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Thursday, 19 March 2015
Page: 1935

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (12:57): It will be no surprise for anyone to hear that the opposition will be supporting the Succession to the Crown Bill 2015. In fact, it was at the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, in Perth, that the Labor government supported the British government's move to amend the succession laws of the Commonwealth to better reflect the values of our time.

In 2013 the British government passed their own Succession to the Crown Act. Once the 16 Commonwealth nations still tied to the British monarchy have implemented their own domestic legislation, the British legislation will become law.

In Australia's case, each of the states needed to pass its own legislation requesting the federal government to legislate on behalf of the whole country. All the states have now passed their legislation, and this bill completes that process. We are in fact the only Commonwealth country left to do so, apart from a constitutional challenge against the Canadian legislation.

There are three changes in this bill which amend the current arrangements. They are, firstly, the abolition of the succession rule which stated that a man precedes his sister in succession to the throne even if she is the elder sibling; secondly, the removal of the rule disqualifying a person from the line of succession if a person marries a Roman Catholic—the monarch must still be an Anglican, which is maintained in the Act of Settlement—and, thirdly, the abolishment of the Royal Marriages Act 1772, which has the effect of the monarch not needing to consent to the marriages of descendants of King George the Second. There are hundreds of people in this category. Under the new arrangements, the monarch's consent is only required for the first six people in line to the throne. The consent is only needed when dealing with royal succession and does not invalidate any marriage itself.

Now Labor's position on Australia becoming a republic is very clear. The opposition believe the people of Australia should have a say in how their country is governed, which includes the ability to have an Australian head of state. The fact we need to even deal with this type of bill sends the message that the current monarchy's value system has been out of touch with modern Australia for a very long time.

All Australians should aspire to serve our country at every level, including as our head of state. We are a country with an egalitarian ethos, that believes the criteria for public service should be hard work, integrity and ability, not privilege of birth. Indeed, the very structure of this Senate reflects that—a fully elected upper house is a statement in itself.

Labor welcomes changes to these succession laws as it brings the British monarchy in line with modern values and expectations. We would indeed welcome, one day, having an Australian head of state.