Malcolm Turnbull to address Australian Republican Movement dinner, monarchists unhappy

Malcolm Turnbull on the eve of the 1999 republican referendum. Photo: Mark Baker Mr Turnbull on the day after the republican’s defeat in the 1999 referendum. Photo: Andrew Meares
Nanjing Night Net

Mr Turnbull and Thomas Keneally at the launch of the Australian Republican Movement in Sydney on 7 July 1991. Photo: Dean Wilmot

Mr Turnbull with Eddie McGuire and Hazel Hawke at the Republican Movement headquarters in South Melbourne. Photo: Mark Wilson

Malcolm Turnbull is going back to where his political career began with a much anticipated address to mark the 25th anniversary of the Australian Republican Movement.

The Prime Minister will speak at the event on Saturday night which the movement hopes will press the reset button on the republican debate.

The gala event will be held in the Great Hall of Sydney University with the top tier tables costing $3000.

“We are absolutely thrilled that the Prime Minister has agreed to join us for our 25th anniversary commemoration,” the ARM’s national chairman, Peter FitzSimons, said.

“It is an occasion to honour those who’ve got us to this point, and the PM is, of course, at the forefront of our founding fathers and mothers. The dinner is also a moment for the ARM to outline its vision for the future. A vision in which Australia takes the lead and completes the journey to full and final independence.”

Mr Turnbull was a founding member of the Australian Republican Movement and became synonymous with the push for Australia becoming a republic.

He was a major financial backer of the movement and unsuccessfully led the campaign for change in the 1999 referendum on whether Australia should break its ties with the monarchy.

In an emotional speech on the night of the referendum, Mr Turnbull famously declared that then prime minister John Howard would be remembered by history as “the prime minister who broke this nation’s heart”.

Mr Turnbull has remained a republican but the issue has dropped off the agenda.

Saturday’s speech has sparked curiosity because the Prime Minister has since distanced himself from the republican cause saying that success would only follow the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

On Australia Day this year, Mr Turnbull warned that he had no interest in leading the republican cause to another “heroic defeat” and that a referendum would fail if it was seen to be politically driven.

Philip Benwell, the chairman of the National Monarchist League, said Mr Turnbull was “forgetting the reality of politics”.

“We know that more Coalition voters support the constitutional monarchy than not. They are prepared to tolerate Malcolm Turnbull because he has made the proviso ‘not yet’,” Mr Benwell said.

“His now active support, if the rumours are true, of a republic will throw even more conservative and traditionalist voters into the arms of minor parties, such as the Christian Democrats, One Nation and the Liberty Alliance. These parties do not support a republic and it is estimated that by far the majority of their members are monarchists.”

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