Harry-Meghan’s interview rekindles debate on Australia becoming a republic
Sydney, Australia, Mar 9 (efe-epa).- The explosive interview of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, has given a boost to republicans in Australia seeking the country’s formal independence from the Commonwealth, over two decades after the defeat of a republic referendum in 1999.
Australia, a former British colony that is a constitutional monarchy, is officially headed by Queen Elizabeth II, who is currently represented in the Oceanic country by Governor-General David Hurley.
The governor-general has a ceremonial role in swearing in and accepting the resignations of members of parliament as well as approving laws before they can take effect.
“Our head of state should be an Australian citizen, should be one of us, not the Queen or King of the United Kingdom,” former President Malcolm Turnbull told state broadcaster ABC on Tuesday when asked about the controversial interview and its consequences on the perception of the monarchy in Australia.
Liberal Turnbull led the Republican movement in the 1999 referendum, in which 45.13 percent of the respondents voted in favor of Australia becoming a republic while 54.87 percent voted in favor of the monarchy.
“It’s clearly an unhappy family, or at least Meghan and Harry are unhappy,” Turnbull said during the interview, in which he admitted that Australia was not ready to change the system of government during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
“She’s been an extraordinary head of state, and I think, frankly, in Australia, there are more Elizabethans than there are monarchists,” he said.
“After the end of the Queen’s reign, that is the time for us to say – OK, we’ve passed that watershed and do we really want to have whoever happens to be head of state, the King or Queen of the UK, automatically our head of state?” he added.
An Ipsos poll released in January this year found that 40 percent of Australians are opposed to the country becoming a republic, 34 percent support it while 26 percent are undecided.
Historian Jenny Hocking, who won a lengthy court battle last year to access the letters Queen Elizabeth II sent to her Australian representative during the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975 after a deep political crisis, criticized the monarchy.
“(The) Harry and Meghan interview shows how out of touch and irrelevant the monarchy is to modern Australia. Why is our head of state still one of them and not one of us? There’s no reason why Australia shouldn’t become a republic right now,” Hocking tweeted.
Meanwhile, Sandy Blair, the national director of Australia’s republican movement, acknowledged that she expects support for the movement to increase after the Oprah Winfrey interview highlighted the need for change.
In the interview with Winfrey, Meghan Markle, who has an African-American mother, said that in the months she was pregnant with her first child, Archie, there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”
Meghan also revealed that her mental health markedly worsened during her first pregnancy but the royal household, which sponsors mental health charities, refused to help her. EFE-EPA