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Some in Australia Call to Rid Queen

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Some in Australia Call to Rid Queen

Mon Nov 18, 6:28 PM ET

By PETER O'CONNOR, Associated Press Writer

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - The latest scandals to rock the British monarchy have breathed new life into an Australian campaign to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

The scandals involving the queen's intervention in the trial of the late Princess Diana's former butler and allegations of a homosexual rape in the royal household sparked a call Monday for a parliamentary inquiry into the role of the monarchy in Australia.

Australia has long been independent, but the queen remains head of state — a throwback to two centuries ago when the country was a collection of colonies for dumping exiled British convicts.

Sen. Andrew Bartlett who leads the Australian Democrats Party said the queen's role in the butler's trial focused attention on her legal position.

"The real issue ... is that the head of state is above the law, which isn't the sort of message we should be sending to other countries in our region in the 21st century," said Bartlett, whose center-left party holds eight seats in the Parliament's upper house.

Bartlett conceded that Australia would not become a republic while Prime Minister John Howard, a devoted monarchist, was in power. But he said the issue should still be debated.

A referendum to change Australia's status, from a commonwealth headed by the British monarch to an independent republic with an Australian president, was defeated in 1999.

Britain's royal family has been under intense press scrutiny since the theft trial of former royal butler Paul Burrell collapsed Nov. 4 after intervention by Queen Elizabeth II.

Griffith University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Glyn Davis, said Monday in The Australian newspaper that the republican movement will inevitably rise again.

"This may arise from a groundswell of popular support for an Australian head of state ... from dissatisfaction with the present constitutional monarchy or from the ambition of a future prime minister to make a mark on history," Davis said.

Sen. Ron Boswell, a senior member of Howard's conservative coalition, rejected the latest calls for an inquiry into the issue, saying it would be irrelevant.

"We went through that at a great expense ... about two years ago and it was overwhelmingly defeated and it probably would be again," he told reporters.

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