November 6, 1999: Cheers and jeers as Australia says 'No' to a republic and sticks with the Queen

A seemingly endless campaign - with a seemingly endless question - culminated in Australia voting by 55% to 45% to keep the British Monarch as their head of state.

Cheers and jeers rang out across Australia on this day in 1999 as the country voted by 55% to 45% to maintain its links with the British crown.

For Australian republicans, the result was devastating. They had framed the long-awaited referendum as a date with destiny - the day on which Australia finally severed its ties with the 'mother country'.

But on being formally asked whether their constitutional monarchy should become a republic, Australians responded 'No'. There was to be no Australian president; the British monarch would remain as head of state.

The final count was 54.87% to 45.13% in favour of maintaining the status quo, with all six Australian states voting against a transition to a republic. The closest battle took place in the state of Victoria, where 'Yes' achieved 49.84% of the vote.

The result brought an end to eight years of fervent campaigning. Prime Minister Bob Hawke lit the fuse in 1991 when he made republicanism an official policy of the Australian Labor Party, describing the advent of a fully independent Australia as "inevitable".

Hawke's successor, Paul Keating, pursued the agenda with even more vigour. He set up a Republic Advisory Committee which concluded that "a republic is achievable without threatening Australia's cherished democratic institutions".

The report was music to republican ears. Keating, who once famously put his arm around the Queen during a royal visit, now felt sufficiently empowered to promise a referendum. All being well, Australia's transition to a republic would take effect on the Australia's centenary: January 1, 2001.

But when Keating's party lost power in 1996, in came John Howard (above): the leader of a Liberal-National coalition and a staunch monarchist.

Howard did not derail the referendum, but he made his personal stance clear in words and deeds.

He convened a 'constitutional convention' to canvas the options for an Australian republic. Attended by 152 delegates, the two-week conclave in Canberra only served to muddy the waters. Republicans squabbled with republicans and monarchists drew swords with monarchists.

[June 7, 1977: Britons mark Queen’s Silver Jubilee with 12,000 street parties and a London parade]

When the dust had finally settled, they emerged to present their model for Australia's future, the gist of which was inelegantly framed in the fateful referendum question that they had set:

"Do you approve of an Act to alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament?"

In plain English, they had decreed that any future Australian president would be elected by members of parliament and not by the Australian people in a direct election.

It was a meek compromise - 'devo lite' in modern political parlance - and it was doomed to fail.

While opinion polls showed that 88% of the public supported the idea of an Australian head of state, they balked at the idea of being excluded from the process of selecting one. 

Malcolm Turnbull, the leader of the 'Yes' campaign (above), pinned the referendum's defeat squarely on Howard, saying: "History will remember him for one thing. He was the Prime Minister who broke this nation's heart."

[November 20, 1992: Queen faces huge repair bill as Windsor Castle is devastated by fire]

And history might yet remember Turnbull as the man who put the pieces back together again: he became Australia's 29th Prime Minister on September 15, 2015.

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