Is Australia Already a Republic?

Is Australia already a Republic?

It is interesting to note that for many years, people in Australia have been calling for Australia to become a republic, and the arguments between Republicans and Monarchists have been waged in earnest.

Monarchists want to maintain our connection to the queen and the United Kingdom, whereas Republicans believe that we should have an Australian as Head of State and cut any ties we have with the United Kingdom.

Many people will recall that in 1999, Australia had a referendum that asked if we wanted to transition to a republic.

“Referendum on proposed constitutional amendment to change Australia to a republic. The alteration would see the Governor-General replaced by a President, and would provide a method for choosing and dismissing the President.

That referendum was defeated 54.9% to 45.1%.

The republican movement slowed down after this defeat, but never completely went away. Recently, calls have been renewed for Australia to revisit this situation.

However, what I have discovered recently is that Australia is all but a Republic already. It has no ties to Britain and has no relationship to the United Kingdom from a government point of view. The ONLY link Australia has to anything or anyone outside of itself is the Queen herself. Australia cannot appeal to the Privy Council, or anyone else other than the Queen herself.

Since Federation, there have been many milestones that have had an impact on Australia with regard to how we refer to the Queen or Crown as our Head of State.

In 1953, the Australian parliament passed the Royal Styles and Titles Act legislation which defined the Queen as:

“Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Australia and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”

Then in 1973, how we refer to the Queen changed again. Our beloved Queen became the Queen of Australia. “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of Australia and Her other

Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.”

Then in 1986, the Australia Act 1986 (Cwth) was enacted in Australia and the Australia Act 1986 (UK) was enacted in the UK parliament, “The final steps in Australia’s attaining independence from the United Kingdom were taken:

  • the Australian States and the Commonwealth confirmed their sovereign, independent status from Britain
  • Britain could no longer legislate for any part of Australia
  • all Privy Council appeals ended from Australian courts. Other than the High Court it remains theoretically possible for some appeals to be taken under s.74 of the Constitution
  • state governors were not representatives of British Government, and
  • states could now legislate to repeal or amend any UK legislation extending to them.

To confirm the separation of sovereignty between Australia and the UK, the Australian High Court confirmed in the case Sue V Hill (1999) 199 CLR 462, where One Nation Senator elected to Australian Senate was ineligible because she had not denounced her British citizenship prior to being elected to office. Under section 44 of the Electoral rules, anyone holding allegiance to a foreign government is not eligible to nominate or take their seat. For this circumstance, the Australian High Court ruled that the under the Australia Act 1986, United Kingdom was considered a foreign government and therefore holding dual citizenship was cause for ruling the in-eligibility of Senator Hill to nominate or be elected.

So, it seems that Australia is already a Republic by default, but with the Queen as our Head of State. But she is the Queen of Australia, not the Queen of England or United Kingdom. It appears that the Queen has a divisible crown and while she is queen of UK, she can also be queen of Australia and any other commonwealth nation such as Canada or South Africa.

Should we replace the Queen as our Head of State? No doubt the arguments will continue until it is achieved. However, once achieved, monarchists are unlikely to try to change it back. So, does Australia move ahead or remain as a monarchy?

The choice is yours and I am sure a new referendum will come up again soon.

Daryl Bothe

References

Australia’s Constitutional  Milestones

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