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‘Once in a generation’: Costello detects no real public demand for Australian republic

Former treasurer Peter Costello says an Australian republic is dead for at least another generation and predicts not even the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign will reignite public support for a change to Australia’s constitutional arrangements.

Mr Costello was the most senior republican in the government of John Howard and campaigned for a “yes” vote in the lead-up to the 1999 referendum. Twenty years on, Mr Costello has blamed the referendum’s defeat on divisions within the republican movement over whether a directly elected president was the best model.

Then treasurer Peter Costello campaigning for an Australian republic in August 1999.

Then treasurer Peter Costello campaigning for an Australian republic in August 1999.Credit:Fairfax

“My argument at the time was the principle was the important thing. There were people who were running around saying: ‘Vote against this republic, we’ll have a referendum on another one.’ That was 20 years ago,” Mr Costello said in an interview to mark the release of the 1998-99 cabinet papers held by the National Archives of Australia.

“These things only come around once in a generation. People who thought they could afford to be really picky and really choosy I think now sit back and say, ‘well, that was misguided’. Will it come back? I don’t know. I don’t detect any real public demand for it. I’m not sure you’d get a different result.”

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