Australia moves closer to republic

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The Independent Online
THE QUEEN'S chances of remaining Australia's head of state dimmed yesterday when Parliament settled on a referendum question that focuses attention on her.

The question, to go to voters on 6 November, asks them whether they want the Queen replaced by a president, rather than merely whether they want a president. An opinion poll this week found a 57 per cent "Yes" response if the question mentioned the monarch but only 31 per cent if it did not.

The outcome of the referendum seems uncertain, however, since many other recent polls have shown a majority "No" vote - although they have used different questions.

Mr Howard, an avowed monarchist, compromised on the wording earlier this week, saying he wanted the republic to be defeated without any accusations of "trickery" about the way the question was put.

The vote will determine whether Australia ends more than 200 years of constitutional ties to Britain. "Decisions about the future of Australia's constitution will now be in the hands of the people." said the Attorney- General, Daryl Williams.

A second question to be asked in the referendum, on a constitutional preamble that would see Aborigines officially honoured for the first time, has also sparked criticism.

Aboriginal leaders called for it to be scrapped because it did not go far enough in recognising Aborigines' role in Australian history.