Politics

Should Australia Become A Republic?

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There’s one episode in the latest season of The Crown that’s sparked a fresh interest in Australia becoming a republic.

It’s not that surprising that a show about the British monarchy has made people question our relationship with it in the future, but where does Australia even stand on republicanism?

The Crown Season 4: ‘Terra Nullius’ 

In the episode that’s caused a stir, a young Prince Charles and Princess Diana come on a tour down under back in 1983.

At the time, anti-royalist Bob Hawke was Australia’s Prime Minister, and he was pretty desperate to break away from the monarchy even though we were and still are, one of the most important members of the Commonwealth.

The trip was a total triumph for the royals, much to Hawkes’ dissatisfaction, and the monarchy’s popularity really only went up from then on.

But now, revisiting this history through The Crown has raised a lot of questions for people, and one of the biggest is: how relevant is it for Australia to still have a Head of State who inherits the role and lives on another continent?

Push For Republicanism

Some people think the show could lead to a new push for republicanism. The Australian Republican Movement say that they’ve seen a spike in membership inquiries since the show aired.

Earlier this year, Professor Jenny Hocking won a court case that publicised what’s known as the ‘palace letters’.

They revealed the Crown was involved in the dismissal of the Whitlam Government back in 1975 and confirmed the political power the Queen had over the decision.

It reminded everyone of the power the monarchy still has over Australian politics and according to Professor Hocking, there are movements in place to overcome this with a new republican plan over the next two years.

The Crown Vs Republic

But do people actually want to separate from the Queen?

Well, we haven’t really asked that question properly since a national referendum back in 1999, when 54.9% of people voted no. This is possibly because the alternative meant that parliament could elect the new head of state, rather than the people.

A much smaller scale poll was done this year by YouGov, who found that 62% of Aussies now want Australia’s Head of State to be an elected Australian, and definitely not a Queen or King living in the UK.

Commentators think that last summer’s bushfires, COVID-19 and the consequent economic hardships could have all had an impact on republican sentiment, because Australians might want someone living through these things in real time with us.

And more broadly than just 2020, people pushing for republicanism think it could see Australia shake the Terra Nullius narrative of British invasion, and fully recognise itself as a multicultural society in its own right.

That could bring an opportunity to extend further recognition of the sovereignty of First Nations people.

But we’ve never successfully transitioned to become an independent country before, and the people opposing republicanism argue that if the system isn’t broken why fix it?

They have concerns that giving an Australian Head of State unconstitutional power could create a confusing power imbalance within the existing system of government, by creating a role that’s somewhere in between a prime minister and a president.

Some even fear giving more power to one person could lead to a dictatorship, which throughout history is a pattern that has followed countries leaving colonial rule.

Australia could also lose a lot if it became a republic.

Not only do plebiscites and referendums for something this big cost a lot of money (actually around half a billion dollars) but if we did vote in favour of republicanism, we might have to renegotiate things like the military support that we currently get as part of the Commonwealth.

The Takeaway

Ultimately, whether Australia should become a republic or not is an ongoing debate.

And what Netflix have done with The Crown – which has become a real hit with both older and younger generations – is reignited simmering conversations about Australia’s future that every Australian can now be part of.