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Former prime minister Paul Keating is finding himself in the headlines this morning after suggesting the royal family would have preferred it if Australia became a republic more than 20 years ago.

Keating was PM in 1993 when he set Australia on course for a referendum on becoming a republic by establishing the Republican Advisory Committee. However, by the time the vote happened in 1999, Liberal John Howard was in charge.

Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Paul Keating at labor federal election campaign launch this year.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

During a talk organised by La Trobe University’s Ideas and Society program, Keating last night revealed that he discussed the prospect of Australia becoming a republic with Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral Castle back in 1993.

“I met her and told her I would not involve her family in any of this,” he said.

“I had a great relationship with her, really. I think the royal family would’ve been so glad for the referendum to have passed, to be honest.”

Keating still blames Howard for undermining the referendum.

“The republican movement say to me [following the Queen’s death], ‘You should be out there now speaking to this.’ Why would you? We fluffed it.

“If Australians have so little pride in themselves … that they’re happy to be represented by the monarch of Great Britain, why would somebody like me want to shift their miserable view of themselves?

“It [the referendum] was close-run. Properly argued by the then-prime minister, it would’ve succeeded.

“Who in their right mind could believe that the monarch of Great Britain could represent our aspirations here? It’s so pathetic that it barely doesn’t stand to argument.”

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