Julia Gillard backs Queen's successor as Commonwealth head

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Julia Gillard's comments on the Commonwealth may surprise some

A quick internet search reveals how Julia Gillard has made headlines in recent days.

The Australian prime minister survived a leadership challenge; reshuffled her cabinet; and apologised to the victims of her country's policy in the past of forced adoptions.

But an answer she gave in parliament doesn't appear to have registered at all.

It was in response to a question about the Commonwealth Charter.

The organisation's attempt to set out, for the first time, its core principles is not a topic which obviously excites the minds of headline writers. But what Ms Gillard had to say was significant and potentially historic.

The key passage was delivered as the prime minister paid tribute to the "distinguished" service of the Queen as head of the Commonwealth over many decades.

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She clearly envisages a future where Charles wouldn't be her king but would be head of the Commonwealth”

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She went on to say this: "The institution of the head of the Commonwealth, standing as it does above individual governments, has been an asset of the Commonwealth since its foundation, and we need not be reticent about its future.

"For Australia's part, I am sure the Queen's successor as monarch will one day serve as head of the Commonwealth with the same distinction as her Majesty has done."

This straightforward and clear statement that the Prince of Wales will one day follow in his mother's footsteps - as the symbolic head of a body which represents 30% of the world's population - is striking for a number of reasons.

Until recently, it had been the accepted view that Charles, unlike Elizabeth, would not automatically take on this role.

The heads of government of the 54 countries would have to decide what to do when the prince became king.

But that accepted view has been challenged gently in recent weeks.

As I have written before, the Commonwealth secretary-general, Kamalesh Sharma, has spoken of how Prince Charles' support for the Commonwealth had "deepened" its links to the Crown.

And, at the same event, the Queen thanked Mr Sharma for his "thoughtful" words about the "enduring value" of this bond.

Added to these remarks, we now have Ms Gillard's far from opaque or delphic comments.

Removing uncertainty?

They have added resonance because of her view of the value of maintaining Australia's link with the British crown.

She's made it clear she would favour her country becoming a republic once the Queen is no longer on the throne.

So, she clearly envisages a future where Charles would not be her king but would be head of the Commonwealth.

Her endorsement of that role is an important one for the heir to the throne.

The days and weeks after he fulfils his destiny could be tricky ones.

He has his critics, countries other than Australia could seek to remove him as their head of state, and uncertainty over whether or not he would take on the Commonwealth could prove to be destabilising.

Julia Gillard has sought to remove that uncertainty.

One has to assume that her public statement followed private soundings. The mood music, for now, is that a body born out of the collapse of the British empire appears content to have an unelected monarch as its next head.

This will bolster the reign of Britain's next sovereign.

Without fanfare or fuss, a republican named Julia has come to the aid of Charles, a future king.

Peter Hunt Article written by Peter Hunt Peter Hunt Diplomatic and royal correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Chasmilla rarely set foot in Oz-land and the minute those two come to the throne, there will be a massive rush for the exit door as far as Commonwealth countries still retaining the British monarch as head of state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    114.Rebecca Riot:
    "But the soldiering is just temporary. Something that all Royals do? They all have to have a bash at the services. Army, navy, whatever...

    So what does Harry do?"

    That's up to Harry isn't it? His choice will show his mettle, or lack thereof. Personally, I'd be disappointed with him if he settled for being one of the idle rich but he does have that option.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    122 REPUBLIC

    Are you suggesting off with their heads?

    The Bourbons were ridiculous but so was George IV. Queen Victoria did spend most of her time hiding on Isle of Wight particularly after Albert went to heaven?

    The government wanted her to abdicate particulary as they had to row across the Solent every time something important had to be signed? They got really fed up with her!

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Julia Gillard wanted to withdraw her comments but no-one was at home at the beeb to take her call. Striking for half a day before a bank holiday, you wouldn't catch proper Royalty doing that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    In this age of globalisation, perhaps we should consider outsourcing the monarchy via an auction? The highest bidders would probably be a Russian oligarch, The Chinese Communist Party, one of the Middle East Sovereign Wealth Funds - or possibly McDonalds and Cocoa Cola?


Comments 5 of 127


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