Choosing the Republic: The Legal and Constitutional Steps in Australia and Canada

Queen's Law Journal, Vol. 31, 2006

U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 169

26 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2006

See all articles by Glenn Patmore

Glenn Patmore

University of Melbourne - Law School


Since the early 1990s, Australia has been exploring the possibility of changing from a constitutional monarchy into a republic. This discussion reached a pinnacle in 1999 when the question of becoming a republic was put to the Australian people in a national referendum. Although the referendum failed, interest in republicanism has remained. On the basis of the Australian experience, the author analyzes the prospects for republicanism in both Canada and Australia. Like John Whyte, he is committed to republicanism, and argues that it is democracy that shapes the republican reform agenda in both countries, and that in any democracy there are four important steps that are required for the legitimate advent of a republic as the governing structure: putting the issue of changing a republic on the political agenda, having elected representatives select a republican model, ensuring that the model is acceptable to the people, and altering the constitution as required. The author further suggests that given recent opinion polls in Australia, it may only take a change in the governing party for the republic issue to again be put at the forefront of the Australian political agenda. Even in Canada, where on the surface there appears to be an indifferent attitude towards the possibility of becoming a republic, the author argues that the public is not in fact indifferent and that there are a variety of reasons a political leader might put the issue on the political agenda. Once it was on the agenda, a Canadian political leader could use the Australian framework designed by Prime Minister Keating as a precedent for selecting a particular republican model. Given that the Canadian constitution requires only the support of the elected representatives and not a referendum as in Australia, it might actually be easier for Canada to become a republic than Australia.

Keywords: republic, constitutional monarchy, democracy, constitution, referendum, model

JEL Classification: K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Patmore, Glenn, Choosing the Republic: The Legal and Constitutional Steps in Australia and Canada. Queen's Law Journal, Vol. 31, 2006, U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 169, Available at SSRN:

Glenn Patmore (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

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