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Queen death news: Australia's Republican Movement chairman Peter FitzSimons breaks his silence

It took just 24 minutes after the Queen’s death was announced for Australia’s Republican Movement to break its silence with a statement.

At 4.28am on Friday, the campaign chaired by prominent author and columnist Peter FitzSimons paid tribute to the ‘significant contribution’ Queen Elizabeth II made to the country made over her 70-year reign. 

The republican statement also claimed the Queen – who died at her castle in Balmoral, Scotland, age 96 – ‘backed the right of Australians to become a fully independent nation’ at the previous republic referendum in 1998.

In a statement that beat Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s own by 19 minutes, FitzSimons as chairman said: ‘Queen Elizabeth respected the self-determination of the Australian people.

‘During her reign the Australia Act 1986 was passed eliminating many of the remaining opportunities for UK interference in Australian government. Appeals from Australian courts to British courts were abolished.’

Peter FitzSimons (pictured in 2018) believes with backing from The Lodge and a referendum Australia could be a Republic in just two years time following the death of Queen Elizabeth

Peter FitzSimons (pictured in 2018) believes with backing from The Lodge and a referendum Australia could be a Republic in just two years time following the death of Queen Elizabeth

(pictured, the Queen and her son Prince Charles in 2016)

(pictured, the Queen and her son Prince Charles in 2016)

(pictured, the Queen and her son Prince Charles in 2016)

The ARM statement said: ‘The Queen backed the right of Australians to become a fully independent nation during the referendum on an Australian republic in 1999, saying that she has ‘always made it clear that the future of the Monarchy in Australia is an issue for the Australian people and them alone to decide, by democratic and constitutional means’. 

Poll

Is it too soon to discuss Australia becoming a republic?

  • Yes, it’s too soon 118 votes
  • No, let’s talk about it 20 votes

Mr FitzSimons said he was ‘deeply saddened’ by the Queen Elizabeth’s passing and expressed his ‘deep gratitude’ for her service to the Commonwealth. 

‘During her reign, Australia has grown into a mature and independent nation. It is unlikely we will ever see a Monarch as respected or admired by the Australian people again,’ he said.

Queen Elizabeth’s son Charles, the former Prince of Wales, is now King Charles III, as the world grieves his mother, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. 

All Her Majesty’s children had rushed to Balmoral on Thursday after doctors became ‘concerned’ for her health. Hours later she died, surrounded by her family.

Journalist and author Peter FitzSimons (pictured with his wife Lisa Wilkinson) is the chair of the Australian Republic Movement

Journalist and author Peter FitzSimons (pictured with his wife Lisa Wilkinson) is the chair of the Australian Republic Movement

Journalist and author Peter FitzSimons (pictured with his wife Lisa Wilkinson) is the chair of the Australian Republic Movement

Chair Peter FitzSimons said he was 'deeply saddened' by the Queen Elizabeth's passing (pictured, Queen Elizabeth at the Sydney Opera House in March, 2006)

Chair Peter FitzSimons said he was 'deeply saddened' by the Queen Elizabeth's passing (pictured, Queen Elizabeth at the Sydney Opera House in March, 2006)

Chair Peter FitzSimons said he was ‘deeply saddened’ by the Queen Elizabeth’s passing (pictured, Queen Elizabeth at the Sydney Opera House in March, 2006)

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: ‘The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow’.

Republicans believe the Queen’s passing will reignite a campaign to achieve Australia’s constitutional independence, but monarchists maintain they have ‘absolutely no hope’.

TIMELINE OF TRIBUTES TO QUEEN ELIZABETH:

4:04am AEST: Buckingham Palace issues a statement

4.27am AEST: Australia’s Republic Movement releases their statement

4.47am AEST: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese issues his statement

Republicans yearning to sever mother England’s last apron strings have long acknowledged the personal popularity enjoyed by Elizabeth II and saluted her sterling service.

But they say the time is now right for Australia to strike out on her own – no disrespect intended to the new King Charles III.

Royalists, on the other hand, argue the issue has been off the back-burner for so long it is stone cold dead.

Any attempt to resurrect it, they say, will meet the same fate as it suffered in the republic referendum of 1999, when it was not only defeated overall (45-55 per cent in rounded figures) but failed to garner majority support in any state. Only the ACT differed, with 63 per cent in favour.

The republican campaign, led back then by future Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, was hamstrung by disagreements over which model should be proposed and opposition by John Howard, described by Mr Turnbull as ‘the prime minister who broke a nation’s heart’.

The ARA’s current leadership believes the Queen’s death changes things.

With the right conditions – including a more acceptable model and backing from The Lodge – Australia could hold another referendum and be a republic within two years, they say.

Republicans believe the Queen's passing will reignite a campaign to achieve Australia's constitutional independence, but monarchists maintain they have 'absolutely no hope' (pictured, Queen Elizabeth arrives at the Commonwealth Games with John Howard in 2002)

Republicans believe the Queen's passing will reignite a campaign to achieve Australia's constitutional independence, but monarchists maintain they have 'absolutely no hope' (pictured, Queen Elizabeth arrives at the Commonwealth Games with John Howard in 2002)

Republicans believe the Queen’s passing will reignite a campaign to achieve Australia’s constitutional independence, but monarchists maintain they have ‘absolutely no hope’ (pictured, Queen Elizabeth arrives at the Commonwealth Games with John Howard in 2002)

The Australian Republic Movement's current leadership believes the Queen's death will change things (pictured, Queen Elizabeth and John Howard in Canberra in 2006)

The Australian Republic Movement's current leadership believes the Queen's death will change things (pictured, Queen Elizabeth and John Howard in Canberra in 2006)

The Australian Republic Movement’s current leadership believes the Queen’s death will change things (pictured, Queen Elizabeth and John Howard in Canberra in 2006)

‘A phenomenal number of people have said to me over the years, ‘I’m absolutely with you, but not until the Queen passes away’. And I expect now there will be a surge of interest, of membership, of donations,’ chair Peter FitzSimons said.

‘With the greatest respect to Charles III – and I mean that; I have nothing against him personally – he does not enjoy the same deep wellspring of affection and loyalty that Her Majesty did.

‘What we need is not necessarily a Labor prime minister but certainly a progressive prime minister, somebody that will lead it (the republican push).’

That is unlikely to happen during the term of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has declared himself a constitutional monarchist and made a point of re-hanging a portrait of the Queen in the PM’s office that Mr Turnbull had removed.

‘It’s 230-odd years since colonisation and over 120 years since federation. It has to be time we run our own show beneath the Southern Cross,’ Mr FitzSimons said.

Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, however, beg to differ. 

Mr FitzSimons said it was time for Australia to 'run our own show beneath the Southern Cross' (pictured, Queen Elizabeth speaks to former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Canberra in 2011)

Mr FitzSimons said it was time for Australia to 'run our own show beneath the Southern Cross' (pictured, Queen Elizabeth speaks to former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Canberra in 2011)

Mr FitzSimons said it was time for Australia to ‘run our own show beneath the Southern Cross’ (pictured, Queen Elizabeth speaks to former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Canberra in 2011)

Asked about the odds of an Australian republic following the Queen’s death, national convenor David Flint replied: ‘Absolutely no hope, I would say. Whatever chance they (republicans) had is gone. I don’t think they will get a second chance.

‘If I was a betting man I’d be putting a lot of money on the monarchy.

‘Republicans would want much more generous odds than the last Melbourne Cup winner (Verry Elleegant at 15/1).

‘They have had their moment to propose a significant change to the governance of Australia that improves things.

‘Their model was a bad model; the prime minister could sack a president without notice or grounds of appeal.’

He agreed that Charles was unlikely to be as popular as his mother (a 2018 Ipsos poll showed only 16 per cent of Australians were favourable towards him and 35 per cent unfavourable).

Charles' new full title will be the elaborate 'Charles the Third, by the Grace of God King of Australia and His other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth'. Camilla Parker Bowles will become queen consort

Charles' new full title will be the elaborate 'Charles the Third, by the Grace of God King of Australia and His other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth'. Camilla Parker Bowles will become queen consort

Charles’ new full title will be the elaborate ‘Charles the Third, by the Grace of God King of Australia and His other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth’. Camilla Parker Bowles will become queen consort

‘But people won’t be horrified by him,’ he said. ‘If you keep the Westminster system, then the Crown is a good system.’

He pointed to a 2021 online Ipsos poll conducted for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and Nine News which found 40 per cent of respondents were opposed to a republic, just 34 per cent in favour and 26 per cent undecided, with support lowest in the 18-24 year old group.

‘That poll was rolled gold for us,’ Professor Flint said. Young people now are less interested in a republic than the Whitlam generation was’. 

‘They are also shy about supporting the existing system so there is a high undecided number. But the number definitely in favour was tiny. That’s a time bomb for republicans.

Mr FitzSimons said that Australia doesn't necessarily need a Labor prime minister but certainly a progressive prime minister to lead the republican push (pictured, the Queen in Sydney)

Mr FitzSimons said that Australia doesn't necessarily need a Labor prime minister but certainly a progressive prime minister to lead the republican push (pictured, the Queen in Sydney)

Mr FitzSimons said that Australia doesn’t necessarily need a Labor prime minister but certainly a progressive prime minister to lead the republican push (pictured, the Queen in Sydney)

Australia's Republican movement has broken its silence about the death of Queen Elizabeth II aged 96 (pictured, the Queen receives bouquets of flowers from children in Canberra in 2006)

Australia's Republican movement has broken its silence about the death of Queen Elizabeth II aged 96 (pictured, the Queen receives bouquets of flowers from children in Canberra in 2006)

Australia’s Republican movement has broken its silence about the death of Queen Elizabeth II aged 96 (pictured, the Queen receives bouquets of flowers from children in Canberra in 2006)

‘There’s no emotional support for a republic. It’s a dinner party conversation issue, particularly in places like Wentworth (Mr Turnbull’s old seat).’

Polls generally have shown support for a republic steadily ebbing since a peak in December 1999 – when 57 per cent of Australians were in favour – immediately after the failed referendum.

Some commentators say the republican cause was not helped by former US president Donald Trump, who did little to make a presidential system appealing for many Australians.

Mr FitzSimons said the Ipsos poll was an outlier, pointing to a YouGov poll in 2020 that found 62 per cent of Australians wanted their head of state to be an Australian.

He said his movement’s membership had increased noticeably, in part due to the 2020 release of the ‘palace letters’, detailing 1975 correspondence between Sir John Kerr and Buckingham Palace, though they suggested that the former governor-general acted alone in sacking Gough Whitlam as prime minister.

Prince Charles will become Charles III, proclaimed at St James's Palace and in Australia by the governor-general

Prince Charles will become Charles III, proclaimed at St James's Palace and in Australia by the governor-general

Prince Charles will become Charles III, proclaimed at St James’s Palace and in Australia by the governor-general

‘The Queen played no role in the dismissal. Kerr didn’t want to involve her,’ said Professor Flint.

Mr FitzSimons described the Queen as an ‘extraordinary woman’, adding: ‘On her coronation she pledged her life to the service of the Commonwealth, and she absolutely fulfilled that commitment.’

Charles would not be surprised by any move from Australia to break away, he said.

‘I would have much preferred we did it years ago, but let’s do it now.’

Some 34 members of the 54-nation Commonwealth were republics, the newest being Barbados in 2021, and ‘that could now be us’.

Read the Australian Republican Movement’s full statement about the death of Queen Elizabeth II

The Australian Republic Movement recognises and pays due respect to the significant contribution made by Queen Elizabeth II over more than seven decades as Head of State to Australia and 14 other nations, and expresses its condolences to the Royal Family.

Many Australians have known no other Head of State – the length of her reign was unrivalled. As monarch, Queen Elizabeth was a patron of more than 600 organisations and served them admirably. She rose to become a respected representative of Britain and the Commonwealth.

Queen Elizabeth respected the self-determination of the Australian people. During her reign the Australia Act 1986 was passed eliminating many of the remaining opportunities for UK interference in Australian government. Appeals from Australian courts to British courts were abolished.

The Queen backed the right of Australians to become a fully independent nation during the referendum on an Australian republic in 1999, saying that she has ‘always made it clear that the future of the Monarchy in Australia is an issue for the Australian people and them alone to decide, by democratic and constitutional means.’

Chair of the Australian Republic Movement Peter FitzSimons AM expressed his sympathies and gratitude on behalf of the Movement.

‘We are deeply saddened by the news of Queen Elizabeth’s passing and express deep gratitude and thanks for her service to the Commonwealth.

‘During her reign, Australia has grown into a mature and independent nation. It is unlikely we will ever see a Monarch as respected or admired by the Australian people again’ Mr FitzSimons said.

 

 

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