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Saturday, November 6, 1999 Published at 09:13 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Australia rejects republic

The result is a major victory for monarchist Prime Minister John Howard

Australians have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to break ties with the British monarchy and become a republic.

Australian referendum
In the landmark referendum to decide whether Australia would replace Queen Elizabeth with a president, the "no" votes led 54.22% to 44.87% in the final tally.

Of Australia's six states, only Victoria voted for the proposal, and that by the narrowest of margins - 49.6% for a republic and 49.4% against.

The result was greeted by wild cheering at a monarchist campaign rally in Sydney's Darling Harbour, where 200 people popped champagne corks and clambered onto chairs in celebration.

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Prime Minister John Howard said the Australian people had clearly rejected the republic proposal.

"The government will now turn its attentions to those things which directly affect the lives of Australians," he said.

The Queen said she had heard the result of the Australian referendum from Mr Howard and would continue to serve as Queen of Australia under the constitution.

"I have always made it clear that the future of the monarchy in Australia is an issue for the Australian people and them alone to decide, by democratic and constitutional means," she said in a statement.

Click here to see a state-by-state map of the results

The BBC's Michael Peschardt reports: "As the counting continued, the message was clear"
But Labor opposition leader Kim Beazley promised to keep the republic issue alive.

"The referendum was quite clearly lost because of the way it was set up, setting up one form of republic against the other," he said.

"Nothing will ever kill off the republican movement. Nothing will kill it until it succeeds."

Labor leader Kim Beazley was "terribly saddened"
Voting was compulsory for the 12 million electorate across six states.

Australians also voted on a new preamble to the country's constitution, which makes explicit recognition of Aboriginal peoples' status.

About 60% of people voted against it.

Click here to read the new preamble and the official referendum question

Kerry Jones, leader of the 'No' campaign against becoming a republic, said: "Obviously today is a very, very special day in the history of our great country, Australia.

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"The Australian people have had their say and they have said no."

Australian Republican Movement chairman Malcolm Turnbull blamed Mr Howard for the defeat, saying he had exploited differences in the republican camp.

"I think it suggests that Australians are more conformist and timid than are thought of being," he said.

Under the republican proposal, a president would have been elected by members of both houses of parliament, and not in a direct election.

A widespread distrust of politicians - as much as strong pro-monarchist sentiment - was seen as fuelling the no vote.

Under the Australian constitution, any change had to be backed by an overall majority of voters as well as a majority of the six states.

The Republic Question:
Do you agree with "A proposed law to alter the constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a Republic with the Queen and Governor General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of members of the Commonwealth Parliament?"

Proposed preamble:
"With hope in God, the Commonwealth of Australia is constituted as a democracy with a federal system of Government to serve the common good. We the Australian people commit ourselves to this Constitution. Proud that our national unity has been forged by Australians from many ancestries; never forgetting the sacrifices of all who defended our country and our liberty in time of war; upholding freedom tolerance individual dignity and the rule of law; honouring Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, the nation's first people, for their deep kinship with their lands and for their ancient and continuing cultures which enrich the life of our country; recognising the national building contribution of generations of immigrants; mindful of our responsibility to protect our unique natural environment; supportive of achievement as well as equality of opportunity for all; and valuing independence as dearly as the national spirit which binds us together in both adversity and success."

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Internet Links

Official Australian Government referendum site

Australian Electoral Commission

Australian Republican Movement

Sydney Morning Herald

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