To Stay or Not to Stay under the British Queen

A person casting a vote in a ballot box.

Though Australia is an independent country, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is still its head of state. The British royal family only plays a ceremonial role in Australia, but is considered important by Aussies who value symbolism and tradition. Without the royals, royalists argue, Australia would lose an important cultural and symbolic link to its former motherland, as well as ties to its own historical roots.

Republicanism

Despite the royal fervor among some groups of Australians, there are others who favor their country becoming a republic. Republicans argue that Australia, since it is an independent country, should have an Aussie as its head of state. They also point to a need for democratic reform, meaning that votes rather than blood relationships should determine who becomes leader, or symbolic leader, of a country.

Staying under Queen Elizabeth II

With a large share of the Australian population having strong opinions on the issue, in 1999, Australia held a referendum on becoming a republic. Prior to this referendum, opinion polls indicated that a majority of Australians were in favor of severing all ties to the British monarchy. However, contrary to what the polls had suggested, the vote came out with 55 % against a republic, which meant that Australia stayed under Queen Elizabeth II.

The contradictory referendum result is often attributed to republicans being divided into two factions, and one of these factions voting to keep the monarchy. The reason why one faction supposedly voted against their will in this way, according to a common analysis, was that they didn’t favor the particular style of republic offered on the ballot. The same group, it has been said, expected a new referendum on other terms to soon be called, but to this day no new referendum has taken place.