Australia Votes to Retain the Queen as Head of State
Australians awoke today to the realization that their largely pro-republican country had voted decisively to retain the British monarch as head of state for the foreseeable future.
With four-fifths of the vote counted, tallies in the country’s Saturday referendum showed that 55% had voted to retain Queen Elizabeth II as head of state rather than allow the political elite to appoint a home-grown president.
All but one of the country’s six states voted to maintain the status quo, with only the slimmest of majorities for the republican cause in Victoria.
Prime Minister John Howard, the staunch monarchist whose design of the constitutional model at stake was blamed by many republicans for its downfall, welcomed the result and, for the time being at least, crossed it off the agenda.
“The government will now turn its attention to those things which directly affect the lives of Australians,” a spokeswoman for the conservative leader said.
But a clearly enraged opposition leader, Kim Beazley, railed against the referendum result and pledged that it would be a part of his Labor Party’s program until a Republic of Australia was achieved.
“I am determined that in the next election the republic will pass out of the hands of its enemies and into the hands of its friends,” Beazley said.
Although most Australians profess some republican sympathies, a deep divide in the republican camp and a basic mistrust of politicians scuttled the nation’s best chance yet of ditching the monarchy.
The “no” camp was a curious alliance of a handful of true monarchists and radical republicans who are holding out for a president directly elected by the people, rather than appointed by politicians under the proposed model.
In a carefully worded statement released by Buckingham Palace, the monarch began her new tenure by accepting the result and saying she would have retained her deep affection for Australia whatever the outcome.
“I have always made it clear that the future of the monarchy in Australia is an issue for the Australian people and them alone to decide, by democratic and constitutional means,” she said.