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 67.

    I would rather have a Monachry, than an "el presidente" like blair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Very nice.
    A pity this is all there is to HYS about - the theft of the NHS seems a glaring omission. Again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    I doubt real change will come until hunger becomes prevalent amongst the populace. Established elites are only swept away when their economic mismanagement effects peoples stomachs. Until then this anachronistic monarchy and its hangers on will be the only circus in town. I give it three more years and five at most...

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    The arguement that ''we don't want a President Blair'' etc etc, says much about the mind set of the British that a Republic should be headed by the elite. It should be a right that anybody of any background should be allowed to be Head of State.The old values should be swept away , and should have been done so along with a mind set that GB is still some kind of massive power in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    48.Duncan - "......I do wish the BBC would show genuine impartiality but it is HMG's mouthpiece.........."

    I am no monarchists, but how on earth could you possibly use an article reporting the news, as it is, as Beeb bias...???

    Reporting news you do not like is not bias, it is merely reporting the news, no more, no less......and that is exactly how it should be.

  • Comment number 62.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    What are Julia Gillard's sincere core beliefs? The answer is that they are what 51% of the electorate want. If there was a shift away from the monarch, then she would have claimed to be a staunch republican all her life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.


    We would have a just as expensive republican head of state & entourage as well as yet more politicians. And watching George W Bush's body language when he visited the UK the Americans would not only look down on our PM, but also down on our new Head of State. Whereas he looked up to the Queen.

    That allows us to hit way above our weight in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    I am not here to be rated, I just have a question;

    What does this family do for the UK? What would the UK be like without the family?

  • Comment number 58.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    If you have a body you need a head. For the commonwealth born out of the British Empire this has traditionally been the crowned head of Britain.
    Much as many Republicans don't like the idea of Prince Charles taking that role he increasingly seems like the least worst option. He is a man of opinion and honour.
    Much better than Van Rumpoy as head of the EU or an elected failed politician?

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    I'm a life long republican. The older I get the more fawning there appears towards royalty (as is the case with BBC); it all seems so utterly irrational. Same with religion, irrationally focusing your beliefs towards 'something' you will never see or experience, dead or alive. All of it strikes me as a form of mental illness or delusional state of mind but of course it's all one of the same thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Yes Charles should be head. No we shouldn't get rid of the monarchy. Theoretical extremists are popular on this story but an awful politician or a politely tolerated celebrity is no alternative to an institution which has provided stability in the UK despite being undemocratic.

    I'm sure the republicans were most annoyed with last year's jubilee and the year before's royal wedding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Why does anyone need this family?

    Answer they don't!

    People feed off the garbage the bbc and other toadying media organisations peddle. In sum brainwashing!

    If the press really did their job, they would investigate the entire family with the degree of scrutiny that befits a family in receipt of millions of benefits each year!

    No bedroom tax at buck hse, balmoral, sandingham or windsor?

    C McK

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Do we really NEED a King Charles and a Queen Camilla? You can always go to google and try George Smith(Royal servant)

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Just goes to show you,it's not just our politicians that are un democratic and establishment groupies!

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    There is a big asumption in this that Charles will be our next monarch, he may not want it and pave the way for William.
    Any thoughts on having a revolving leadership of the Commonwealth, with different countries having it for a few years? Just as long as Mugabe dosn't get the job.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    The issues isn't how many deaths wrong leadership can cause but rather an awareness that misplaced leadership can cause large numbers of innocent people to lose their lives. With regards the past it is the past. The future needs expert leadership and a dilettante amateur like Charles may slow down critical decisions on Nuclear and GM as well as unhelpful interventions with the Commonwealth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    @ ex Tory Voter-I'd seriously doubt the casualty list comes anywhere close that incurred under the republican regimes of the 20th century alone. As for conflicts between nations, its actually irrelevent the title of the ruler-presidents and chancellors in the past 100 years alone have probably caused more death than the monarchies of the past 1000 years combined.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    It is ironic (or is that plain stupid) how many don't want Charles as King or are against hereditary privilage, but support monarchy.

    I do wish the BBC would show genuine impartiality but it is HMG's mouthpiece.

    But I also question our "democracy" as it also represents the same banking elite so is there really any difference? I do not think so.

    We need wholesale reform in Westminster.


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