The federal minister tasked with leading Australia towards a republic has conceded it is “not a priority” amid cost-of-living pressures and after the Voice to Parliament referendum was defeated.
Assistant Minister for a Republic, Matt Thistlethwaite, was left to defend the viability of his portfolio after telling The Australian over the weekend that it was “a lot harder” for the government to pitch a referendum on ditching the monarchy after the Voice to Parliament vote failed.
He told the paper Labor was unlikely, if re-elected, to hold a national vote.
Mr Thistlethwaite, who is currently serving as acting defence minister, appeared on ABC News’ breakfast program on Monday to discuss a number of matters, before anchor Michael Rowland pivoted towards the minister’s recent interview.
Mr Thistlethwaite responded, admitting Labor’s priority was “cost of living pressures for Australians”.
“All of our policies have been directed at assisting Australians through that period,” he said.
“Having said that, longer term, it’s part of the Labor platform that we believe we should have an Australian as our head of state.
“The current method of selecting our head of state is undemocratic, it doesn’t represent modern Australian values, and that’s something we want to begin a discussion with Australians on in the longer term. But, at the moment, our priority is cost-of-living relief for Australians.”
Questioned on whether that meant a referendum was unlikely if Labor was re-elected, Mr Thistlethwaite said he wouldn’t put a timeline on it, adding that focusing on cost of living was the “appropriate thing” for government to be prioritising.
Rowland questioned whether it was necessary to have a minister when becoming a republic was not high on the government’s agenda, saying: “You don’t really need to be Assistant Minister for the Republic if it’s being booted down the road there”.
Mr Thistlethwaite said he was “not giving up”.
“I’m certainly committed to and still passionate about Australia hopefully having one day one of our own as our head of state. I’ll continue to perform that important work as an assistant to the Attorney-General.
“We know that, unfortunately, the Voice referendum wasn’t successful, but we’re not giving up. It’s a longer-term priority. But at the moment, the priority of the Albanese government is cost-of-living relief for Australians.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been a long-time supporter of becoming a republic, but has been quiet on his plans after the Voice to Parliament referendum was defeated.