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.
“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.”