Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese — an avowed republican — on Friday paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II’s “timeless decency” and said her death marked the “end of an era.”
“Australian hearts go out to the people of the United Kingdom who mourn today, knowing they will feel they have lost part of what makes their nation whole,” Albanese said.
He praised “an historic reign and a long life devoted to duty, family, faith and service.”
Queen Elizabeth was the only reigning UK monarch to have visited Australia as head of state.
“It was clear Her Majesty held a special place in her heart for Australia,” said Albanese, recognising “the special place she held in ours.”
“Today marks the end of an era, the close of the second Elizabethan age.”
Australia was a British colony for more than 100 years. The country gained de facto independence in 1901, but has never become a fully fledged republic.
In 1999, Australians narrowly voted against removing the queen, amid a row over whether her replacement would be chosen by members of parliament, not the public.
Polls before Elizabeth II’s death showed most Australians in favour of becoming a republic, but there is little agreement on how a head of state should be chosen.
The issue has been rekindled since Albanese was elected prime minister earlier this year.
He quickly appointed the country’s first “minister of the republic” and suggested that another referendum could be held in the future.