Will Australia ditch the Queen?

Could Australia one day vote to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state?

Story highlights

  • Australian leaders call for country to become a republic
  • Declaration urges Australian head of state, rather than Queen

(CNN)On Australia Day, locals are asking if it's time to ditch the country's British royal rulers.

Or as chairman of the Australian Republican Movement Peter FitzSimons described the monarchy in an impassioned speech this week: "One family of aristocrats living in a palace in England."
    "It is our hope and belief that sometime in the next five years, Australia can again begin the formal process towards becoming the Republic of Australia," he said, referencing a failed referendum on the issue in 1999.
    More than 15 years later, FitzSimons now has the backing of almost all of Australia's state leaders, who have signed a declaration calling for the country's independence.
    The movement is also urging people to sign a petition calling for an Australian head of state, however at the time of writing it had less than 10,000 signatures.
    Of Australia's eight state and territory leaders, seven have lent their support to the republic campaign, alongside Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
    It's a very different view from former Prime Minister and staunch monarchist, Tony Abbott, who controversially knighted the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, on Australia Day in 2015.
    Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott with the Queen in 2011.
    Months later he was tossed from office after a leadership challenge by Turnbull, who promptly shelved Abbott's move to bring back knights and dames.
    Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett was the only state leader who refused to sign the declaration to install an Australian as Head of State, though is said to be generally supportive of the movement.
    Andrew Barr, chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory, was one of the leaders who signed the Australian Republican Movement declaration.
    "I believe Australians deserve to have a head of state who is Australian -- someone who lives in our country and represents our values and beliefs," he told the ARM. "Our ties with the Monarchy continue to reflect a nation of the past. It's time for us to grow up and stand on our own two feet."
    Monarchists say their republican rivals are rehashing a tired argument, and that no popularly-elected Head of State could compare to the Queen.
    Australia is a constitutional monarchy -- while the country has its own parliament, Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state. Her Majesty's representative in Australia is the Governor-General Peter Cosgrove.
    A referendum on whether Australia should become a republic was held in 1999, with the majority voting to keep the Queen as head of state.
    The leader of the Australian Republican Movement at the time, was now-Prime Minister Turnbull.
    While 45% of voters supported a republic in the 1999 referendum, this appeared to have dropped to 38% in a 2013 poll.