, but the millions who have done the dying or been maimed due to petty inter-royal disputes probably see things rather differently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.


    A/. The type of politicians you refer to wouldn't stand for office as President because they'd not have any great power - and we could set the pay at minimum wage to discourage the greedy.

    B/. It would be MASSIVELY cheaper. No endless list of hangers on to pay for for starters & we get shot of the pointless pomp & ceremony.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    commonwealth lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Surely when people (some royalists) say that are worried about Charles as a King, they are highlighting the problem with the Monarch. Our politicians are rubbish is not a reason for the Monarch to remain, it simply highlights weakness of the population and the problem of apathy. I hope over time both things change, but right now we're seeing how ugly politics can be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    How sad that these people are maintained in a position of feudal privilege by grasping politicians who will do or say anything to get votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I fear we'd have another mad King should Charles ascend the throne. He talks to plants and believes in homeopathy. Not only is he unsuitable for Commonwealth leadership he could also be dangerous when placed in the wrong role like that. Imagine the soaring mortality rates in poor countries which take any of his dodgy homeopathic health advice seriously?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    charles non-political ? he interferes in government decisions is a rank tory and is unsuitable to be king australia should become a republic as soon as the queen dies

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    If it ain't broke don't fix it. The Commonwealth is not a political grouping but a club of which the monarch is patron. Long may it last.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Trendies say that the Head of Commonwealth should rotate around the countries but, for every Mandela there is a Mugabe, so when it comes down to it, Queen and Charles works out best, they are non-political and well known and, apart from a few republicans, dont upset anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    #34.The Village Idiot

    Now why would I want to do that?

    Nah, - think I'll do the accepted thing in our (almost) democracy - work within the system to get change. I anticipate that my task will be made far, far easier when the pompous, opinionated Charles gets anywhere near the throne.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    She will always be Liz the1st in Scotland regardless of what royal rules are written to suit themselves.
    Lets face it, Monarchs are the symbol of an aggressive and warring past present and future. Look how many of them still play at part time soldiers and sailors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    We need a elected head for the Commonwealth. In order to remain sustainable and reflect modern values where position is based on merit rather than the vagary of birth status it is imperative that the Queen abdicates her position. If a Pope can step down why not a Queen? The only difference is one had to work for many years with no special position whereas the other was born with a silver spoon.

  • Comment number 35.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    If you want to live in a republic, there are plenty of banana republics to choose from. Suggest you go there if you don't like a monarchy...its served us well for 1500 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    @25: Do we have an Elizabeth the Second?


    Choice of regal name (including ordinals) comes under royal prerogative and so Her Majesty is fully entitled to (and indeed does) call herself "the Second" in all her realms, regardless of whether they've had an Elizabeth I or not.

    Heck, she legally could have called herself Elizabeth XII or Super Liz IV if she had really wanted to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I was duped as a 7 year old cub scout to give an oath to the Queen. However, once she has gone that oath will no longer be valid and I will not be subservient to anyone who follows in her footsteps. Watch out Charlie boy the days of kissing the boot of someone because they were born into a certain family have had their day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    #30 - It is no mystical right. Just her ancestors where more ambitious than ours

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Re: elected Head of State
    As a republican, I would have no problem with Mrs Windsor being elected to the post. As such, she would be first citizen, chosen by and answerable to all citizens, and not Head of State due to some mystical right, with us as her subjects.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    "If it ain't broke don't fix it"

    The commonwealth is an old fashioned style of institution.

    But still better than most modern ones.

    As long as there is someone as canny and intelligent as the Queen at its helm, it will continue to be useful and successful to all member states.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    For those who ask "does the Commonwealth actually do anything":

    The Queen chairs periodic meetings of the Commonwealth heads of government for their mutual benefit, addressing issues ranging from trade to human rights. All the countries have acknowledged her excellent leadership, from which they have all gained.

    Unlike politicians, the Queen does all this "quietly", and achieves a lot.


Page 5 of 7



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.