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Tears and fears: Duke's demise breathes new life into republican push

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Queensland MPs have reflected on the Duke of Edinburgh’s passing, some noting their own support for Australia sticking with the monarchy or becoming a republic.

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In parliament today, the Queen’s 95th birthday, MPs paid their respects in the wake of Prince Philip’s death. At least one MP shed tears.

“On behalf of the people of Queensland, we acknowledge the years of service His Royal Highness gave to Queensland and to the Commonwealth, and express our deepest sympathy to Her Majesty the Queen and other members of the royal family,” said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Opposition leader David Crisafulli said the Commonwealth had lost a “highly respected public figure” with an apparent affection for Australia and Queensland.

Labor frontbencher Stirling Hinchliffe noted that Prince Philip had opened the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in 1982, and unveiled a plaque on the already operational Gateway Bridge to declare it, as the Duke put it, “more open than usual”.

Hinchliffe said he was one of many Australians who would “prefer to see different constitutional arrangements” but that did not diminish his respect for the service of the royals.

Liberal National Party frontbencher Jarrod Bleijie, a noted monarchist, wore a black suit and black tie to mark the occasion. He gave perhaps the longest speech of any MP, self-censoring only to avoid repeating some of the Duke’s previous quotes that he said might anger the “politically correct and Twitter world”.

Bleijie said he regretted not being able to meet the Duke during his last visit to Queensland. Ironically, he said, he was kept back in the crowd by “republican Bligh Government ministers lining up to meet the Queen and Prince Philip”.

“God Bless our most gracious queen, Elizabeth the Second,” Bleijie said.

LNP frontbencher Ann Leahy was the first MP to cry, and after almost an hour the Legislative Assembly paused for a minute silence, before moving on to debate youth crime.

The chair of the Real Republic Australia, David Muir, said the royal spotlight should serve as a reminder to Australians that the republic question lingered and should be debated.

“Members of the royal family from the Queen down and certainly Prince Philip have taken the common-sense view that the republic debate is not a reflection on them,” he said.

“They have on many occasions stated quite clearly that they view the issue as one for Australians to settle and that they will abide by our decision.”

Muir said it was not disrespectful to the royal family to debate a future republic for Australia. He noted that Prince Philip was reportedly “quite relaxed” when former prime minister Paul Keating took up the issue.

“In fact, we should already have started it long ago, but there has not been the political will or leadership since Keating for having the discussion,” Muir said.

“Even Malcolm Turnbull, a staunch republican, didn’t lift a finger to initiate the debate. He preferred the cop-out of waiting until the Queen’s reign ends.”

Muir said he still favoured a republic with a directly-elected head of state, but suggested the details could be discussed, and finalised, over several terms of federal parliament.

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