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Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

3 June 2013

Interview with Dicko and Sarah

2UE Breakfast

SUBJECTS: An Australian Republic.

DICKO:

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan joins us now. Good morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning Dicko.

DICKO:

So, can I call you Wayne by the way?

TREASURER:

You certainly can.

DICKO:

Thank you very much Wayne. Wayne, what do you think about what Dean [previous caller] who said, can we afford to change the constitution at the moment?

TREASURER:

Well, the question should be can we afford not to change the constitution. I mean, the fact is that this morning there are hundreds of thousands of kids going to school and none of them can aspire to be our Head of State because we have written into our constitution the principle of inherited privilege, which I simply object to, as do many other people.

So I think it’s time, I think Malcolm Turnbull thinks it’s time, we began a conversation about this again. We’re not going to be going there anytime soon because we’ve got to go through a whole set of constitutional processes. But if you think about where Australia is now, sitting where we do in the world. I mean, we’re the world’s 12th largest economy, located in the Asia-Pacific and we’ve got a Head of State who lives on the other side of the world - I think it’s simply quite bizarre. And that’s not a reflection on our current Queen – I mean, everybody respects her - people respect the Royal Family. But the question is, where is Australia going in this century? Where does our future lay? What is the quality of our democracy and why is it that a school kid today can’t aspire to be our Head of State because it’s always filled by someone who lives in another country.

DICKO:

Wayne, I have to say, I’m a proud Australian citizen, and I came here 13 years ago. But I was very surprised to find out that we have a day off for the Queen’s Birthday, because we don’t in the UK. That was the first thing I found remarkable. Also, I am a Republican, I firmly believe there is no reason for us to, for all the reasons that you said. Sarah, my co-host, she’s an Aussie, but she does believe in the Monarchy. Why do you think so many Australians are still passionate about the Monarchy?

TREASURER:

It’s part of our British tradition. My background, my family, my mum’s family were Irish; my dad’s family were Scottish. So you know, there’s a long tradition here. But the fact is, even in Britain, as you know, there are plenty of Republicans as well. For us, it’s about updating the quality of our democracy, and I really think given where we are that someone who is resident of another country is our Head of State, when we sit here in the Asia-Pacific, the world’s 12th largest economy and we can’t have an Australian as our Head of State is simply quite bizarre and out of step with where we ought to be in this century.

SARAH:

Treasurer, as Dicko just said, I’m quite keen on the old Queen and I like having her around. Before I even get into my, I guess, ideological debate, I know that for a while there we were looking pretty close at going towards a Republic. Now that the Royal Family is back in vogue, so to speak. We’ve got Kate and Will – everyone loving them. Do you think it might even be a harder sell this time round because there is this kind of re-found love for the Royal Family?

TREASURER:

I think people are very interested in their lives, I don't dispute that. I’ll pick up the magazines just like anybody else. So, it’s not really about the character of the people involved, it’s about the character of our democracy and where we sit.

You see, Australia has done so well, over the last 20 or 30 years. Economically, socially, if you look at Australia, we’re one of the best countries in the world to live. And I think one of the things we do need to do to update the quality of our democracy is to have a respectful conversation about making sure that anyone in this country can aspire to be our Head of State.

DICKO:

How would we choose the Head of State, Wayne?

TREASURER:

We’ve got a party platform which suggests a plebiscite, or multiple plebiscites, before we move on to having a vote on changing the situation. First of all, I do think we need to have a vote on whether we want to change, and then we actually have a vote on how we want that change to happen.

I think we’ve got to do it in a gradual way. I’m not suggesting we should be rushing there, we’ve had a decade of inertia. This debate has sort of petered out in the early 2000s. And of course, as a Government, at the time I’ve been in Government, we’ve been dealing with some pretty big issues - the Global Financial Crisis, pricing carbon, fixing up the education system, those sorts of things. But I think it’s about time now that we want back and had a look at this, and doing it in a non-party-political way, which is why Malcolm Turnbull and I are standing up today. I’ve spoken about this a couple of times this year. Dicko, I spoke about this in my maiden speech in Parliament back in the early 90s. So, there are plenty of people around who are pretty passionate about it, and we do need to have a mature conversation about it.

DICKO:

How do you think the plebiscite would be worded? Because there is a lot of talk about the last time this went to the people, there was some kind of controversy about the way it was worded. So how would you like to see the question worded?

TREASURER:

I think that’s what we need to have the discussion about. I don't really want to lay down some sort of template today or tomorrow. What Malcolm and I want to do I guess is start the conversation, which is why we are launching the book. And this is a book which has got some pretty interesting authors in it. There are people like Thomas Keneally, many others; you know it’s just the start of the conversation rather than getting down to the nitty-gritty.

SARAH:

Thank you very much for your time this morning, Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan.