Opposition leader launches new plan to make Australia a republic

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The Independent Online

Opposition leader Kim Beazley today outlined a plan by which Australia could become a republic by 2010, re-igniting the heated debate over the British monarchy's future role.

Opposition leader Kim Beazley today outlined a plan by which Australia could become a republic by 2010, re-igniting the heated debate over the British monarchy's future role.

Australia, like other former parts of the British Empire, is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

However, many Australians are keen to replace the queen with an elected - and Australian - president.

A fiercely contested referendum last year ended in victory for the monarchists, but republicans blamed their defeat on divisions among their supporters over how to elect a president.

The key to Beazley's plan would be a 10-year process of public consultation at every step, he said.

"It has to be placed in the hands of the people. There is massive mistrust amongst ordinary Australians with what they believe to be a politicians' republic," Beazley said.

The Labour leader advocated separate votes on whether Australians wanted a president and what how a president should be elected.

Beazley's announcement, at a constitutional forum in the Western Australian state capital, Perth, came with a little over a year to go until the next federal election, which opinion polls say he has a good chance of winning.

Current Prime Minister John Howard is a staunch monarchist.

Federal Communications Minister Richard Alston accused Beazley of launching his republican plan to divert attention from criticism over the opposition Labour Party's stance on privatisation of parts of 50.1-percent government-owned Telstra telecommunications giant.

"Mr. Beazley's latest republic stunt is yet another desperate attempt to turn the spotlight from his impossible position on Telstra," Alston told reporters.

Beazley has denied reports that Labour has plans to sell off parts of Telstra.

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