HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 1 DECEMBER 2021
This week, Barbados declared itself a republic, putting in place as president Sandra Mason. It's 55 years since Barbados became independent from Britain, and this republic is the culmination of a two-decade process. Barbados, of course, will still compete in the Commonwealth Games. It will still be a country with British traditions. But it it'll stand proudly on its own two feet as a republic, and with Rihanna as its national hero.
A bit over two decades ago, Australia also considered becoming a republic, with 45 per cent of Australians and 63 per cent of Canberrans voting yes. When that vote was defeated, Australians were assured that there would be another vote coming along sometime soon. But, in two decades, one hasn't come along, and it's likely to be a full generation between republican votes. In that time, we've seen the revelation of the palace letters, making it very clear that Buckingham Palace was consulted and forewarned about Governor-General Sir John Kerr's likely decision to dismiss the Whitlam government, provided advice about how the Governor-General's reserve powers might be exercised and that Sir John Kerr even war-gamed possible scenarios with the palace and Prince Charles in which he himself might be dismissed as Governor-General.
Only a third of Australians know that the Queen is our head of state, and the monarchy is becoming increasingly unrepresentative of a diverse, modern, multicultural Australia. Imagine if we had a rule in Australia that you could only be Prime Minister if you came from a particular lineage, which favoured the male side and in which all members were members of a particular religion. We would think it was completely anathema to our modern plurality to choose our head of state on a basis that guaranteed that no Indigenous Australian could ever become the head of state. It is time for an Australian republic, and we should make modest steps in that direction. That could include repurposing the Queen's Birthday holiday, changing the face that's on the back of our coins from a picture of the Queen to a selection of Indigenous Australians, improving our understanding of the oldest continuing culture in the world, while standing firmly in the Asia-Pacific as a country which proudly allows its own to become the head of state.
I've been a passionate Australian republican all my life and I'm keen to see this done. It's very clear it will take a Labor government to put in place the referendum that will allow Australians to choose to become a republic and finally have an Australian as our head of state.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.