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The Governor-General is the Queen’s representative in Australia.

As such, the Governor-General represents the Queen as Head of State in Australia.

In practice, the position of Governor-General is an appointment made by the prime minister of the day. The prime minister advises the Queen to make the appointment. As a constitutional monarch, the Queen will always accept that advice.

Governor-General David Hurley
Governor-General David Hurley

David Hurley, the former Governor of New South Wales, and a retired general, has been Governor-General since July 1, 2019. He succeeded Sir Peter Cosgrove, also a former army general, who held the post since March 28, 2014. Cosgrove, in turn, succeeded the first female Governor-General, Dame Quentin Bryce, who held office between 2008 and 2014.

There have been 27 Governors-General of Australian since Federation in 1901. The first Australian born holder of the office was Sir Isaac Isaacs in 1931.

Several former politicians have been appointed Governor-General: William McKell (1941, former ALP Premier of N.S.W.), Lord Casey (1965, Liberal minister under Menzies), Paul Hasluck (1969, Liberal minister under Menzies, Holt & Gorton) and Bill Hayden (1989, ALP minister under Whitlam and Hawke).

According to Section 2 of the Constitution:

A Governor-General appointed by the Queen shall be Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth, and shall have and may exercise in the Commonwealth during the Queen’s pleasure, but subject to this Constitution, such powers and functions of the Queen as Her Majesty may be pleased to assign to him.

In practice, the Governor-General is appointed by the Prime Minister of the day. For example, the incumbent, David Hurley, was appointed by Scott Morrison. His predecessor, Peter Cosgrove, was appointed by Prime Minister Abbott. Cosgrove’s predecessor, Quentin Bryce, was appointed by Prime Minister Rudd, whilst Michael Jeffery and Peter Hollingworth were appointed by Prime Minister Howard. Sir William Deane was appointed by Prime Minister Keating, and his predecessor, Bill Hayden, was appointed by Prime Minister Hawke. In all cases, the appointment was made personally by the Prime Minister. In 1999, Bob Hawke admitted that he did not even consult his Cabinet before making the appointment.

Technically, the appointment is made by “advice” to the Queen. Whilst early Governors-General were appointed directly from Britain, since the 1930s appointments have been made by the government of the day. This followed a major confrontation with the British government in the early 1930s over the appointment of the first Australian-born Governor-General, Sir Isaac Isaacs.

Roles and Powers of the Governor-General

The Rise and Fall of Archbishop Dr. Peter Hollingworth, 23rd Governor-General Of Australia – Dr. Hollingworth became Governor-General in 2001 but was besieged for most of his term over his handling of child abuse allegations in the Anglican archdiocese of Brisbane when he was Archbishop. Allegations of rape, subsequently withdrawn, led to Hollingworth’s resignation in 2003. He served just 23 months in the position.

Opening Parliament

One of the main ceremonial duties of the Governor-General is to open the proceedings of the Commonwealth Parliament following each election. The Governor-General summons members of the House of Representatives to the Senate chamber and delivers a speech prepared by the government.

Opening Parliament

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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