Labor lays out plans to become a republic, taking lessons from 1999 referendum
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Labor lays out plans to become a republic, taking lessons from 1999 referendum

The man overseeing Australia’s shift to a republic says lessons could be learned from the failed 1999 referendum.

Twenty-three years ago, Australians rejected the proposal that the country becomes a republic with a parliament-appointed president.

Labor lays out plans to become a republic, taking lessons from 1999 referendum

Matt Thistlethwaite, the newly appointed assistant minister of the Republic, said he had been involved in that campaign and that “division” among Republicans over how best to install a head of state “was fatal to its success“”.

“I am very much aware of that. And I want to avoid that in the future,” he told ABC Radio on Thursday.

“So we don’t have a preference for a model that we’re going to force on Australians. We are going to approach this slowly and methodically.”

Camera IconMatt Thistlethwaite and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will work towards a referendum on the Republic of Australia. NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

Anthony Albanese has pledged that his government will prioritize a referendum on an Indigenous vote in parliament and constitutional recognition for Aboriginal people and the people of Torres Strait Islanders in its first term in office.

Mr. Thistlethwaite said the “next natural step” would be for Australia to cut ties with the British monarchy and have “one of us” as head of state, with a referendum possible in a second term from a Labor government.

“(The Prime Minister) wants me to ensure that this issue is back on the public agenda in Australia’s debate,” he said.

“There is a whole generation of Australians, newly arrived migrants, who do not understand this issue. I think my role is one of education.

“We have a plenipotentiary in the Governor General. But we can have an Australian as our head of state.”

Mr. Thistlethwaite said it was time to consider whether Australia should remain a constitutional monarchy, with the head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, now 96 years old.

“As the Queen approaches the twilight of her reign, we must respect her for the amazing work she has done, but I think Australians are starting to think about what comes next for our nation,” he said.

“It’s time we start the serious conversation again… and look for one of us as our head of state, to recognize that independence and maturity going forward.”

He argued that Australia was in the minority as 34 of the 54 Commonwealth countries had transitioned into republics.

Mr. Thistlethwaite’s comments come as the British Royal Family prepares for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, a four-day celebration to mark her 70 years on the throne.

Supporters of the monarchy, dressed in Union Jack-themed clothing, lined the streets near Buckingham Palace on Thursday in anticipation of the Queen’s traditional birthday parade.