- The Guardian
- Issue #2025
Queen Elizabeth II’s reign was a fixture for the entirety of many Australian lives, she was the personification of the Commonwealth. With her passing earlier this month, for many Australians a decades-old question returns: Is now the time for a republic?
This question hasn’t materialised out of nowhere. It has long been on Australian minds, and many remember the ill-fated 1999 referendum before the turn of the century. Despite the failure of that referendum, the Republic Question has lingered and there was a consensus among Australia’s major political parties that the question would be revisited once our long-reigning monarch passed.
In 2016, then-Prime Minister and prominent republican – a major figure during the 1999 referendum – Malcolm Turnbull, spoke to the movement pushing back the timeline, stating: “I am an Australian, I’m proud to say so. Our head of state should be someone who can say the same [but] […] I do not believe Australians will welcome, let alone support, another republic referendum during her reign.”
With a new Labor government, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (who is also a republican) created a portfolio for a republic for which MP Matt Thistlethwaite is in charge. No surprises there as part of the ALP’s 2021 nation platform the party stated that it “supports and will work toward establishing an Australian republic with an Australian head of state.” However, the sensitivity of the moment – alongside building a referendum for a First Nations Voice in Parliament – Albanese has tempered talks of a republic, stating that it is “inappropriate” to discuss right now without ruling out the possibility of a future referendum.
With the question in the air, another question needs to be raised: Without a monarch, will working-class Australians benefit? The answer, in short, is yes but only to the degree that it places national sovereignty into the hands of Australians, but this raises more questions: Which Australians? The answer, simply, is Australia’s bourgeoisie. This, in many respects, does not change the conditions for millions of working-class Australians. While the Queen has been our head of state for a long time, homegrown capitalists have been the direct exploiters of workers. Therefore, a simple changing of the bourgeois guard will not deliver a better life for working-class Australians.
What working-class Australians need is a socialist – i.e. people-orientated – republic that will not be subservient to any foreign head of state and instead serve its own interests, that of its people. The Political Resolution of the Communist Party of Australia, resulting from its 14th Congress earlier this year states that:
“The Communist Party of Australia’s vision of a socialist Australia is of a rejuvenated country that is strong, prosperous, democratic, independent, and ecologically sustainable with rights for all. […] The Communist Party of Australia aims for an Australia that places the people and the planet at the centre of all decisions. There will be an economy based on social needs rather than corporate profit; a publicly owned and democratically planned economy that can bring the big corporations, which control around eighty per cent of the Australian economy, into public hands and under working-class control.”
Together we can build a real republic, one centred on the economic concerns of the Australian working class and not a republic that is merely symbolic.