When Australians go to the polls, we vote for politicians that we feel are similar to us – similar views, similar outlook on the country and the world, and more. It would be impractical to have a system where all 25 million of us get a vote each – and so we choose people that reflect our views. However, one of our most important representatives is unelected and, I would argue, not representative of Australians as a whole. That representative is Queen Elizabeth II.
A common claim made by monarchists is that the monarchy has given us stability. Perhaps we have been somewhat politically stable over the years, but there have been occasions where this was not the case, and the constitutional monarchy has in fact compromised our democracy.
In 1975, the Queen’s representative in Australia at the time, Governor-General John Kerr, dismissed Gough Whitlam, although Whitlam had a majority in the House of Representatives. It’s important to note that the Governor-General is appointed by the Crown, not elected by the Australian people.
In terms of who is eligible for to be King or Queen of Australia, they must be a member of the Church of England, as set out by the Act of Settlement 1701. The monarch is the head of the Church of England and “Defender of the Faith”, almost an Anglican Pope, if you will. They are of course appointed based on bloodline as well, not merit or popularity.
The monarchy seems to fly in the face of Australian democracy and secularism. Only 13.3% of us identified as Anglican in the 2016 Census. Imagine if the Pope was given the role of head of state of a secular country like Australia, that was only 13.3% Catholic. There would be outrage. So why is an explicitly religious leader one of our two official representatives?
A republic would be far more democratic, and representative of all Australians. Instead of having a head of state chosen for us, we could elect a President who lives here, not 15,000 kilometres away. We could have a head of state who represents us, and us alone – we wouldn’t have to share our President with 15 other countries as we share the Queen now.
A republic is a chance at a more democratic Australia, with a head of state who we can say is truly Australian. I hope it is a chance that we take as a nation.