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EDITIONS
Monday, 2 February, 1998, 13:47 GMT
Australia decides on its future
graphic
Will Australia vote to remove the Queen as head of state?
Australia is thinking of severing its last formal ties with Britain, and becoming a republic.

A constitutional convention is debating the country's future.

BBC correspondent Michael Peschardt looks at Australian attitudes to the monarchy.

In three special reports he is examining:

Background: The constitutional convention

The convention will open the doors for the Australian people to vote on whether or not to become a republic. At the moment, Queen Elizabeth II is the country's head of state.

The delegates, who are meeting in the capital Canberra from February 2-13, will discuss what sort of republic the country should become. The convention's proposal will then be put to the public in a referendum.

John Howard
Prime Minister John Howard: a monarchist
The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, is a monarchist. Nonetheless, he promised in his 1996 election campaign to set up a convention to discuss the role of the monarchy.

Half of the convention's 152 delegates were elected by the Australian people at the end of last year. Republicans won 45 of the 76 seats.

The other 76 delegates were appointed by the government to ensure representation of all segments of society.

The republican movement is torn over what sort of republic Australia should be. Roughly half are supporting the idea of a president appointed by a joint sitting of the federal parliament, while the other half want to see the president elected by popular vote.

Only one thing seems to be certain: opinion polls suggest that most Australians want an end to almost two centuries of formal ties with Britain.

Many are still resentful about the way the British used their country as a penal colony in the late 18th and early 19th century, and think it is time they had an Australian head of state.

Malcolm Turnbull is the chairman of the Australian Republican Movement. He says that "it is demeaning to have a foreign monarch as head of state.

"It sends confusing signals to the region. It is a relic of colonial days and it is the very antithesis of multiculturalism."

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