Splits put Australian republic in doubt

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The Independent Online
AUSTRALIAN republicans were warned yesterday to stop squabbling and unite or lose the chance to cut ties with the British monarchy for at least a decade. One of Australia's leading republicans also warned that there was only a 50-50 chance that Australians would vote for a republic, with an Australian president replacing the Queen as head of state, in a national referendum expected to take place this November.

"If there's no majority in November, the republican issue in my judgment will be off the agenda for at least a decade," Barry Jones, the president of the Labor party said. "Australians will be seen as having carried a no-confidence vote in themselves and if that happened, I would not expect to see a republic in my lifetime," he told a republican conference.

The chairman of the Australian Republican Movement, Malcolm Turnbull, meanwhile called for unity. "There are two sides, yes or no." he said. "We've got to stop talking about republicans and monarchists. The issue is yes for this referendum proposal or no."

The republican cause, which was so confident of victory only a few months ago, has been split over how to elect a future president. Some want a president elected by the nation, the option preferred by most opinion polls, while others insist the president must be elected by members of parliament.

Recent polls illustrate the public's confusion, and a growing antipathy to the prospect of having just another politician replacing the Governor- General, currently the Queen's representative. One poll said only 50 per cent supported a republic. Another said 59 per cent supported replacing the Queen with an Australian but that 71 per cent at the same time opposed a politician getting the job.