In Depth

Has Prince George killed off republicanism down under?

Republican sentiment hits a 35-year low as the royal tour touches down in Sydney

AS WILLIAM and Kate arrive in Sydney on the second leg of their Antipodean tour, polls show that support for Australia ditching the monarchy to become a republic has reached a 35-year low.

A poll by the Fairfax-Nielsen research agency found that 51 per cent of people opposed any change to current constitutional arrangements, with only 42 per cent saying they wanted Australia to become a republic. The findings represent a fall in anti-monarchist sentiment of 16 percentage points since republicanism was at its peak in 1999.

One Australian TV host attributed the change to birth of the royal baby, Prince George. Shelly Horton said that the third in line to the throne was a "republican slayer", saying that the decline in support for republicanism was due to the "George factor".

But Philippa Mein Smith, a professor of history at the University of Tasmania, argues that Australia still has a strong republican streak. Mein Smith, writing for CNN, says that in spite of excitement over the royal visit, politicians in both Australia and New Zealand know that "the writing is on the wall" for the monarchy.

Last week New Zealand's prime minister John Key said that, while he believes it is "inevitable" that the country will one day become a republic, interest in the Cambridges is likely to push back the date for any major change.

During their nine-day visit to New Zealand, Key discussed with Prince William his intention to replace the country's national flag, which features the Union Flag alongside the Southern Cross, with a new design. Key's own preference is for a silver fern on a black background, similar to the one worn by the All Blacks rugby team.

The Daily Express notes that a poll by Curia Market Research, commissioned by the New Zealand republican movement, found that overall support for the monarchy has fallen in the past year. The report found that 44 per cent of people now want to see a New Zealand-born head of state, up from 40 per cent in a previous poll in April 2013.

Mein Smith says that no changes are likely to happen in either Australia or New Zealand while the Queen is alive, but that Prince George's position as future heir to the thrones of both countries is dependent on his parents' ability to maintain their celebrity status.

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