The Turnbull government has ridiculed Bill Shorten’s latest push for a republic, with a senior minister claiming it won’t lead to anything.
The federal Labor leader has promised to take “the first real steps” to make Australia a republic in his first term in government.
That would include putting a straightforward ‘yes or no’ question to the Australian people.
“We must seize the day and become a republic,” Mr Shorten told the crowd at the Australian Republic Movement’s gala dinner in Melbourne on Saturday night.
But cabinet minister Mathias Cormann said Mr Shorten was not proposing any way forward.
He was merely trying to distract from his lack of a plan for the economy and jobs.
“The truth is that what Bill Shorten’s proposing won’t actually lead to any outcome,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
“Here he’s talking about yet another topic that doesn’t actually relate to how we can make our economy more successful in the future.”
Senator Cormann said the more difficult question was not if the Australian people wanted a republic, but what system they wanted to change to.
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese dismissed suggestions there would be a need for two plebiscites – one to determine if Australians wanted a republic, then a second to approve a model – as well as a referendum to change the constitution.
A model would emerge by consensus during the debate to the first plebiscite about an Australian head of state, he said.
“It’s a plan to achieve a republic by doing it in a two-stage process,” Mr Albanese told Sky News of the Labor proposal.
Mr Shorten, in his speech on Saturday night, used the current debate about dual citizenship – which has forced two senators to quit parliament and another to resign from cabinet – to note that Australia’s current head of state is a “foreign power”.
But government backbencher Eric Abetz said the fact a dual citizen can’t serve in parliament debunked his argument.
“It shows beyond any doubt that Australia is a genuine stand alone nation with its own very rich heritage,” he told ABC TV on Sunday.
Australia was one of the most stable democracies in the world and people that came here were not clamouring for a change to the system, he said.