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(AAP Image/Paul Miller/Cole Bennetts)

We unpack hot topics about Australia's system of government with author of Beyond Federation Dr Klaas Woldring. Should Australia become a republic? If so, what sort of republic would we want?

Anneke Boudewijn, Pamela Cook
Published on
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 - 11:03
File size
3.8 MB
8 min 19 sec

Part 1 - Republic yes or no? If so what type? 

Should Australia become a republic? Dr Klaas Woldring says we instead need to ask the question, "What kind of republic do Australians want?"

Eight years after the Australian republic referendum, which failed to gain a majority to drop the British Crown, questions are still being asked about the future of Australia's constitutional monarchy.

Dr Woldring says the problem with the chief pro-republican body the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) is their focus on presenting a "minimalist" model which replaces the monarch with an Australian President or head of state, something he calls "piecemeal tinkering".

Will changing to a republic result in violence and revolutionary behaviour? Dr Woldring says it's not a huge concern, saying the UK monarchy is happy to support Australia becoming a republic.


If so, when?

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull co-founded the ARM and was the face of it's 1999 referendum campaign.  In a December 2016 speech Mr Turnbull says he still supports a move to a republic however not until Queen Elizabeth II ends her reign.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has promised to hold a national vote on becoming a republic within the first term of a future Labor government. 


The 1999 referendum

The 1999 republic referendum asked voters to write Yes or No to the following proposal:

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.

The results were 45.13% Yes, 54.87% No.


How involved are Australians?

A 2003 Senate enquiry The Road to a Republic found that Australians had felt disengaged from the process, and the fundamental question of Australia's future as a republic or a constitutional monarchy had not been answered. 

Dr Woldring says the political elites were trapped in the Constitution's archaic, conventions and mysterious language.

He says elites and citizens were unable to consider governance issues, the referendum was only whether a President should be elected directly or chosen by parliament. He calls this a "narrow model."

Dr Woldring says it's an opportunity to demystify the language and concepts of the idea.

He says Australians must be engaged in the process.