Treasurer Joe Hockey to head new bipartisan push for a republic

Treasurer Joe Hockey, pictured at the National Reform Summit in Sydney on Wednesday, will co-hair a new parliamentary group to build support for an Australian republic. Photo: Louie Douvis Peter FitzSimons, the new chair of the Australian Republican Movement, favours a very minimalist republican model with the head of state chosen by a two thirds majority of Parliament. Photo: Andrew Meares
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Five things that need to happen before Australia becomes a republicPM keep open same-sex marriage referendum option openRead Peter FitzSimons’ speech to the National Press Club

Treasurer Joe Hockey has agreed to front a new bipartisan political push for an Australian republic as part of an ambitious ten year map for constitutional change.

The new chair of the Australian Republican Movement, author and Fairfax Media columnist Peter FitzSimons, said it had been a generation since the unsuccessful 1999 referendum but the time had come to make the case for change again.

“It’s time for us to be entirely self-governing. We propose it starts with a simple question to be put before the Australian people some time in the next five years, ‘do you support replacing the British monarchy with an Australian citizen as the Australian head of state’,” Mr FitzSimons said in a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday.

“Bingo, simple as that. We reckon the ‘yes’ vote will look like Phar Lap at Flemington, like Bradman at Lord’s, well ahead of the field and looking good.”

The organisation wants to see a plebiscite by 2020 followed by a referendum proposing a specific republican model by 2025.

Should a plebiscite on the republic be held within that time frame it could be the fifth time in as many years Australians were asked to go to the polls. Votes on marriage equality and constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians as well as two federal elections are also expected in that time frame.

Mr FitzSimons said it was essential republicans came together and agreed on a model before a referendum rather than face a repeat of the 1999 vote when arguments between republicans about different models contributed to the defeat of the ‘yes’ case.

Mr FitzSimons said he favoured a very minimalist model with the head of state, who would still be called the governor-general, chosen by a two thirds majority of Parliament.

“It is the most likely to succeed as it addresses the foremost concern of the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ crowd. Essentially we are not fixing it. We would be snipping one unsightly apron string,” Mr FitzSimons said.

The Australian flag would not be part of the debate.

Mr FitzSimons warned Australia would only make the change if Tony Abbott, a strong supporter of the constitutional monarchy, was no longer prime minister: “The reality of this is we won’t get this over the line without bipartisan support.”

Mr Hockey will be the co-chair of a new parliamentary group to build support for constitutional change among MPs.

Labor senator Katy Gallagher will be the other co-chair.

A spokesman for Mr Hockey said he “has long advocated his views on this issue”.

“They are a matter of public record and those views haven’t changed,” the spokesman said.

Earlier this year Opposition Leader Bill Shorten recommitted Labor to pursuing an Australian republic.

“Right now I’m focused on jobs, health and education and fairness in our community. But I do think that by 2020, it will be 250 years since Captain Cook came to Australia. I probably think now it’s time for Australia to have an Australian head of state,” Mr Shorten said on Wednesday.

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