ABC News Web Site, 1 September 1999
Key monarchists have attacked a proposal to stop British citizens voting in the republic referendum, as "ethnic cleansing". The group supporting a new Australian flag is considering launching a High Court challenge to strike British subjects off the roll.
At the moment about 300,000 migrants from Britain before 1984 are still eligible to vote even if they do not have Australian citizenship. But Federal Minister and key monarchist Tony Abbott says most of the Britons regard themselves as Australian and have a legal right to vote.
"I think it′s a very grubby exercise in ethnic cleansing of the electoral rolls," Mr Abbott said. "These people have been on the rolls for decades, they regard themselves as fully Australian. They′re there perfectly properly under the law as it′s always been interpreted and why are the republicans trying to take away their rights?"
But the Federal Opposition is outraged at the use of the term "ethnic cleansing". The Shadow Attorney General Robert McLelland says Labor does not support any High Court challenge against British migrants. But he says Mr Abbott′s remarks are insulting to other Australians who have been victims of ethnic cleansing.
"The republic debate should be a process that really enlightens the Australian community, one which they embrace with enthusiasm, whichever way they′re going to vote," Mr McLelland said. "To use this sort of language and these sort of tactics about throwing unsubstantiated propositions across the arguments, is in no one′s interests," he said.