25 January 2004

Keep our flag flying: poll

Australians want to keep our flag and national anthem - 2013 but are more determined than ever to have their own head of state.

An exclusive Newspoll conducted to mark Australia Day reveals fewer than one in three Australians want the Queen to be the nation's head of state.

Only 30 per cent believe the Queen should remain in the role while 64 per cent favour an Australian for the job.

The national poll of 1200 people shows that support for removing the Queen has grown significantly since the referendum on the republic in 1999, which was defeated 55 to 45 per cent, and a Newspoll in December 1995, when 56 per cent supported the change.

The 1999 vote was a classic example of John Howard as tactical genius and constitutional dope. At one point then Special Minister of State Nick Minchin wanted the referendum to be 10 questions. To create a republic the Australian people would need to vote No 9 times and Yes on Question 10. Fortunately, saner heads prevailed.

Less fortunately, the Man of Steel, and his allies in the Australian Republican Movement, put to referendum the one model that the Australian people were determined to reject. This clever strategy ensured that the republic was rejected, that the current unsatisfactory form of government would continue a few more years.

Public opinion has caught up with the Man of Steel's constitutional settlement. Shortly he will have to make a choice between his allegiance to the Crown and his standing in the polls. His choice is entirely predictable.

In fact, Australian governance has evolved significantly since the 1999 referendum and we have now become a prime ministerate, not a monarchy. The unexplained disappearance of the governor-general from public life, and his replacement as chief of state by the prime minister on all national occasions, seems like a little issue but I suspect is a very big issue among the Man of Steel's older and more traditionalist voters.

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