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14 years since Australia said no to becoming a Republic

Just recently on the 6th of November, Australia marked 14 years since voting “no” in a referendum to abolish the Australian Monarchy and become the Republic of Australia. The topic of Monarchy vs Republic has always been one of fervent discussion in many Australian homes, social groups and public arenas, but when the question ‘Should Australia become a Republic?’ was put to the electorate, the answer was “no” with a slim majority.


For 14 years the topic was dormant and was rarely heard in the public arena, until, Her Excellency the Governor-General Ms Quentin Bryce gave a speech earlier this month using a phrase that reignited the public debate, “Perhaps my friends, one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation’s first head of state.” This very short sentence has sent the most die hard of Monarchists and Republicans into the public arena to reopen the public debate. It seems Australian Monarchists remain in the majority to keep the Queen and her successors as head of state in Australia presently, with one such Monarchist being the Prime Minister.

The 1999 Referendum was instigated by the openly republican Keating Government who said “Australians everywhere respect the Royal Family and Queen, but they are not Australian.” The Prime Minister then went on to talk about our two nations’ long and intertwined history and said “creating an Australian Republic is not an act of rejection but an act of recognition, in making the change we will recognise that our deepest respect is for Australia’s history.”  There was at that time, a hope that Australia would become a republic in time for the 100th anniversary of Federation.

What is The Queen’s role in Australia?

The Queen’s role in Australia has remained virtually unchanged since Queen Victoria issued letters patent to create the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 thus creating the office of Governor-General and Prime Minister. Her Majesty has a very small indirect role with the actual day to day governing of Australia as the Governor-General, under the constitution of Australia, is Her Majesty’s Vice Regal representative while the Queen still remains head of state. The Governor-General fulfils the same duties that Her Majesty does in the United Kingdom, signing bills into law, holding investitures and meeting scores and scores of people at functions and events.

What would happen if the Referendum was successful?

If the referendum had been successful Her Majesty would have ceased to be The Queen of Australia, her heirs would have no legitimate claim to the throne of Australia and the office of Governor General would have been terminated, ending the incumbent’s employment. An Election for President would then ensue.

Break down of the results

The result for approval for ‘A proposed law: To alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament.’ was as follows

6,410,787 Australians said “no” – that’s 54.87% of total votes
5,273,024 Australians said “yes” – that’s 45.13% of total votes

photo credit: Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office via photopin cc

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