While an Australian republic is not axiomatic, history
favours the case for ending the British monarchy’s constitutional role in our
country. Even the arch-monarchist John Howard admitted as much
when he observed earlier this year that he wouldn’t guarantee the British
monarchy’s survival in Australia after our current Head of
State, Elizabeth, dies or abdicates.

What will be critical in the forthcoming debate is that
there be, as there was in the debate leading to the formation of the Federation,
compromise on the part of those who seek to play a role in shaping the
Australian republic.

It means that there needs to be a recognition by those
republicans who have hitherto been opposed to direct election, that the
Australian people consistently express a desire to have a direct say in the
election of the person who will be our Head of State. The divide between directly elected republicans and
parliamentary model advocates is by no means unbridgeable.

And importantly, we need to ensure that the republican
debate is community driven. That it is owned by the Australian people. After
all, even Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy in 1999 told Australians not
to vote for a parliamentary model, but instead to wait until the “people had a
say”.

Constitutional renewal and change is exciting and
challenging. The republican debate can provide an opportunity to bring
Australians together so that the community consensus in favour of our Head of
State being one of us becomes a reality.

Greg Barns is the author, with Anna
Krawec-Wheaton, of An Australian Republic, being published this Saturday by
Scribe Publishing.

Peter Fray

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