Paul Keating calls for Australia to become a republic, claiming royal family would have been ‘so glad’ if 1999 referendum passed

A former prime minister has launched a fresh attack on the monarchy under King Charles III and suggested the royal family had hoped for an Australian republic amid the 1999 referendum.

Paul Keating – who held the top job from 1991 to 1996 – made the brutal comments during an online event with Professor James Curran which was hosted by La Trobe University.

Australians were asked whether they wanted to leave the monarchy and become a republic in November 1999, with roughly 54.8 per cent voting against the proposal.

In the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the debate has seen a resurgence with some questioning whether now is the time for Australia to elect its own head of state.

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Mr Keating said he discussed his ambition for Australia to become a republic with Queen Elizabeth in Balmoral in 1993 and based on that private exchange concluded the family would have been “so glad” if the referendum had passed.

“I think the royal family would have been so glad for the referendum to have passed, to be honest,” Mr Keating said.

“Look at the French. The French had a revolution for their republic. The Americans had a revolution for their republic. We couldn’t even pinch ours off Queen Elizabeth the Second – who didn’t want it. We couldn’t take the title, even if the monarch was happy to give it.”

The Queen’s death last month saw an outpouring of grief for Australia’s longest serving monarch, and it remains unclear what the long term impacts of the new monarch will have on the debate.

However, an Essential poll published by the Guardian saw support for the republic had barely moved in recent years and support for King Charles as head of state was split at 50-50.

Less than half of the 1,075 respondents (43 per cent) said they supported a republic while opposition to an Australian head of state had increased by three per cent to 37 per cent from when the question was last asked in June.

King Charles has a 44 per cent popularity rating compared to Queen Elizabeth’s 71 per cent and Prince William’s 63 per cent.

Despite these statistics Mr Keating said the case for Australia to become a republic was so clear it made itself, but still refused to join the Australian Republic Movement as an advocate when asked.

“If Australians have so little pride in themselves, so little pride that they are happy to be represented by the monarch of Great Britain, why would somebody like me want to shift their miserable view of themselves?” Mr Keating said.

“Who in their right mind could believe that the monarch of Great Britain could represent our aspirations here?”

“We occupy one of the oldest land masses, the oldest continents on Earth, perhaps the oldest societies on Earth – it’s so pathetic. [Becoming a republic] barely [needs] an argument.”

A survey by the Menzies Research Centre disagrees with Mr Keating after it found support for retaining the monarchy has risen from 43 per cent in January to 57 per cent last week.

But Mr Keating remained firm in his views on the topic, concluding that remaining part of the monarchy under Charles was “an aberration”.

“Charles the Third, king of Australia, is a constitutional aberration. That’s what it is,” he said.

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