Is Charles about to embark on a new row over the ‘end of the monarchy’ with his visit to Australia? Palace aides draw up plan for king’s trip to Sydney next year
- Planned visit to Sydney to coincide with Commonwealth Summit
King Charles is set to face the biggest test of his reign next year when he flies to Australia – where there are growing calls for the country to become a republic.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal royal aides are preparing for a visit to Sydney which will coincide with his first appearance as Commonwealth leader at his summit in Samoa.
Last night, a senior Australian government minister said the visit would lead to a “renewed conversation” about the country having its own head of state.
Charles is due to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) next October and is expected to extend his tour to visit Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.
Matt Thistlethwaite, the republic’s deputy minister – an anti-monarchist role created within the Australian Labor Party last year – told the Department of Health: “The King will always be welcome in Australia and greeted with affection by the Australian people. But in today’s Australia, his visit will spark a new conversation about having our own head of state who lives with us, represents us and is Australian.
The then Prince Charles greeted by members of the public during a visit to Brisbane on April 4, 2018
Charles speaking with an Aboriginal elder during a traditional welcome to country ceremony in Gove, Australia, April 9, 2018.
Charles has previously been criticized for yet to make an official visit to any Commonwealth country, despite having been on the throne for more than a year.
Isaac Jeffrey, leader of the protest group Australian Republic Movement, added: “By the time of Charles’s visit, he will have been king of Australia for more than two years. He’s in no hurry to visit us and that’s fine, we don’t need him.
A recent survey found 78 per cent of 1,500 Australians think the royal family should foot the bill for a state visit. In 2011, it cost Australian taxpayers $2.6 million (£1.9 million today) to host the Queen and Prince Philip.
Royal advisers will closely monitor Saturday’s referendum, in which Australians will vote on whether to allow an indigenous voice in parliament. If successful, the Labor government, led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, said it would hold a vote to test the appetite for becoming a republic if elected for a second term in 2025.
A YouGov poll of 1,200 Australians last month found 32 per cent want a republic as quickly as possible – an increase of 12 percentage points from a similar survey last year.
For his part, Charles was said to have been “worried” by the delay with which he received an official invitation from the Australian Prime Minister.
It is understood that if Charles visited the country – his 17th visit to Australia – anti-monarchists would use it as a launching pad to try to oust him as king.
Sources say opponents will target official engagements to make their case for an Australian as the country’s first president.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (pictured left) and Labor MP for Hawke Sam Rae (pictured right)
They add that there have been “conversations on both sides” and that “the King has made it clear that he wishes to meet as many Australians as possible when the opportunity arises.”
Shadow Defense Minister Andrew Hastie told the MoS: “The King will be welcome on his first visit. There is a renewed enthusiasm for the Crown and a sense that we share something special and historic.
But Prime Minister Albanese is in no hurry to send a formal invitation. A source said: “It’s fair to say there are some concerns about this. As per protocol, the king cannot act on anything until he receives an official invitation.
The Palace would not discuss details of discussions between the king and Mr Albanese for a state visit.
In May, this newspaper revealed Charles’ plan to visit his first Commonwealth country – Kenya – at the end of the month. It should be confirmed by the Palace in the coming days.