The last few weeks have seen the world learn that Barbados, a small Caribbean island nation, is the latest country to cut ties with the British Monarchy, officially becoming a republic. This has prompted fresh calls for Australia to do the same.
The Barbados decision was made by government officials, who plan to begin the transition and become a republic by November 2021.
Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottely said that while the country’s relations with the United Kingdom were excellent, it was time to “affirm who we are as a people today”.
Australians voted on whether they wanted their nation to become a republic in a referendum in 1999, and voted no. Ever since this defeat, the Australian Republic Movement has continued to lobby for the change. The question being asked now, 21 years later, is are we ready yet?
A July 2020 YouGov market research poll found 52 per cent of participants supported the change, 32 per cent opposed and 16 per cent were undecided.
The principal argument the lobby group puts forward for changing to having an Australian republic is the belief that an Australian should be head of state, as opposed to the current person in the position, Queen Elizabeth II.
For Australia to become a republic, there would need to be a referendum, which would require more than 50 per cent “yes” votes and a majority in four of the six states for the change to be approved.
Sandy Biar, national director of the Australian Republic Movement, said it was important Australia was represented by an Australian head of state.
“The head of Australia should be someone who champions Australians, they should be someone with undivided loyalty to Australia, who can always put Australian interests first,” he said.
“The final say over Australian laws, over who forms government in Australia and when elections are held should be in the hands of Australians, rather than the British Monarchy or her representatives.”
Mr Biar said Australia was more ready for a republic now than ever and since the 1999 referendum much has changed.
“There was very low awareness in the community about the detail of the reforms, and Australia’s system of government generally … that left many susceptible to misinformation campaigns.”
The Australian Monarchist League, devoted to keeping Australia part of the Commonwealth, said in a media statement Barbados’ decision for independence should not be celebrated as it was not voted for by the people.
“The decision was made by the (almost) one-party parliament … in an obvious attempt to entrench their political control over the island.”
Emeritus Professor John Warhurst from the Australian National University and former national chair of the Australian Republic Movement believes a referendum is the best way for Australians to decide if, and in what form, the republic manifests.
He said: “I’d say give the people a choice of model, accept the majority opinion and then campaign hard for it.”