It is ‘inevitable’ that Australia will become a republic and remove King Charles as head of state, the country’s new high commissioner has warned.
But Stephen Smith, 67, insists such a move would not damage the UK’s relationship with its ally Down Under, while predicting most Brits would be ‘indifferent’ to the decision.
In his first interview since taking up his post in London, avowed republican Mr Smith told the Times that Australians were still ‘absolutely’ proud to have Charles as their head of state.
It comes after it emerged in February that the King’s portrait will not replace the late Queen on Australia’s new $5 banknote – which anti-royalists hailed as a step towards becoming a republic.
The monarchy’s popularity has taken a hit in Australia following the death of Elizabeth II and repeated attacks from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle which have done little to help the Firm’s brand.
It is ‘inevitable’ that Australia will become a republic and remove King Charles as head of state, the country’s new high commissioner has warned (Pictured: Queen Consort Camilla and King Charles in Berlin last week)
Stephen Smith, 67, insists such a move would not damage the UK’s relationship with its close ally Down Under, while predicting most Brits would be ‘indifferent’ to the decision
Mr Smith said: ‘There is a lot of affection and respect for the monarchy in Australia… That affection and respect hasn’t gone away because of Australia contemplating from time to time what it should do about its constitutional arrangements.’
However on the topic of abolition of the monarchy, he added: ‘My personal view is it’s inevitable. But how that’s progressed is entirely a matter for the Australian government of the day.’
The country could hold a referendum on the matter, but Smith said Australia does not hold them ‘on an all too regular basis’, adding that ‘only time will tell’ if such a vote on the monarchy would take place in the future.
It comes after it emerged in February that the Commonwealth country will erase British royalty from its banknotes with Labour Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, also an avowed republican, accused of taking the decision personally by Liberal opposition leader Peter Dutton.
Despite his personal views , Mr Albanese has confirmed he will be attending the King’s Coronation in London next month.
Charles III is King of Australia but in a blow to the Royal Family a design honouring indigenous culture will replace the late Elizabeth II’s image on the note, not her son, who will still appear on cent coins when they are released later in 2023.
The Queen only appeared on the $5 note with the rest of them featuring famous Australian men and women.
The Reserve Bank of Australia confirmed Charles would not be on the note it after ‘consultation with the Australian government, which supports this change’.
Liberal leader Mr Dutton said at the time: ‘There’s no question about this that it’s directed by the government and I think the Prime Minister should own up to it. He would have been central to the decision-making. I think it’s another attack on our systems, on our society and our institutions’.
The monarchy’s popularity has taken a hit in Australia following the death of Elizabeth II and repeated attacks from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (pictured together) which have done little to help the firm’s brand
The late Queen is being removed from Australia’s $5 banknote, but won’t be replaced with a portrait of King Charles III
King Charles III and the Princess Royal arrive to attend a church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk, on January 29, 2023
The popularity of the monarchy has fallen in Australia since the Queen’s death. Support to ditch a reigning king or queen rose three per cent to 39 per cent in the four months after Her Majesty passed, a recent poll found. Support for a monarchy, which had been in the slight majority, fell from 37 to 31 per cent.
The same poll found that the public have also been swayed towards supporting an Australian republic because of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s attacks on the Royal Family, especially since their Netflix series and Harry’s memoirs Spare.
Greens Senator for Victoria, Lidia Thorp, said today: ‘This is a massive win for the grassroots, First Nations people who have been fighting to decolonise this country. First Nations people never ceded our Sovereignty to any King or Queen, ever. Time for a Treaty Republic’.
One in five respondents said the couple’s attacks had changed their view on the monarchy’s role in Australia. Of those people, two thirds said the Sussexes’ interventions made them more likely to support a republic.
The Queen’s death last year was marked by public mourning in Australia but some indigenous groups also protested Britain’s colonial past and called for the abolition of the monarchy.
Like the UK, Australia is a constitutional monarchy, a democracy with the King as its head of state. A referendum proposing a switch to a republic was narrowly defeated in 1999.
The central bank said its decision was supported by the centre-left Labor government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who favours an eventual move to an Australian republic but has said a referendum will not be held in the near future.
The new banknote would take ‘a number of years’ to be designed and printed, it said, with the existing $5 note remaining legal tender even after the new design is in people’s hands.
Australian coins are set to be updated to feature King Charles following the death of the Queen at age 96 (pictured is a mocked-up version of the 20 cent coin)
Australia’s $5 banknote has featured a portrait of the late Queen Elizabeth since 1992 (pictured, the Queen receives flowers from school children in Sydney in March 2006)
A poll in January this year first asked 1,606 voters whether they were in favour of Australia becoming a republic (results above)- they are now just in the majority
The poll then asked whether the conduct of Harry and Meghan had influenced their support for a republic (results above) – a proportion said yes
The Reserve Bank announced that it will consult with First Australians in designing the note.
The front of the note will feature a new design that honours the culture and history of indigenous Australians. The other side of the banknote will continue to feature the Australian Parliament.
The RBA’s move was hailed by the nation’s republican movement, which noted that indigenous people predated British settlement by 65,000 years.
‘Australia believes in meritocracy so the idea that someone should be on our currency by birthright is irreconcilable, as is the notion that they should be our head of state by birthright,’ said Australian Republic Movement chair Craig Foster.
‘To think that an unelected king should be on our currency in place of First Nations leaders and elders and eminent Australians is no longer justifiable at a time of truth-telling, reconciliation and ultimately formal, cultural and intellectual independence.’
The Australian Monarchist League said the decision was ‘virtually neo-communism in action’.
‘Before a referendum is held on whether the people want to retain the King as sovereign or opt for a President, this government has arbitrarily moved to discard the King’s head from Australia’s five dollar note,’ it said in a statement. ‘It is certainly not Australian democracy.’
A British monarch has featured on Australian banknotes since 1923 and was on all paper bills until 1953, the year of Elizabeth II’s coronation.
The Queen’s face adorned the £1 banknote and then the new $1 note from 1966. That first $1 banknote also included imagery of Aboriginal rock paintings and carvings based on a bark painting by indigenous artist David Malangi Daymirringu.
The Queen’s face has peered up at Australians from the $5 note since 1992.
But the central bank’s governor Philip Lowe announced three months ago that it had begun talking with the government about whether to forgo replacing the queen’s image with a portrait of King Charles III.
The Bank has made no mention of any plans to remove the monarch’s image from Australian coins.
The surprise decision to not replace the late Queen with King Charles follows consultation with the federal government, which supported the change.
‘I think this is the right decision,’ treasurer Jim Chalmers told Daily Mail Australia reporters in Melbourne today.
‘There’s plenty of time to consider and consult on the design that best honours First Australians,’ Dr Chalmers said.
‘It’s also important to remember the monarch will continue to be on our coins. It is an opportunity to strike a good balance here.
‘The monarch will still be on the coins, but the five dollar note will say more about our history and our heritage and our country, and I see that as a good thing.’
Charles became the British monarch last year following his mother’s death on September 8, making him the head of state of Australia, New Zealand and the other Commonwealth realms.
King Charles III will not feature on Australia’s new $5 note (pictured is a mocked-up $5 note featuring King Charles)
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in Adelaide, Australia, in a Rolls-Royce as the Queen acknowledged the cheering crowds
The Memorial Obverse coins will feature a portrait of the Queen by royal engraver Jody Clark with the addition of her years of reign – 1952 to 2022
The Queen is on a $5 note – but the rest have historic figures on it
Historically, the British monarch has appeared on at least one design in every series of Australian banknotes.
But, after the Queen’s passing last year, the Reserve Bank announced that the King would not automatically replace Elizabeth on the $5 note. The Bank instead said her portrait could be replaced by an Australian figure.
Last month the Bank unveiled a commemorative coin that would feature the Queen’s portrait as Australia transitions to new coins bearing the effigy of the King.
The Memorial Obverse feature a portrait of the Queen by royal engraver Jody Clark with the addition of the years of her reign: 1952 to 2022.
The Australian Mint, based in Canberra, said coins bearing the Queen’s effigy would naturally remain in circulation as legal tender forever.
The federal government is expected to announce plans for the introduction of coins bearing the effigy of King Charles III in the coming months.