End royal link to Australia – aide
Queen Elizabeth's representative in Australia has declared support for the country becoming a republic in a speech that has reignited debate about the nation's ties to Britain.
Quentin Bryce became the first governor-general to back an Australian republic – a position that puts her at odds with Tony Abbott, the prime minister, who is a monarchist.
In an unusual foray into two contentious political debates, Ms Bryce, the first female governor-general, also voiced support for same-sex marriage – a position that Mr Abbott, a Roman Catholic, opposes.
Ms Bryce used just a few words during a speech in Sydney yesterday to support a constitutional change that would annul her position.
After expressing her hope that Australia would become a nation where "people are free to love and marry whom they choose", she added: "And where perhaps, my friends, one day one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation's first head of state."
The national media seized on the comments as a historic declaration. Republicans also weighed in to push the issue.
"We will always be friends with Britain, but now we should be equals," said Geoff Gallop, the head of the Australian Republican Movement. "We need an unambiguous, independent national identity that reflects and celebrates our freedom, our unity, our values of the fair go and our place in the world."
Ms Bryce (70), a distinguished lawyer and former state governor of Queensland, has been a popular and widely respected governor-general, known for her poise, grace and unfailing good nature.
As governor-general, she has extensive constitutional powers that extend to the ability to dismiss the sitting prime minister.
Ms Bryce has largely stayed out of politics but found herself in an awkward position last month when her son-in-law, Bill Shorten, was elected Labour leader following the party's defeat at the general election in September.
Ms Bryce offered to resign because she would have the power to dismiss Mr Abbott and replace him with Mr Shorten, who is married to her daughter Chloe.
Mr Abbott rejected the offer and insisted that Ms Bryce had been an "exemplary" governor-general.
He said she had added a "gracious note" to the position and should complete her term.
She is due to retire in March next year after the traditional five years in the role.
Mr Abbott, a London-born Oxford graduate, may come to regret his comments as Ms Bryce's speech immediately provoked renewed discussion about Australia's constitutional ties to Britain.