POLITICS

Mixed Response From MPs And Monarchists As Turnbull Renews Support For A Republic

Turnbull: 'Our head of state should be one of us'.

17/12/2016 5:25 PM AEDT | Updated 18/12/2016 6:50 PM AEDT
ABCNEWS24

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull renewed a push toward an Australian Republic at a gala dinner Saturday night. Turnbull affirmed his continued support for the movement, declaring Australia's "head of state should be one of us."

Turnbull said it is a "straight forward issue of principal and national pride". However, the Prime Minister said an Australian Republic would not happen during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Monarchists have spoken out against the Prime Minister's support for a Republic. Philip Benwell from the Australian Monarchist League said Malcolm Turnbull should not forget "two thirds of the Liberal Party" voted for a monarchy.

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz told the ABC in a statement there are other issues that need attention.

"It's understandable that the Prime Minister may want to indulge in the history of an organisation that he set up, but my message to the forgotten people is that we're focused on the cost of living and protecting your jobs above all else," Senator Abetz said in a statement.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten came out in support of a Republic and an Australian head of state on Twitter.

The event at University of Sydney marked the 25th anniversary of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) of which Turnbull is a founding member.

"25 years ago we founded the ARM with the same spirit that has brought us together tonight. Patriotism, pure and simple," Turnbull said.

"When we founded the ARM in 1991, we never thought we would be celebrating in 25 years."

The Prime Minister said the ARM needs to have an advisory plebiscite that offers two potential models for a Republic and that young Australians must be engaged in the campaign. He attributed the failure of the 1999 referendum to the perception that the Republic was for the politicians and not the people.

"The less highly political the Republican movement is, the broader its supporter base will be," Turnbull said.

"What the parliament needs to see is a strong grassroots movement for an Australian Republic ... only smart work, hard work and unrelenting advocacy will help make an Australian Republic."

Turnbull has a long history supporting Australia's movement to become a Republic. Though his attendance may not be out of character, it has been branded controversial by monarchists.

Mark Baker
Malcolm Turnbull on the eve of the 1999 republic referendum. Photo: Mark Baker

"It is a provocative move because he's thumbing his nose in the eyes of the majority of Liberals who support a monarchy," chair of the Australian Monarchist League Phillip Benwell told the ABC.

ARM National Chair Peter FitzSimons said he was "absolutely thrilled" the Prime Minister attended the event.

"It is an occasion to honour those who've got us to this point, and the PM is, of course, at the forefront of our founding fathers and mothers," FitzSimons said.

"The dinner is also a moment for the ARM to outline its vision for the future. A vision in which Australia takes the lead and completes the journey to full and final independence."

During the address, Turnbull celebrated Australia's multiculturalism and called for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when thanking journalist Stan Grant for his Welcome to Country.

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