Australian left pledges new vote on monarchy

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The Independent Online

Four years after Australians voted "no" in a referendum on severing ties with the British monarchy, the republic is back on the agenda.

The opposition Labour Party pledged yesterday to hold a plebiscite within a year of winning office. Mark Latham, its new leader, said a Labour government would stage two plebiscites in its first term: the first to ask Australians whether they wanted a republic, and - if so - the second to ask them what form it should take. A federal election is expected by the end of this year, and Labour is ahead in the opinion polls.

Fifty-five per cent voted "no" in the referendum in November 1999, a result attributed to divisions among republicans and a popular perception that the "yes" campaign was led by a clique of elitists.

Opinion polls consistently show a majority in favour of a republic. A poll by Newspoll in January found that 57 per cent of people want to vote in another referendum. A parliamentary panel studying possible models for a republic is due to begin nationwide hearings shortly.

Mr Latham's timetable would enable Australia to cast off the Queen by 2007. He told Australian radio yesterday: "Children in this country should be able to aspire to every single job, including the highest office in the land."