Britain may soon lose one of its major jewels - Australia. The Prime Minister of this country, Julia Gillard, announced the possible abolishment of the British rule over the continent. The head of the Australian government released the controversial statement four days before the parliamentary elections. Australia, Gillard said, could become a republic after the death of British Queen Elizabeth II. However, the prime minister added that the Australians were full of warm feelings towards the 84-year-old British monarch.
There is nothing surprising about the fact that the Australian prime minister treats her Queen with such dishonor. Gillard chairs the Labor Party, in which the republican sentiments are especially strong. Other parties share different points of view. Gillard's prime competitor for the position of the prime minister, the Liberals' head Tony Abbott, is certain that the monarchy should be preserved. In addition, he said that the remarks from the sitting head of the nation's government were inadequate.
What is the essence of the Australian fight about the country's organization? The green continent has been an English colony since the end of the 18th century. The governor, appointed by London, used to hold all power in the country until the beginning of the 20th century. The situation changed in 1901. Australia obtained the dominion status - a state within the British Commonwealth. It received its own constitution and the prime minister. However, the British Queen technically remained the head of state.
During the 20th century, in which the Australians participated in two world wars, the country expanded its self-administration. The Australian government gradually established control over nearly all home and foreign policies. In 1986, Britain refused to interfere in the legislation of the country. However, Elizabeth II is still considered the head of state.
According to the Constitution of Australia, the prime minister is not the highest official of the country. The top official of the country is the Governor General, the official mostly of representative capacity. However, in case of a political crisis, the Governor General has a right to dissolve and convoke the parliament, to appoint the prime minister and judges. The Governor General is also the commander of the nation's armed forces.
In addition, there are governors in each of Australia's seven states. These officials also have a right to dismiss and appoint legislative and executive officials. As a matter of fact, it goes about officials representing a foreign state, who are legally entitled to interfere in Australia's internal affairs. Many local residents dislike this structure: the majority of Australians would like their nation to become a republic which would have its own president.
The republicans obtained political power only by the end of the 1990s. Australia held the Constitutional Convention in February 1998, and the majority of delegates supported the idea to get rid of the power of the British monarch and establish the republican rule.
The national referendum about the issue was held in Australia on November 6, 1999. However, the people voted to have the monarchy preserved. A bit more than 45 percent of the Australians voted for establishing the republican rule; less than 40 percent voted for changing the constitution. Therefore, the British queen preserved her power over the green continent.
About three quarters of the Australian population come from the British Isles. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of Australians were born in England, Wales and Scotland (and so was Julia Gillard, the sitting PM). Many of those people are entirely devoted to the idea of the monarchy. They associate the Queen as the link between their old and new homes.
Britain 's next monarch will most likely be Prince Charles. However, a referendum held in 2005 showed that 52 percent of the Australians did not want to see Prince Charles as the head of their nation. Therefore, when Gillard said that Australia could become a republic after Queen Elizabeth's death, the prime minister probably implied the Australians' negative attitude to the successor to the Crown.
For Britain, the loss of its power over Australia would be a huge loss. Australia is a continent that produces 40 percent of all bauxites in the world. Australia takes the second place in the world on the reserves of uranium and the sixth place - on coal reserves. Its shelf is rich with crude and natural gas. Its industry and agriculture are one of the world's most developed, the living standard is one of the highest. To crown it all, Australia claims almost 50 percent of the resources of the Antarctic shelf.