Australia

Australian republicans claim majority of MPs oppose monarchy

Queen Elizabeth and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Queen meets Australian Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull

A majority of Australian MPs want to break ties with the British monarchy, the nation's republican lobby claims.

The Australian Republican Movement says 81 of 150 MPs and 40 of 76 senators favour the move, citing public statements from the politicians.

Monarchists have disputed the figures, insisting more support the status quo.

The numbers were revealed before an upcoming speech by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to mark the republican movement's 25th anniversary.

Mr Turnbull, who led a failed republic bid in 1999 before entering politics, will speak at Sydney University on Saturday.

'Australia can run its own show'

The chairman of the Australian Republican Movement said the speech was an opportunity to reset the debate.

"The majority of the public want it. Every premier and chief minister wants it. Now it turns out that our federal representatives agree as well," Peter FitzSimons told Fairfax Media on Friday.

"It's not a matter of being from the left or right but believing that in the 21st century, Australia can run its own show."

Australian Monarchist League chairman Philip Benwell said Mr Turnbull was swimming in "dangerous water".

"The figures that Peter FitzSimons has given are not accurate. There are many more politicians within the federal parliament who are supportive of the status quo," he told the BBC.

"The younger generation don't want a republic. Most of our members are in their 20s and early 30s. Younger people have a mistrust of politicians and that's what's being promoted again - a politicians' republic."

Mr Benwell criticised Mr Turnbull's plans to attend Saturday's event, saying it was more a "campaign fundraising dinner" than an anniversary celebration.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Queen last visited Australia in 2011

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wrote to Mr Turnbull on Thursday indicating his party would support a republic.

"Aside from an occasional spurt of discussion, the idea of an Australian Republic has been absent from our national life for too long," he wrote.

"This new generation deserves the chance to decide if Australia's head of state should be an Australian."

Outspoken conservative MP George Christensen said he would also support dumping the monarchy if Australia had a directly elected head of state.

"We can reform government to make it more representative and responsive to the needs and desires of the Australian people," he said on Friday.

Failed earlier bid

In the landmark 1999 referendum, Australia voted against replacing the Queen with a president by 54.87% to 45.13%.

Under the proposal, the president would have been chosen by members of both houses of parliament, not by a direct election.

Voter uncertainty about politicians picking the head of state was attributed to increasing the "no" vote.

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