Bill's Transcripts

SUCCESSION TO THE CROWN BILL 2015

SUCCESSION TO THE CROWN BILL 2015

 

TUESDAY, 17 MARCH 2015

 

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Of course, Labor supports changing the future order of royal succession so that it will be determined by birth – not gender.

 

And of course we support removing the bar on succession for an heir of the Sovereign who marries a Catholic.

 

And we support the other provisions regarding marriage, including those covered by the Royal Marriages Act 1772.

 

Those in the Government may enjoy the myriad of detail here, the questions as to whether Australia’s head of state can be the eldest princess; or whether they can be a Catholic; or indeed whether their marriage accords with an act passed in Westminster 243 years ago.

 

But I believe that the anachronistic quality of this debate tells us all something, doesn’t it.

 

How about a better idea?

 

What about a head of state who is an Australian.

 

A head of state who is one of us.

 

After all, no Australian has ever been born with a royal lineage – so they would never face any of the problems that this legislation seeks to address.

 

Now it’s has been more than 15 years since an unlikely alliance of direct-election republicans and staunch monarchists combined to successfully campaign against an Australian head of state.

 

In one of history’s quirks, the leaders of both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ causes now both sit at the same cabinet table – and yet again, they’re opponents in a very different contest.

 

But back then, in 1999, many Australians who were republican by instinct were convinced to wait for ‘another go’ at a different model.

 

And of course, the second chance for change has never arrived.

 

And back then, in 1999, a grievous mistake was made to have two questions to answer, not one.

 

The equivalent of Collingwood agreeing to play Essendon and Carlton at the same time.

 

And much of the enthusiasm and energy of the ‘yes’ cause has lain dormant since then.

 

As I said on the eve of Australia Day this year, I and Labor believe it is time, it is time to breathe new life into a dream of an Australian Republic.

 

And I should take this moment to acknowledge the Prime Minister’s valuable, if somewhat unexpected, contribution to the Republican debate the very next day, and I assure people I had no idea of what he was about to do, which would put me in the same group as indeed, his whole Liberal Government.

 

The Prime Minister’s decision - and the National party, the Prime Minister’s decision to knight Prince Phillip reminded us all of how far we have travelled since the days of the famous words of Prime Minister Menzies, who said of the young Queen Elizabeth II ‘I did but see her passing by…’

 

I believe that Australians are ready for a discussion about an Australian head of State.

 

Our aim has to be a respectful national conversation, between equals, not an ‘insider’, A-list celebrity debate between politicians, constitutional pedants and the same old-faces.

 

Re-igniting the Republic will be a test of our national spirit – and our national imagination.

 

It is a moment that we are equal to.

 

Madam Speaker, it should not be long before all Australians have the opportunity to make right a two-century old wrong and extend constitutional recognition to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

 

This will be an uplifting moment.

 

A time when we celebrate modern Australia making peace with its past, when we summon the courage to face an historic truth.

 

In updating our national birth certificate to include the first members of our Australian family, in correcting an ancient injustice dealt to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we rightly declare that the words in our constitution matter.

 

We pay respect to the idea that our federation’s founding document should speak for and to modern Australia.

 

Or to put it another way, if we were drafting our constitution today, we would, without any question, include recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional owners of our continent.

 

In all likelihood, it would be the first sentence on page one.

 

We are no longer the nation of terra nullius and the ‘great Australian silence’.

 

Australia’s rich Indigenous culture is central to how we see ourselves as a nation and prominent in the way we present ourselves to the world.

 

Our constitution should and would reflect this, proudly.

 

By the same measure, if we were drafting our constitution today, does anyone seriously dispute that we would require our head of state to be an Australian.

 

This is how we see ourselves, this is who we are.

 

Now none of this should be taken as criticism of Queen Elizabeth II or the House of Windsor.

 

The Queen has given decades of committed service to our nation, she’s earned the affection of many and the admiration of us all.

 

But the simple fact is that our nation, our place in the world have changed – and our constitution should change with it.

 

The sun has long since set on Empire that we once bound ourselves to, to the last shilling and the last man.

 

In the 21st Century, we no longer identify ourselves as an outpost of Empire, fearfully perched on the edge of Asia. We no long take a narrow, race-based notion of citizenship.

 

We celebrate diversity, we are grateful to count people from every nation, culture, tradition and faith as our own.

 

And we no longer hide behind the walls of ‘fortress Australia’.

 

We look outwards - we embrace the opportunities of our region, the centre of the most profound economic transformation in recorded human history.

 

And we should go to our region and the world proudly independent –declaring that we are no longer going to continue to borrow a monarch from another country on the other side of the world.

 

The Republic debate, and becoming a Republic would signal a constitutional renaissance, it would provide blood energy to the nation.

 

It would announce in the 21st century that Australia is ready to set a mature and independent course with the rest of the world.

 

It tells the rest of the world that we are a free and independent country, confident in our Australian identity, with the zing to declare that we are running the place ourselves.

 

And the Parliament is the place where we should have these debates.

 

Madam Speaker, I am, like all of us in this place, a servant of the Australian people.

 

Each day I’m privileged to witness as we all are, the courage, the integrity, the intellect, imagination, selflessness and good humour of our citizens.

 

I trust one of them to be our head of state.

 

I believe our people deserve this opportunity, that this Parliament is capable of declaring to Australians we trust you from within your ranks of the Australian people to provide a head of state to our country.

 

I am confident that we can have this conversation about making this happen with optimism, maturity and respect.

 

So, yes I support updating the British Constitution and the British sovereign lines of succession.

 

But really, surely this country is more than just updating some anachronistic features of another nation.

 

It’s time to declare that Australia should have an Australian head of state, so let us begin.

 

ENDS

 

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