The leader of Australia’s main opposition party has pledged to hold a referendum on removing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and becoming a republic.
Australian Labor Party leader Bill Shorten called for a referendum in a speech delivered today to the Australian Republic Movement in Melbourne.
The call for a single-question referendum could cause difficulties for Australia’s Prime Minister, a prominent republican himself.
Turnbull met the Queen a fortnight ago in Buckingham Palace, saying that republicans can also be “Elizabethans”. He has previously said Australia should remain under the monarchy until at least the end of Elizabeth’s reign.
At a separate event today in Queensland, where he first announced the policy, Shorten said: “We are not Elizabethan; we are Australians. Our head of state should be Australian too.”
Shorten said his call to replace Queen Elizabeth with an Australian head of state “is not about a lack of respect for the Queen. No one will ever lose respect for her as an individual, or her accomplishments, or her family as a result of a change to an Australian head of state.”
The Queen currently remains the head of state in Australia, appointing the governor-general as her representative in the country. While the governor-general must approve every law made by the nation’s Parliament, in practice the government is run by the Prime Minister, in a similar manner to the British Parliament.
Turnbull, the leader of the right-of-centre Liberal party, is himself a former head of the Australian Republic Movement who led and helped to fund a campaign to remove the Queen as head of state in an unsuccessful referendum in 1999.
However, the issue could cause problems within Turnbull’s party, which retains strong monarchist elements. His predecessor, Tony Abbott, is an avowed monarchist who gave Prince Philip a knighthood in 2015, before being ousted by Turnbull.