Asia-Pacific

Australia's Gillard backs republic after Queen's death

Australia should become a republic when Queen Elizabeth II dies, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said just days ahead of a general election.

Welsh-born Ms Gillard said the Queen's death would be an "appropriate point" for Australia to move away from having a British monarch as head of state.

Australians voted against becoming a republic in a 1999 referendum, but the issue continues to be divisive.

Ms Gillard's main opponent, Tony Abbott, is a staunch monarchist.

Up until now the question of an Australian republic has hardly featured in this election campaign.

The BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney says even in this strongly patriotic country it is not considered an urgent national priority and Julia Gillard has indicated it won't become one for her Labor government while the Queen is on the throne.

Ms Gillard is a republican herself but says there is deep affection for the 84-year-old monarch whom she wished a long and healthy life.

Ms Gillard said that the appropriate time for Australia to move towards a republic was when there was a change in monarch, even if that didn't happen for another decade or more.