SINCE the death of Queen Elizabeth and King Charles’ ascent to the throne, attitudes towards the British royal family have dramatically changed right across the world.

At the turn of the year, polling in the UK showed for the first time support for the monarchy had dipped below 50%.

In the past few years, we’ve also seen Barbados become a republic while several other Caribbean nations have said they intend to hold referendums on ditching the monarchy in the near future.

Queen Elizabeth was someone many Australians held dear, with even republicans describing her as a “respected public figure”.

But former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull once said Australians are Elizabethans, not monarchists.

As King Charles prepares to make his first trip Down Under as monarch later this year, The National asked Isaac Jeffrey, national director of the Australian Republic Movement (ARM), where the nation is now on the royals and how close he thinks a referendum is on becoming a republic. 

Support for monarchy fizzling away 

Last time Australia held a vote on becoming a republic in 1999 it failed with 54% voting against the idea, but last year the country’s High Commissioner Stephen Smith said it was “inevitable” it would now happen.

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Recent polling by Australian papers The Daily Telegraph and The Mercury put support for a republic at 52% and 60% respectively, but internal polling by the ARM suggests as little as 8% of Australians now back the royal family staying in place.

Jeffrey told The National: “People are telling us they want a say in who leads and represents them. They also wants accountability and transparency from officeholders.”

“Queen Elizabeth was a respected public figure and the only head of state a lot of Aussies had for their whole lives.

“Following her passing, Australia has started the conversation about the role of head of state.

“It's no reflection on the royal family or the British people, we'll always be friends and allies. It's about having a democratically elected and accountable Aussie we're proud of representing us on the world stage and working full-time and fully committed solely to Australia.”

‘Irrelevant rich celebrities on other side of world’

When asked how Australians feel about King Charles, Jeffrey said it was difficult to see how he could ever resonate with people and most don’t care about him or his heirs at all despite the press continuing to cover regular updates on their movements.

He detailed how, just like in the UK, people are struggling increasingly to relate to the monarchy amid widespread financial difficulties.

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He said: “We’re in the midst of a cost of living crisis. People are struggling to pay their bills and meet their mortgage payments and I’m not sure the vast majority of Australians could imagine being born into outrageous wealth, power and privilege.

“A multibillion dollar property portfolio and 500 personal staff are so far removed from the Aussie notion of having a go and working hard to get ahead, so it’s hard to see how that life experience can truly resonate.

“I think some Aussies enjoy the show, much like they enjoy Neighbours, but the majority just don’t care what they are doing. They are irrelevant rich celebrities on the other side of the world and that’s why we’re so open to becoming a republic.”

When will a referendum happen?

Public opinion certainly seems to suggest Australia is only heading in one direction, but how soon a referendum will happen is complicated to predict.

In October, a referendum was held to amend the constitution to recognise Indigenous Australians and create a body for them to advise government, but the idea was overwhelmingly rejected.

The National: King Charles receives the High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Australia, Stephen Smith, and his wife Jane SeymourKing Charles receives the High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Australia, Stephen Smith, and his wife Jane Seymour (Image: PA)

The referendum, dubbed "The Voice", was Australia's first in almost a quarter of a century. With the majority of ballots counted, the No vote led Yes 60% to 40%.

Jeffrey said that referendum had been “very divisive” and believes the country may now be going through “referendum fatigue”.

That said, he said he could still see a vote on a republic happening in the next few years.

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He said: “There is significant support for a republic. Only 8% of the country are rusted on supporters of the monarchy.

“We've just had a very divisive referendum last year, so there is some referendum fatigue, but I think it is possible we could see a vote within the next term of Parliament possibly around 2027.

“The important thing is that we have the conversation with the Australian people and get their active involvement in shaping our next chapter. So we'll take the time to get it right.”

What would Australia look like as a republic?

Jeffrey said removing the King as the head of state would have “practical and symbolic importance” in Australia but would not represent a “wholesale overhaul of government”.

After the Australia Act of 1986, the country severed almost all ties to the UK system apart from the monarch as head of state but, while there is a clear desire to remove that final link, Jeffrey claimed Australians are not seeking a US-style executive president.

Jeffrey said: “They'd prefer a style similar to the Irish system.

“The head of state would be largely ceremonial with some limited powers to ensure the smooth operation of Parliament and government.

“We'll still have the Westminster system and a Prime Minister as head of government who handles the day-to-day administration and law making, [but] we'd [also] have an Aussie acting in our best interests and representing us as an equal on the world stage.”