Should the Queen be the last Australian monarch?

| June 12, 2014

Whether or not Australia should become a republic is an ongoing question. Simon Longstaff, Chair of the Intelligence Squared Debates, says now is a good time to discuss the options.

Although no person should wish for this, it is inevitable that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will die. At the moment of her death, ancient rites will be enacted by which her successor will be proclaimed and in due course, anointed and crowned. The entire process by which the new monarch is made will take place in Britain. Yet, the new King will automatically include amongst his realm the land and people of Australia. No citizen of Australia will have been consulted, no vote will have been cast. Instead, the transfer of Australian power will have been effected a world away.

Whatever one might think of the attractions of constitutional monarchy (not least its capacity for peaceful succession), the death of the Queen should prompt deep reflection amongst Australians about the prospect of retaining a foreign head of state. Hopefully, such questioning will not be seen as a lack of respect for the service rendered by the Queen or for her person. Rather, it should be understood as natural that such questioning arises in a democratic polity where the people (and not the monarch) are sovereign.

Some might dismiss the question of whether or not Australia should become a republic as an issue of secondary importance; as a mere distraction when compared to weightier concerns – such as the need to assure national prosperity, boost productivity, respond to climate change, etc. However, the invariably strident response drawn from constitutional monarchists at the mere mention of an Australian republic suggests just how important this issue really is. If not important, then why defend the status quo with such passion and persistence? Perhaps better than most, monarchists understand the power of symbols. Their defence of constitutional monarchy may be couched in terms of pragmatism (if it’s not broken why change it?). However, the case for constitutional monarchy is also an appeal to tradition.

But whose tradition? In a multicultural nation such as Australia – a nation seeking to find its own, distinctive place in the Asian region, are the traditions of a distant European nation best suited as the constitutional foundation for national identity? Of course, many will worry that no better alternative can be found. But surely that is a matter to be debated rather than merely asserted. And that can only be done if Australians imagine a future beyond the death of the Queen.

Some might say that it would be imprudent and unfeeling to debate such matters at the time of the Queen’s death. This may be true – which is why it is far better to discuss the options now, when judgment is unclouded by sentiment.

At the next IQ2 debate in Sydney on Tuesday 24 June, former Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Indigenous academic and activist Marcia Langton will argue for a republic, while award-winning journalist for The Times David Aaronovitch and lawyer Julian Leeser will speak passionately for the status quo.



  1. D E F I N E D

    June 18, 2014 at 7:00 am


    Thank you for your blog Simon. My response isn't directed only to your blog/comments but to all who read it. I do think discussion regarding your question & in relation to 'the monarchy' etc is an important one. It is high time that the Australian nation & government became politically independent from England, English-Royal Sovereign, Monarch etc or any other nation for that matter. And the Australian government ought to have done this a long time ago in a similar way or with similar passion & determination that was done in the United States of America 100's of years ago. Which then & still does now provide USA with true political & other independence, national freedom in this & relating ways of significance from out-dated, unfair, less efficient political systems, wasting valuable tax revenue funds that Royal Monarch Sovereign tied nations have including in England, Denmark & Australia for eg. Royal Sovereign isn't a necessity, nor has it been in any country that has formed an active government/Parliament to govern its' nation. And this is clearly the case for many countries worldwide. So yes Australia, the Australian nation, its government, its people, society, communities, businesses, organisations etc etc: definitely need, deserve & ought to be entitled automatically to their rights as an Australian nation, Australian Citizen to the same rights/freedoms as outlined above that other nations such as USA have had for 100's of years. This doesn't insinuate though, that by stating how important & relevant becoming politically independent is that the Australian nation, government & Citizens of Australia suddenly don't want their original { First Aboriginal & Second Great British/Irish Generations } national/natural cultural identities overlooked, forgotten or diminished by multiculturalism ideologies, policies or the like. Nor does making, promoting or allowing for an evolutionary process for our Australian nation/government to become a republic. The better term to use would be Politically Independent Nation. Mean that Australia as a nation independent from English Monarchy/Sovereign is or has to become identified only as a multicultural nation & lose { or have them underpinned } its original national/natural/cultural/ancestral identities. No these can always be retained, but with a significant difference of becoming a truly politically independent nation from outdated, tax wasting, unfair, less democratic & unnecessary ties to the English Royal Monarch.

  2. Allan Catlin

    Allan Catlin

    June 18, 2014 at 10:48 am


    If a republican Australia meant that our leader was not tied to one political party, it would prevent the Tony Abbotts of this world claiming to speak for all Australians when his party won a little more than 50% of the vote. Perhaps Tony has realized this as he seems to have become more monarchist of late. Australia has been virtually independent of the UK for some years. Why do we need this out dated umbilical cord hanging in tatters around our necks? Let's move on.

  3. laurencestrano


    July 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Australia faces a difficult geopolitical position

    To my knowledge Australia has never faced a more difficult diplomatic positon.It is hardly time to be worrying about whether we should be leaning more closely to China, England, America, Europe or indeed even Asia.We must now face the situation of an emerging Chinese economy which is seemingly seeking a politically expansionary role globally. We have the territorial dispute with China, Philippines,and Vietnam and the worrying position of Japan versus China. Australia needs all the friends it can muster. This means like the mafia saying "keep your friends close and your enemies closer". Fortunately so far Australia only has friends. It treads a difficult path of trying to keep its friends maintaining friendships globally. This is our predicament rather than who should be our titular head of state. It is a nonsense issue and distraction to even consider the head of state issue. At the same time Australia, like all nations, must go for growth and build before the next GFC. There is likely to be one because problems persist and debt levels are globally of concern.