Australian Government coat of arms

Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

Doorstop

26 January 2016

Canberra

Prime Minister

E&OE

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, David Morrison yesterday joined a group of premiers in supporting the push for a republic. As an avid republican yourself, is it time we started that conversation again?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the conversation hasn’t stopped and it continues and look, I am, I welcome support for an Australian republic, it’s important and I’ve been committed to Australia becoming a republic for a long time, I am a notorious republican after all.

But the important thing to remember is that no politician, no Prime Minister or Opposition Leader or Premier can make Australia a republic, only the Australian people can do that through a referendum and so there needs to be very strong popular momentum for a change. There has to be a sense that the time is right.

You know this is not a - there are many more urgent issues confronting Australia and indeed confronting the Government than the momentum or the desire for Australia to become a republic, so I think there needs to be the right timing.

Now in 1999, at the time of the referendum, where I led the campaign for a yes vote and it was, it was defeated narrowly, I took the view then that if you want a referendum to be carried, that to say if you want, if you don't want to have another heroic defeat and you want to have, you want it to be carried, the best time to do that will be after the end of the Queen's reign.

Now that’s my opinion I haven’t changed that but others have different views. But really what we’ll have to see is whether there is enough popular momentum, whether it really becomes a front of house issue, a key issue as it was in the late 90s and so it really depends on the republican movement and other people to drive that.

One of the things I’ve learnt from being chairman of the republican movement in the past, is that if the move to a republic is seen as being politically driven, being driven from the top down, then it won't succeed. To get momentum and frankly there was more momentum in the late 90s than there is now, it needs to have grass roots support. It is not something that a Government can just do, even if it wanted to.

So I can't stress enough that this is a decision for the Australian people.

So yes, I welcome support, and yes, the Government, my Government will obviously monitor the strength of that support and I have no doubt in the future there will be another referendum and the matter will be decided as it should be by the Australian people. But the timing of that referendum has to be right.

I can't stress enough – I’ve, I’ve led a yes case for a republic into a heroic defeat once. I’ve got no desire to do so again. If you really are committed to Australia becoming a republic, then you want to be sure that the manner and the timing of the referendum is as such that it is successful and that it unites rather than divides Australians.

Thank you very much.

JOURNALIST:

Just on gender equality, one question on gender equality please. David Morrison has put it back on the agenda. Can you explain what practical steps is your Government doing to address things like the pay gap and the superannuation gap?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the, can I just say, David Morrison is a great appointment as Australian of the Year but the gender equality campaign, the respect for women campaign, which of course is bound up with saying no to violence against women and children, all of those issues are connected.

That is not being put back on the agenda. It is right on the agenda and David Morrison has done a great job and he will continue to do a great job, carrying the work, the really important work forward of Rosie Batty as he said, of Liz Broderick, as he said.

This is a critical issue and you're right, it is at the very foundation of this, is respect for women. That is why I’ve said, we need to ensure that in the future - this is not something that will - this is not a change that is going to happen instantly but our goal must be one where it is absolutely regarded as beyond the pale to disrespect women.

We need to be known as a nation, known for being a nation that respects women. Because all of that discrimination that you mentioned, including violence against women and children, has its origin in disrespecting women. Respect for women and children is absolutely critical priority. So it’s not being put back on the agenda, it is on the agenda. It should always be on the agenda and it always will.

Thank you very much and have a very happy Australia Day.

ENDS