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Royal Assent To Legislation

The Constitution requires legislation receive the “royal assent”, either by the Governor-General as the sovereign’s representative, or by the Sovereign directly.

Section 58 of the Constitution allows the Governor-General to:

  • consent in the name of the Queen
  • reserve a law for the Queen’s “pleasure”
  • return the bill with suggested amendments

Contrary to popular belief that the Governor-General rarely exercises these powers, there have been a number of cases of vice-regal intervention in the legislative process.

According to Appendix 19 of House of Representatives Practice, a number of bills have been reserved for the Sovereign’s assent since 1901, one of which failed to receive Royal Assent. Other bills have been returned with suggested amendments by the Governor-General, the most recent in 1985.

Reserved for Sovereign’s Assent:

  • Customs Tariff (British Preference) Bill 1906 (failed to receive Royal Assent)
  • Navigation Bill 1912 (Act No. 4 of 1913)
  • Navigation Bill 1919 (Act No. 32 of 1919)
  • Navigation Bill 1920 (Act No. 1 of 1921)
  • Navigation Bill 1925 (Act No. 8 of 1925)
  • Navigation Bill 1926 (Act No. 8 of 1926)
  • Navigation (Maritime Conventions) Bill 1934 (Act No. 49 of 1934)
  • Navigation Bill 1935 (Act No. 30 of 1935)
  • Judiciary Bill 1939 (Act No. 43 of 1939)
  • Navigation Bill 1942 (Act No. 1 of 1943)
  • Royal Style and Titles Bill 1953 (Act No. 32 of 1953)
  • Flags Bill 1953 (Act No. 1 of 1954)
  • Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals) Bill 1968 (Act No. 36 of 1968)
  • Royal Style and Titles Bill 1973 (Act No. 114 of 1973)
  • Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court) Bill 1975 (Act No. 33 of 1975)

Bills returned by Governor-General with recommended amendments:

  • Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1902
  • High Court Procedure Bill 1903
  • Life Assurance Companies Bill 1905
  • Customs Tariff (British Preference) Bill 1906
  • Seamen’s Compensation Bill 1911
  • Navigation Bill 1912
  • Customs Tariff Bill 1921
  • Customs Tariff Bill 1926
  • Excise Tariff Bill 1927
  • Income Tax Bill 1931
  • United Kingdom Grant Bill 1947
  • Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court) Bill 1975
  • Taxation Administration Amendment Bill 1983
  • Veterans’ Entitlements (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 1985


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