BILL Shorten is stepping up his push for Australia to break away from Britain and become a Republic by appointing a shadow minister to officially manage the future transition.
In a reshuffle of his frontbench today, the Opposition leader appointed NSW MP Matt Thistlethwaite to be the first 'Shadow Assistant Minister for an Australian Head of State'.
It comes after Mr Shorten announced in July he would hold a compulsory plebiscite on whether Australia should become a republic within the first term of his government if Labor won the next election.
The question would be: "Do you support an Australian Republic with an Australian Head of State?"
Mr Thistlethwaite's appointment today is the first major step towards the implementation of that plan.
The Australian Republic Movement believes Australia could become a republic within five years, if political leaders follow the timeline of a national vote in 2019 and a referendum in 2022.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the founder and long-time supporter of the movement, has previously said he would not push for change until after Queen Elizabeth's reign.
A special Newspoll taken for The Australianin August shows a narrow majority of Australians (51 per cent) support the push to become a republic, while 38 per cent are opposed and 11 per cent are undecided.
Mr Shorten's frontbench reshuffle - prompted by Labor MP Kate Ellis' announcement of her pending retirement from politics - will cut the number of shadow ministers by one to 31.
The departure will mean a pay rise for Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh, who was pushed back to backbench pay in 2016 in another reshuffle.
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek has picked up extra responsibilities, taking on Training in addition to her roles as shadow minister for Education and Women.
Labor Senator Doug Cameron will add TAFE to his current responsibilities as Shadow Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships and Labor MP Amanda Rishworth will take on Early Childhood Education and Development, in addition to her current role as Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs.
Mr Shorten thanked Ms Ellis for 13 years of "outstanding" parliamentary service when announcing the appointments in a party room meeting today.
"I know she will approach the next chapter of her life with the same hard work, honest charm and genuine concern for the lives of her fellow Australians," he said.
"In the meantime, we hope Kate, David and their growing family enjoy some well-earned time together at home."
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