Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has foreshadowed a postal survey or plebiscite to test the opinion of Australians for the best republic model after the Queen dies, given the success of last year's same-sex marriage survey.
Speaking in Sydney on New Year's Day, Mr Turnbull reiterated his view that the issue would best be revived when the reign of the Queen, who is 91, ends.
Asked how he would handle the republic matter if the Queen died during his prime ministership, Mr Turnbull said "the first thing you would need to do is have an honest, open discussion about how a president would be elected".
"Whether the president would be chosen by Parliament ... in a bipartisan, two-thirds majority as proposed in '99 or directly elected. That is the rock on which the referendum floundered in '99.
"You've got to have that discussion and it may be that a plebiscite, maybe even a postal survey, given the success of the marriage postal survey, could be one way to deal with that."
He said moving from a monarchy to a republic would require an amendment to the constitution whereby a president would replace the Queen as head of state, which must be put to the Australian people at a referendum.
"This is not a change that Parliament can make. This is a question for the Australian people and Australians have shown themselves to be very conservative when it comes to constitutional change," he said.
"But there is no point pretending that there is an appetite for change when there isn't one at the moment."
Mr Turnbull's plebiscite suggestion follows Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's election promise last July to give Australians a vote on whether to become a republic during the first term of a future Labor government.
Mr Shorten pledged to hold a simple "Yes" or "No" vote.
The question would be: "Do you support an Australian republic with an Australian head of state?"
If Australians voted for a republic, then work would be done to decide on the best model.
In his New Year's Day press conference, Mr Turnbull noted that the Australian republic push, which he led, was defeated at the 1999 referendum.
He rejected criticism by former Labor prime minister Paul Keating, as reported in The Australian, that he has "no system of prevailing beliefs" and his republicanism was a "chameleon act".
"Paul's remarks today were ... barely coherent," Mr Turnbull said at Bondi Beach.
In an interview with The Australian, Mr Keating questioned Mr Turnbull's commitment to Australia becoming a republic, saying he "has little or no policy ambition and commensurably little imagination, no system of prevailing beliefs".
"Was [his republicanism] just Malcolm being another chameleon doing another chameleon act as he has on so many other things?" he asked.
Mr Turnbull said he did not know what prompted Mr Keating to "come out swinging at everyone".
"He seems to be critical of every prime minister and former prime minister apart from himself, and it must be good for Paul to feel he is without fault or blemish but in the real world, we gave it a red-hot go in '99," Mr Turnbull said.
Mr Keating's comments coincided with the release on Monday of cabinet papers from 1994-95 by the National Archives of Australia.
In June 1995, Mr Keating announced a plan for the head of state to be elected by both houses at a joint sitting of Parliament, the ABC reported.