Turnbull faces calls for republic

By Belinda Merhab and Paul Osborne
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Republic 'inevitable', FitzSimons says

Australian Republican Movement head Peter FitzSimons says there's widespread support for a republic.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has challenged the prime minister to "seize this moment" in the push for Australia to become a republic, after most state and territory leaders declared their support.

Mr Shorten is also expected to use an Australia Day speech in Melbourne on Tuesday to reinforce calls for Malcolm Turnbull to move now rather that wait for until after the death of Queen Elizabeth.

"Let us work together to seize this moment," Mr Shorten said on Monday.

It comes after almost all state and territory leaders, bar West Australian Premier Colin Barnett, signed a declaration calling for an Australian head of state to replace the British monarch.

Cabinet minister Mitch Fifield, a republican, said the debate was not a priority for the government.

"My view is that this proposition won't seriously be re-examined for so long as the Queen is on the throne," he told Sky News.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said he also favoured the current constitutional arrangements.

"The real thing we celebrate on Australia Day I think is our freedom as a people and the great opportunities we have and I would like to see Australians have more of them," Mr Morrison told 2GB radio on Monday.

Australian Republican Movement (ARM) chairman Peter FitzSimons says the political support is a "declaration of desired independence".

He said he was "bemused" by Mr Barnett's refusal, saying the premier sent him a note insisting he was committed to the republican movement but wasn't keen to sign yet.

Mr FitzSimons believes Mr Barnett is worried about losing votes in the upcoming state election and suggested his hesitation may have something to do with the premier's opening of Elizabeth Quay on the Swan River this week.

"He thinks he is going to lose votes. He won't lose votes on this," Mr FitzSimons told the Nine Network.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk believe it's time for Australia to be led by one of its own.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill says it would be appropriate for the Queen to oversee the change.

"It would be the ultimate act of respect to Queen Elizabeth if she presided over the transfer of Australia from a monarchy to a republic," Mr Weatherill told ABC radio.

The ARM wants a plebiscite on the republic by 2020, to be followed by a referendum if the initial vote is successful.

At noon on Monday, a Change.org petition by Mr FitzSimons calling for a republic had only garnered over 6000 signatures since Friday.

Australian Monarchist League spokeswoman Gabrielle Hendry said the majority of Australians were opposed to becoming a republic.

"I have seen petitions like keeping kebab shops open past midnight which have garnered 25,000 signatures in a few days," she told the ABC.

Mr Turnbull is a former chairman of the ARM.