Governor-General of Australia

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The Governor-General is Australia's de facto head of state, and is appointed by the reigning monarch of the British Commonwealth on the advice and recommendation of the Prime Minister. The official head of state for Australia is the reigning monarch of the British Commonwealth (presently Queen Elizabeth II).

The office of Governor-General was created when the Australian Constitution enterred into force on January 1 1901. The first Governor-General, Rt Hon John Adrian Louis Hope, 7th Earl of Hopetoun, was British; an Australian did not become Governor-General until the appointment in 1931 of Rt Hon Sir Isaac Alfred Isaacs, the ninth Governor-General.

The Governor-General is commander-in-chief of the Australian armed forces, and is responsible for signing into law all Acts of the Australian Parliament, and many (though not all) Regulations made under those Acts. He is responsible for the calling of elections and the appointment of the Prime Minister. He also has "reserve powers", which are rarely used, and whose boundaries are not clearly defined within the Constitution.

Whilst in theory the Governor-General wields almost dictatorial powers, in practice his powers are very limited. By Convention, he acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and Ministers, i.e. he does what they say. He is advised by the Executive Council, which consists of the current and all former Comonwealth ministers, although only the current ministers are permitted to attend its meetings.

The office of Governor-General is regulated primarily by the Australian constitution and by the Governor-General Act 1974.

The issue of becoming a republic (ie. removing the constitutional ties with the British monarchy) continues to be raised repeatedly in Australia, although the idea was defeated in a nationwide referendum held in 1999. In most of the proposed republican models, the office of the Governor-General is effectively preserved (in the practical sense described above), although the title is changed to President.

Canada also has an office of Governor-General, similar to that of Australia.


Governors-General of Australia