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Australian PM dismisses Treasurer's republican push

27 august 2015, 14:52
0
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. ©AFP
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. ©AFP

Monarchist Prime Minister Tony Abbott insisted Thursday that efforts to resurrect a push for Australia to become a republic were doomed despite his treasurer's new role as a bipartisan torchbearer for the movement, AFP reports.

The conservative leader -- who has long expressed his love of the British monarchy -- brushed aside Joe Hockey's failure to inform him that he would co-chair a parliamentary group to gather support for constitutional change and said he doubted Australians would back such a move.

"I don't think anything is going to change on this issue anytime soon because we are a great country with a good system of government and we have made extraordinary progress as a nation over the last couple of hundred years," Abbott told broadcaster Channel Seven.

He added to Channel Nine that Australia, which was settled by Britain as a penal colony in 1788 and became independent in 1901, did not need to become a republic to be seen as a mature nation.

Queen Elizabeth II is  Australia's head of state and is represented in the country by the governor-general.

"I think one of the problems with the republican push is that it seems to feel compelled... to suggest that there is some lack of maturity, some lack of independence in our system," Abbott said.

"I just don't believe that most Australians think that is the case... I don't think there is anything small about us now. I don't think that there is any lack of standing on our own two feet now."

Hockey has not spoken publicly about his new position, but his spokeswoman said in a statement that he "has long advocated his views on this issue".

"They are a matter of public record and those views haven't changed."

In a 1999 referendum, Australians chose to retain the monarchy by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent, with debate on the issue often divisive.

There have been high-profile differences of opinion within the Liberal Party, with London-born Abbott heading up Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy in 1993-94.

His erstwhile leadership rival, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, was the chairman of the Australian Republican Movement during the referendum.

The current chair of the movement, media personality and former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons, Wednesday revealed Hockey would co-chair the bipartisan group.

FitzSimons said he wanted a plebiscite on the issue by 2020 and a referendum on a specific republican model by 2025.

Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten Thursday welcomed the new republican push, adding: "By 2020, it will be the 250th anniversary of when (English explorer) Captain Cook came to Australia. I think after 250 years, we are ready to have an Australian-born head of state."


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