The Queen’s representative in Australia, Governor-General Quentin Bryce, has declared support for her country becoming a republic in an extraordinary speech which is set to reignite debate about the nation’s ties to Britain. Ms Bryce became the first Governor-General to back an Australian republic – a position which puts her at odds with Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who is a staunch monarchist.
In an unusual foray into two contentious political debates, Ms Bryce, the first female Governor-General, backed an Australian head of state and voiced support for same-sex marriage – a position that Mr Abbott, a devout Catholic, also opposes.
Ms Bryce used just a few brief words during a speech in Sydney on Friday to lend a remarkable throw of support for a constitutional change that would annul her position. Significantly, she made her comments at the very end of a four-part lecture series. Immediately, the national media seized on the utterance as an historic declaration.
After expressing her hope that Australia would become a nation where “people are free to love and marry whom they choose”, she added: “And where perhaps, my friends, one day one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation’s first head of state.”
Ms Bryce, 70, a distinguished lawyer and former state governor of Queensland, was appointed by former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and has been a popular and widely-respected Governor-General known for her poise, grace and unfailing good nature. She becomes the first Governor-General to back an Australian republic.