Governor-General of Australia

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The Governor-General of Australia is a position established by the Constitution of Australia, proclaimed on 1 January 1901, to exercise executive power in the Commonwealth of Australia as the representative of the monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia). As such, the Governor-General acts as Head of State in the absence of the monarch, and the role is thus termed "vice-regal".

Sections 2 and 61 of the Constitution formalise the position of the Governor-General. Several Letters Patent (dated 21 August 1984 and 15 May 2003) executed by the monarch further explain the powers and position of the Governor-General.

Title[edit]

"His Excellency, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia"

Appointment[edit]

The Governor-General is appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister of Australia. After receiving their Commission, the Governor-General makes an Oath of Allegiance and an Oath of Office to the monarch and issues a Proclamation assuming office.

Formally, the Governor-General's appointment is at the monarch's pleasure. In practice, however, there is an expectation that appointments will be for five years, subject on occasion to some extension.

Dismissal[edit]

It is also contemplated that the Prime Minister may advise the monarch to appoint another Governor-General before the expiration of the incumbent's expected period of office, meaning that a Governor-General may be dismissed. (Dismissal has been actively contemplated by at least one Prime Minister, and on another occasion a Governor-General resigned before dismissal.)

Current and former office-holders[edit]

The current Governor-General, since his swearing into office on 11 August 2003 as the twenty-fourth Governor-General, is His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery, AC, CVO, MC (Retd), a former officer in the Australian Army whose commands included the Special Air Services Regiment. He formerly served as Governor of Western Australia from 1993-2000.

People who have been appointed Governor-General, so far all men, have included: various ranks of British/Australian nobility, former military officers, former Justices of the High Court of Australia, and former federal Ministers.

The first Australian-born Governor-General was Sir Isaac Isaacs (1931–36).

Two former Governors-General have been of the Jewish faith.

Executive Power[edit]

When exercising the executive power of the Commonwealth, in accordance with long established constitutional practice, the Governor-General acts on the advice of Ministers who are responsible to the Parliament. That advice is conveyed through the Federal Executive Council. The Governor-General presides at meetings of the Executive Council which are attended by at least two Members of the Executive Council.

The Governor-General is also Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Forces, although in practice the Minister for Defence and Chief of the Defence Force exercise military control and command.

Administrator of the Commonwealth[edit]

In the absence overseas or incapacity of the Governor-General, a person can 'administer' instead. In practice, this is normally the longest-serving Governor of a State of the Commonwealth.

Practical powers[edit]

The functions and roles of the Governor-General include: appointing Australian ambassadors to foreign nations and accepting foreign ambassadors to Australia; appointing Ministers, judges and officers of the Australian Defence Force; giving Royal Assent to legislation passed by both houses of federal parliament; issuing and receiving writs for elections; and, bestowing honours and awards.

Ceremonial role[edit]

The Governor-General has an important ceremonial role, that includes:

  • receiving and entertaining visiting heads of state, heads of government and other prominent visitors to Australia,
  • opening new sessions of the Commonwealth Parliament,
  • receiving and formally entertaining many Australian citizens and representatives of organisations active in the life of the community, and
  • travels widely throughout Australia to attend services, functions, commemorations and exhibitions of local significance, lending their encouragement to individuals and groups who are making a substantial contribution to their communities.

When travelling abroad, the Governor-General is seen as the representative of Australia, and of the Queen of Australia, and is treated as a head of state in most ways. An example was the attendance of the Governor-General of Australia at the wedding on 14 May 2004 of Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark to Mary Elizabeth Donaldson, an Australian citizen.

External links[edit]