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Politically, Australia is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, as Australian constitutional law recognizes the monarch of the United Kingdom as the monarch of Australia.
Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain is also recognized as the Queen of Australia and is the head of state of Australia.
As a parliamentary monarchy, Australians do not vote for president or prime minister, they only vote for members of the two houses of parliament (the House of Senators and the House of Representatives).
The Prime Minister is the head of the federal government. He is appointed by the majority party in the House of Representatives of Parliament as head of the executive branch of government. Scott Morrison currently holds this position.
The Governor General is the British monarch’s representative in Australia, appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.
Although the Queen is the head of state of Australia, the governor general is in charge.
The current Governor General is David Hurley.
Most of these functions are ceremonial, although under certain circumstances they can play a decisive role in Australian politics.
During the 1975 constitutional crisis, Governor General John Kerr sacked then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and dissolved both houses of Parliament because the two houses, dominated by different parties, failed to pass the state budget for that year.
By dissolving the chambers, elections were held to renew the entire parliament, with the Liberal Party gaining a majority in both chambers and finally approving the budget.
The Republican movement, which proposes changing the system of government to a republic, is officially supported by the main opposition parties of the liberal-national coalition that has been ruling Australia since 2013.
Part of the ruling coalition also supports this change, although the current prime minister openly opposes this proposal.
Australian citizens voted against becoming a republic in a 1999 referendum.
Even though the polls gave a majority to supporters of a republic, the proposal was rejected partly due to the president being elected by parliament rather than by direct popular vote.
Many accuse then-Prime Minister John Howard (a Liberal) of instigating the rejection of the referendum by offering only that presidential option, as he himself campaigned for the preservation of the United Kingdom’s monarchy.
Points for and against
Republic, yes or no?
foreign head of state. Republicans consider it inappropriate for Australia, as an independent country, to share a head of state with other countries. A head of state residing in another country cannot adequately represent Australian values. Monarchists do not agree with this opinion, since it is the governor-general who performs the functions of the head of state and is appointed on the recommendation of the prime minister.
Australian multiculturalism. Republicans associate the monarchy with a British identity, and as Australia has become a largely multicultural society, that identity is no longer representative of the population. Monarchists, on the other hand, believe that the social and political stability of the country is largely due to the system of government, and changing it will jeopardize the future of Australian citizens.
Australian values. Republicans believe that the monarchy goes against such Australian values as the equality of all citizens, as it is a symbol of privilege and discrimination.
I respect the aborigines. Australia Day is celebrated on January 26, the day British colonization began. This is a very controversial date for part of the Australian community as it symbolizes the day the Indigenous Australians were invaded. Since 1967, Australian Aborigines have been considered citizens. In the event that Australia becomes a republic, Australia Day will be moved to the founding day of the republic. According to Republicans, this would help heal the wounds of atrocities committed against Aboriginal people in the past. Monarchists, for their part, believe that January 26 should remain a day of reflection for all Australians and changing it will not improve the lot of Aboriginal people.
Presidential elections. This is the main argument of the monarchists, the difficulty of choosing a successful option for replacing the queen and the governor-general by the president without prejudice to the parliamentary system of government. The Australian Republican Movement is asking Parliament to draw up a list of Australians for whom the population will vote in the general election. Monarchists believe that this will lead to the politicization of the head of state. Other options would be for Parliament to determine it without a popular vote, or simply include the office of head of state in that of prime minister, who would be head of state and government.
There is a consensus among Australian politicians not to hold a plebiscite again until Queen Elizabeth II leaves the throne, as she is admired by a large part of the population.
Federal elections will be held in Australia next month. If the opposition wins, given the fragile health of Isabella II, preparations may begin for a second referendum for the republic.
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