New push for vote on Aust republic

Treasurer Joe Hockey has placed himself at loggerheads with Tony Abbott after backing a fresh push for a republic.


Mr Hockey and Labor senator Katy Gallagher will co-convene a new parliamentary group to promote the republican cause, calling for a national vote on an Australian head of state within five years.

The move puts Mr Hockey at odds with Mr Abbott, who Australian Republican Movement (ARM) chairman Peter FitzSimons hopes will be Australia’s last monarchist prime minister.

“After that, hopefully the stars will align and we will get an Australian prime minister and an Australian opposition leader who are both republicans,” Mr FitzSimons told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

Mr Hockey’s republican push has also annoyed his cabinet colleague Warren Truss, who suggested a republic wasn’t a priority.

“I suspect public opinion hasn’t changed much, so let’s concentrate on the things that matter most to this country,” the deputy prime minister said.

Launching an energised republican movement, Mr FitzSimons said a plebiscite asking for a simple `yes’ or `no’ on an Australian head of state would produce a resounding `yes’ result. “Like Phar Lap at Flemington, like Bradman at Lord’s,” he said.

Recent polling shows 47 per cent favoured an Australian in place of the Queen, while 57 per cent would support a national vote by 2020, Mr FitzSimons said.

“The central thing is to decide among us, yes we want to be a republic, then we will sort out how we are going to do it and then we will get to the actual technicalities,” he said.

The republican movement has languished since its defeat at the 1999 referendum.

Despite expectations of certain victory, a majority rejected the proposed minimalist republican model, where the head of state would have been chosen by a two-thirds majority of parliament.

“We just fell flat on our face and it took some time to pick ourselves up,” Mr FitzSimons said.

“We always said we would wait a generation and I think we are at that point now.”

To push the republican message, he says the community, especially young people, need to be engaged.

“The way ahead doesn’t have to be dreary and controversial, filled with bitter clashes as it was back in 1999. This could be fun and inspiring,” he said.

Senator Gallagher said she was surprised by the attention the group had received.

But she acknowledged Mr Hockey’s involvement would bring some weight to the debate.

“I would like to see a republic in my lifetime … and my participation is about hopefully delivering that one day,” she told ABC radio.