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Turnbull's election is a game-changer for Australian Republicans

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Photo courtesy Australian Republican Movement

Early spring time in Australia is a time of renewal, a time when wattles are in bloom and perfect for political blood spilling. History editor Dr Glenn Davies reports on the changing support towards the monarchy.

ON THE evening of Monday, 14 September 2015, Malcolm Turnbull became the 29th Prime Minister of Australia.

The successful coup resulted in Australia’s fourth leader since 2013 and followed an 18-month run of dismal polls from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Abbott had taken Australia by surprise in March 2014 when he brought back knights and dames of the Order of Australia with little to no consultation.

The titles had been discontinued in Australia in 1986 and the decision to reintroduce them was met with much derision. However, the demise of Prime Minister Abbott, a former National Director, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, began with his unpopular first budget in 2014 and continued with his widely-mocked decision to award a knighthood to Queen Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Philip on Australia Day, 2015.

Facing an electoral wipe-out at the next election, due in 2016, the Federal Coalition turned to Malcolm Turnbull, who came to national prominence as National Chair of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) and chief proponent of an Australian head of state in the lead up to the 1999 referendum.

Current ARM National Chair Peter FitzSimons said 

"Mr. Turnbull has been one of Australia’s leading advocates for an Australian Republic with an Australian head of state."  

I wrote recently that it was a great time to be an Australian republican. Australia has a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, as well as a Federal Opposition leader who have all declared publicly their strong support for an Australian republic. In his Lionel Bowen speech, delivered in Sydney on 11 June 2015, Bill Shorten pointed out that,

if we were drafting our constitution anew, our head of state would be an Australian. We would say, as a people, our nation’s head of state should be one of us.”

During early spring, this time of renewal, Australia’s most well-known republican has stained the wattle with the blood of the nation’s staunchest monarchist.

With the ascension of the country’s most famous Republican, Malcolm Turnbull, at the expense of the country’s most famous Monarchist, Tony Abbott, the key difference on this sparkling day is that many of our fellow Australians now believe this can happen”, said FitzSimons.

As Peter FitzSimons, the recently appointed ARM National Chair has said:

Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party now have an opportunity to lead a bipartisan process to change Australia’s constitution to reflect our modern, independent national identity.

During his first speech after his elevation to the position of prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull promised a “thoroughly consultative, a thoroughly traditional cabinet government” where he would be a “first among equals”. The emphasis on traditional government and “first among equals” resonates of the language of the Roman republic.

Abbott’s staunch support for the monarchy during his political career and popular visits from Prince William and his family over the past few years had put the republican debate on the backburner. Earlier this year though, the Queensland Newman LNP government and its monarchical horde were removed. Now the King of the Monarchists has been felled.

There is no doubt that the game has changed.

Now that we have Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, it may be time to start saying:

Well may we say God save the Queen”.

Dr Glenn Davies is the Australian Republic Movement's Queensland branch convenor. You can follow Glenn on Twitter @DrGlennDavies. Find out more about the Australian Republican Movement HERE.

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