Prince Charles rejects chance to address Australian republicans


Sydney (AFP)

Prince Charles has rejected a cheeky invitation from republicans Down Under to explain why he rather than an Australian should be their next head of state once the Queen dies or steps down, they said Wednesday.

The Australian Republican Movement officially asked the heir to the British throne to address a "friendly and respectful" audience during his visit to the country in April for the Commonwealth Games.

"It appears the prince is unable to answer this question," said Australian Republic Movement national director Michael Cooney after receiving a response from Clarence House declining.

"So now, perhaps monarchists can answer this: why should Australians accept a head of state who will not even speak to our people about why he wants the job?"

He said the Clarence House reply was marked "private and confidential", and as a courtesy had chosen not to release the text.

The prince frequently makes public speeches, but they are usually at official functions.

The British crown's power in Australia is seen as largely symbolic, and while the Queen remains hugely popular, the monarchy is viewed by some as an anachronistic colonial relic.

Support for a republic has wavered over the years, with the most recent poll in 2014 finding that 51 percent of the 1,400 people surveyed favoured the status quo compared to 42 percent supporting a republic.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull favours a republic, but has previously suggested the issue will not be debated during Queen Elizabeth II's reign.

"Without constitutional change, there will be a once-in-a-lifetime transition and a new King of Australia within a few years," said Cooney.

"Yet today our people know nothing about what this change will look like. The silence of the man who will become Australia's head of state about why he should have the job is hardly reassuring."