Saturday 6th of November 1999

Australia says 'no' to a republic
By TOM BURTON, Sydney Morning Herald

The push to make Australia a republic has failed, with only around 45 per cent of Australian voters supporting change and with only one State, Victoria voting for a Presidency.

At the same time bipartisan support for a change to the preamble has failed to persuade the Australian public, with the proposal to change the Constitutional preamble failing decisively.

It became evident within an hour of voting closing in the eastern States at 6:00 pm that the Yes case had been defeated.

The count was continuing last night, but with 72 per cent counted, only 45.6 per cent of the national vote supported a change to a republic.

Only one State, Victoria, looks likely to have a majority supporting a change - just over 50 per cent voted 'yes'.

NSW was the major disappointment for the republican cause, with less than 47 per cent supporting change.

Republicans needed a majority in the most populous State to have any chance of winning the Referendum.

Across the country, Queensland and Tasmania emphatically rejected a republic, with support for change at only 37 per cent and 40 per cent respectively. Early figures from West Australia suggested similar support.

With 73 per cent of the vote counted support for the yes and no case in each the States was:

NSW 46.6% 53.4%
VIC 50,1% 49,9%
QLD 37,4% 62,6%
WA 40,1% 59,6%
SA 43,6% 56,4%
TAS 40,1% 59,8%

The only region to decisively support a republic was the ACT where 63.77 per cent voted 'yes'.

But the vote for the republic was decisively lost in the regional areas, with support for the metropolitan areas at 50.5 per cent.

Last night Opposition leader Kim Beazley committed the ALP to holding a plebiscite for the republic, if Labor is elected at the next general election.

He said he was confident the republic would "rise triumphant from the ashes" if a new referendum was held under a Labor Government.

"I am terribly saddened because it will do our country a little bit of damage and I think there will be a wistfulness in the community about this.

"It would have been a marvellous legacy for the generation that concluded this century to go into the next."

Last night former Prime Minister Bob Hawke continued to claim majority support for the republican cause.

"The clear majority of Australians are in favor of a republic (but) there is not a majority in favour of this model at this stage. The clear majority want a republic and cut the ties with the Crown. Our responsibility now is to harness that, get the debate going and give Australians what they want," Mr Hawke said.

The convenor of the Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy, Professor David Flint, praised the wisdom of Australians.

"When I first saw the model at the Constitutional Convention I thought it was a very difficult one to sell to the Australian people. It concentrates so much power on the politicians. I think Australians have demonstrated that they are a wise constitutional people," Professor Flint said.

The defeat disappointed many republicans, with Aboriginal Senator Aiden Ridgeway saying it would be a long time before another referendum occurred.

"An opportunity lost. I don't believe Australians will revisit the issue for at least another century. This historic opportunity to have an Australian as our head of state has sadly been lost," he said.

The leader of the Australian Republican Movement, Malcolm Turnbull, told a gathering at Sydney's Opera House that the republican movement had done what was right and could tell their children they had stood up on November 6.

Mr Turnbull said the "yes" campaign had been defeated by a prime minister who wanted to retain the monarchy and had constructed a referendum with that in mind.

"There's only one person who could have made the outcome different...and that's the prime minister," Mr Turnbull said.

"Whatever John Howard achieves, history will remember him for only one thing, he was the prime Minster who broke this nation's heart."

Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith - a supporter of a presidency directly elected - said it was a crook model and those who advocated the proposal should have the decency to say the public did not like it.

The leader of the "no" coalition, Kerry Jones, said she was disappointed Mr Turnbull had conceded before the West Australian vote had come in but said she was thrilled the "no" case had won a resounding victory.

"Obviously today is a very special day in the history of our great country, Australia. The Australian have people have had their say and have said no."

She said it was her wish all Australians joined to celebrate the centenary and that everyone accept the result of the umpire.

For latest results see the Australian Electoral Commissions Count at