No Australia post for Prince Charles
Canberra — Many Australians watched the televised wedding of Prince Charles as avidly as anyone. But there is little likelihood that the Prince will be nominated by Queen Elizabeth to be the governor-general of Australia.
Among the reasons: lingering Australian sentiment in favor of making Australia a nonmonarchist republic and a widespread preference for a native Australian as governor-general.
Newspaper publication of embarassing private remarks allegedly made by the Prince when he visited Australia in May is another reason a proposal to appoint the prince governor-general has been shelved. The Prince's standing was hurt even though the royal family denied the conversations were authentic.
Prince Charles had actively explored the idea of an appointment with leading politicians when he was in Australia earlier this year. But public-opinion polls and the opposition of Australia's Labor Party have apparently persuaded him an appointment is unlikely.
Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has supported the idea of Prince Charles being made governor-general. But even he is no longer actively pursuing the possibility.
A poll earlier this year found 53 percent of Australians in favor of appointing an Australian -- even if Prince Charles were nominated by the Queen. Only 21 percent were in favor of making Prince Charles governor general.
Still, the most recent poll (a year ago) said that only about 31 percent of Australians want Australia to become a republic, with about 61 percent opposed. There has been a shift of 5 or 6 percent in favor of republicanism in the past five years, according to the polls.
On this question some political parties appear to be "ahead" of public opinion.
At the height of enthusiasm over the wedding of Prince Charles, Australia's oldest political party, the Labor Party, declared it favored making Australian a republic.
The Labor Party is at present in opposition in the federal parliament, but holds power in two of Australia's six states.
Republican sentiments were in abundance when the Labor Party came into being, 90 years ago. They subsided when the six Australian colonies formed a federated Australian nation at the turn of the century.
Suggestions that Australia should cease to be a monarchy received little attention until 1975, when the government of Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was turned out of office by the governor-general -- theoritically the Queen's representative in Australia.
There was considerable debate about the Australian system of government, and the possibility of the use of a presidential rather than parliamentary system. But republican sentiments generally got little support.
It seemed the notion had faded away -- until recently when the Labor Party held a special conference to consider its organization and its policies.
The Labor Party conference passed, with a vote of 28 to 22, a resolution committing the Labor Party to a republican form of government.
The resolution sparked remarkably little public comment, even though it was passed within 48 hours of the royal wedding.
The following day the leader of the Australian Democrats, Australia's fourth-largest party, remarked that he, too, favored a republican type of government in Australia, provided Australia remained within the British commonwealth of nations.
Even so, the Labor Party is unlikely to devote any serious political effort to trying to persuade Australians that they should choose republicanism, partly because of the unpopularity of the proposal and partly because of its impracticality.
Australia is locked into the present system of government until it changes its Constitution.
On such a major issue as the form of government, a major change would require approval in a referendum which would need to gain a majority in every state in Australia.
That is not going to happen in the foreseeable future.