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''I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.''
Labor will consider convening a constitutional convention or holding a plebiscite to advance plans for an Australian republic, Assistant Minister Matt Thistlethwaite says, as part of a push for a homegrown head of state during a second term.
Preparing to consult multicultural leaders and young people about a possible referendum after the next election, federal Labor’s assistant minister for the republic said a significant education campaign was needed on what cutting ties to the British royal family would mean.
Matt Thistlethwaite says the Elizabethan era is over and its time for an “Australian era”Alex Ellinghausen
“If you’re under 40, you’ve never voted in a referendum. If you’re under 60, you’ve never voted in a successful referendum,” he told The Australian Financial Review.
“This is the era where we start to consider a journey about our maturity, our independence and recognising a unique identity and culture in our Constitution.
“I think it’s fair to say it’s the end of the Elizabethan era, and we very much see it now as moving into the Australia era.”
Mr Thistlethwaite wants to talk to younger people about the existing constitutional arrangements and Australia’s ties with Britain. He will meet multicultural leaders in coming weeks.
In addition to talks with Australian Republic Movement, the Kingsford Smith MP has also met organisations including the Australian Monarchists League.
Australia’s first republic referendum was defeated in 1999, with 54.87 per cent voting no and 45.13 per cent voting yes. The result was partly blamed on divisions over the model Australia should adopt. The ACT was the only jurisdiction where majority support was recorded, with support as low as 37.44 per cent in Queensland.
Mr Thistlethwaite concedes a defeat in the Voice referendum would be a major setback for the republic push.
“If you look at a constitution, it really is a set of rules that protect the rights of citizens in that nation. And the notion that First Nations Australians can have inherited these lands and survived on the toughest continent in the world for 60,000 years, but they don’t have the right to be consulted about decisions that affect them in the Constitution, is outdated.”
Public support for a republic dropped after the Queen’s death. A Resolve Political Monitor poll showed 46 per cent of respondents supported the move, while 45 per cent said they thought King Charles would perform well as Australia’s head of state.
An Essential poll found 50 per cent support for the new monarch, and 43 per cent support for the move to a republic.
Last month, the Australian Monarchist League announced former Liberal senator Eric Abetz as its new chairman. The Tasmanian conservative was picked for his “fighting spirit”.
Labor will not finalise its preferred model or discuss a possible constitutional convention unless it wins the next election, expected sometime around early 2025.
Mr Thistlethwaite said Labor was planning for a five-year journey.
“We want to make sure that whatever we take to a referendum is something that unites Australians rather than divides us, as it did in ’99. The policy and the model will be determined by the Australian people,” he said.