Talk:Governor-General of Australia

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Participate in the deletion discussion at the nomination page. —Community Tech bot (talk) 19:22, 16 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Some issues[edit]

A few of the refs in this article go straight to the constitution, which seems to me to smack a bit of 'original research'. It certainly qualifies as a primary document.

3 of the refs link to the web site of the "Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy", which does not seem to me to be likely to be an impartial source.

There are some other generally flaky bits of content here.

I've just done a couple of minor copy-edits &c, and will come back later to do further work. Dinkenfunkle 12:22, 1 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Round 2 ... just one minor fix done. But then read the section headed "Constitutional role", and it tells me not one whit about the GG's constitutional role. What it does do is bang on about the relative powers of the GG and the monarch. There is a wikilink to "Australian_head_of_state_dispute" at the top of this section, so we don't need to relitigate that here, and it might be nice to get a picture of, say, the Constitutional role? Just saying. Dinkenfunkle 11:02, 2 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Should we add the acronym in the vein of POTUS?[edit]

Should we add to the article the popular acronyms GOVGEN and GGAUS we use to refer to him? 203.46.132.214 (talk) 06:49, 14 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Got a reliable source that tells us they're popular? HiLo48 (talk) 07:00, 14 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Never heard of them. ITBF (talk) 08:31, 14 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Did Elizabeth II intervene in the 1975 Constitutional crises?[edit]

I've noticed at the beginning of the last paragraph, in the Constitutional role subsection. @Safes007: changed some wording, which suggests that Queen Elizabeth II attempted to prevent Governor-General John Kerr from dismissing Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. Is this true? We've often gotten the story that Elizabeth II did not intervene. This kinda supposed interference, seems out of character. GoodDay (talk) 03:59, 17 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]

All the letters from "the Palace" are from her Private Secretary, Sir Martin Charteris (1913-99). The views in his letters are his own, not the Queen's. Nowhere that I have seen does Charteris say "the Queen thinks this" or "the Queen's opinion is" or "the Queen asks me to tell you that".

Secondly, so far as I have seen, all the advice that Charteris gave Kerr was both constitutionally correct and politically wise.
  • He advised him that Australian Governors-General possess the full reserve powers of the Crown, including the right to dismiss a government, which was and still is correct.
  • He advised him that such powers should be used only as an absolute last resort, which was good advice that Kerr failed to take.
  • He advised him that if Whitlam asked the Queen to withdraw Kerr's commission, she might warn against such a step (as is her constitutional right), but would act on the advice of her Prime Minister (as is her constitutional duty).

What the letters do display is what we already knew - that Kerr had an inflated regard for his own importance, a weakness which Fraser and Barwick exploited as they manoeuvred Kerr into dismissing Whitlam. Kerr was a frustrated politician. He had considered a political career (with Labor) in the 1950s, but had gone into law instead. He saw the Governor-Generalship as a chance to play a political role. This was not a mistake a real politician, like Hasluck or Hayden, would have made.

It was Kerr who failed to understand the Westminster system, not the Queen.
  • He had no right to conspire with Fraser and Barwick behind Whitlam's back.
  • He had no right to dismiss Whitlam out of fear that Whitlam might dismiss him first - Whitlam had an absolute right to advise the Queen to dismiss him, and he had no right to try to prevent that.
  • Most importantly, he had no right to interfere in the political drama unfolding in 1975. This was not a constitutional crisis until Kerr made it one. It was a political crisis, which he should have left to the politicians. The Senate had blocked Supply, and Whitlam and Fraser were engaged in a game of bluff. But Supply had not run out on 11 November: there was no "last resort" requiring Kerr's intervention. We know (because the late Senator Alan Missen told us), that if Kerr had not intervened, some of the Liberal Senators would have backed down before Supply did run out. Fraser also knew this, which is why he and Barwick conspired to persuade Kerr to act before Whitlam won what would have been a great victory.
180.150.38.126 (talk) 05:36, 17 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It was Kerr's duty to be aware of his options in the face of a crisis. The Governor-General is not the tool of the PM and there have been occasions when a G-G has refused a Prime Minister's advice.
Her Late Majesty certainly did not overturn any of the actions of Kerr in the Dismissal. I have inserted the word "not" to clear up an obvious error. It is difficult to see what actions she could have taken in this regard. The monarch has no power to do anything much beyond appoint and (in theory) dismiss the G-G, and that only on the advice of the Australian PM. --Pete (talk) 10:43, 17 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I was quite surprised by the "did overturn" edit. Thanks for the correction. GoodDay (talk) 10:49, 17 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]

PS: I'm seeking input from the Australian, the Politics & the Commonwealth WikiProjects. GoodDay (talk) 04:08, 17 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Safes007: please stop removing "not" from "did not" & join the discussion. The monarch didn't & doesn't interfere in politics. GoodDay (talk) 12:05, 17 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]

That was a typo, sorry. I think it readded from a new edit I did that saved my mistake. Safes007 (talk) 12:17, 17 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I was pretty sure that it was just one of those things. Sometimes you spend a bit of time on an edit, especially if it needs a bit of research and you get an edit conflict if someone has made a change in the meantime. Naturally you don't want to lose all that work …
But of course it isn't lost. You have both versions right there and can fiddle around until you get everything sorted.Or simply copy and past your bit and start with a fresh edit. --Pete (talk) 19:28, 17 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Opening sentence[edit]

The current opening reads:

The governor-general of Australia is the representative of the monarch of Australia, currently King Charles III.

Some background: In the late 18th century when the Constitution was drawn up, the notion that the Governor-General represented the monarch was a polite fiction. Queen Victoria didn't personally develop, promote and enforce Imperial policy throughout the empire. That is not the job of a constitutional monarch; it was the job of Her Majesty's government, notably Cabinet led by the Prime Minister, with the Colonial Secretary handling the details.

As one notable Australian said,

… it is important to recognise that the Queen, referred to throughout our constitution and of course it is referring to Queen Victoria, and is defined as being Queen Victoria her heirs and successors in the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. The Queen was not so much an individual, the Queen meant her Majesty’s Government in right of the United Kingdom. It meant Whitehall. It meant London. It meant the imperial power. --Malcolm Turnbull

Turnbull goes on to mention the structural changes put in place by the Statute of Westminster. These had the effect of creating a divided Crown throughout the Empire with the Dominion governments now directly advising the monarch. The various Governors-General were no longer the representatives of the British Government and High Commissioners were appointed to fill those roles, in the same fashion as non-Empire nations appointed ambassadors to represent their interests at a high level. The British Government in Australia no longer operated out of Government house but out of the new British High Commission on Commonwealth Avenue in Canberra.

Although the role had significantly changed, the Constitution's wording did not, and could not without a referendum. Like so many of the now-obsolete provisions of the Constitution relating to state debts and tariffs and Inter-State commissions s2 remains to confuse and mislead those who think that the Constitution, now well over a century old, serves as an exact description of Australia's government structure and practice.

While the Governor-General is referred to as a vice-regal representative, it is difficult to see what he (or, occasionally she) does to personally represent the monarch. Their powers are assigned directly to him by the Constitution and may not be changed without a referendum. The monarch may not issue instructions on how to use these powers and realistically the only remaining direct role of the monarch in Australian affairs is to appoint the Governor-General. Although the wording of the Constitution makes it sound like this is the personal decision of the monarch, it is exercised on the advice of the Australian Prime Minister, regardless of the monarch's wishes, as James Scullin demonstrated when he forced King George V to appoint Sir Isaac Isaacs as the first Australian-born Governor-General.[1]

It has been many years since the Australian Governor-General issued and accepted diplomatic letters of credence on behalf of the Queen (Elizabeth II). Nowadays, credentials are addressed directly to the Govenor-General.[2]

There are undoubtedly some areas - medals and speeches and so on - where the Governor-General personally represents the monarch but their main role is performing the same functions of head of state as the monarch does in the UK. Signing bills into law, representing Australia overseas, issuing writs for elections, appointing and (occasionally) dismissing ministers. Again, they do these things in their own right and not as an agent of the monarch or her government, although the wording of the Constitution may mislead the casual reader, for example when contemplating that the Governor-General as commander-in-chief of the defence force has significant military capabilities and might send a few tanks in to quell unrest in Parliament House.

So why do we present some trivial aspect of the role as the lead sentence in our article? Realistically, the day to day job is presiding over meetings of the Federal Executive Council, serving as chief diplomatic officer, and (as [[Sir Zelman Cowen] put it, "representing Australia to itself and the world".[3]

I think the most important aspect of the position of Governor-General should occupy the first sentence, rather than some obsolete and very minor part of his duties. --Pete (talk) 09:54, 19 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I think nowdays "represent" means not to act as an agent by representing the views and wishes of the monarch as an individual person, but to act as a kind of human symbol of the monarch in their public role as embodiment of the state, kind of like a human Great Seal of the United States. In that sense, it doesn't matter that the King doesn't have any influence or does anything, or that the GGs powers are granted by the Constitution, not directly by the monarch as his symbolic role is also granted directly by the Constitution.
In another sense, the GG represents the monarch by performing many of the same actions as he does as monarch of the UK, such as (at least theoretically) advising and warning, etc. In that sense, the GG represents the monarch in the same way as an MP represents the people, despite the fact they act as an independent agent and the people of an electorate have no legal right to vote on bills and pass legislation and can't give the MP orders or instructions.
Now, its valid to think that's absurd and that very few Australians view either him or the monarch he represents as an embodiment of the nation as a whole, but ultimately being ineffective at that role doesn't change the fact that that is what the position is supposed to be. As most of the sources I can see lead with something similar, I think its best to stick with it.[1][2][3] Another problem is identifying what the "most important aspect" of the position of GG is. In all aspects but the reserve powers he acts on advice so there's an argument that the reserve powers should be in the first sentence. Safes007 (talk) 15:06, 19 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
In agreement with Safes007. In short, the last time I checked, the Australian monarchy wasn't abolished, nor the governor-general elected by Parliament or the public as 'President of Australia'. Besides, like in the UK & the other Commonwealth realms, practically speaking - the prime minister is the boss. It's been quite a long time, since a monarch or governor-general refused a prime minister's request 'or' vetoed a bill. GoodDay (talk) 22:03, 19 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I reworded the intro to emphasis the domestic and independent nature of the role, hopefully to address the concerns that it previously over emphasised less relevant parts of the role or was misleading about the GGs power or independence. Safes007 (talk) 05:48, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I trimmed it a little. We must keep in mind that within the non-UK Commonwealth realms, the governors-general are of the same nature & Australia's governor-general isn't unique, from the others. That being said, a similar re-write of the other 13 governors-general pages, would be required. GoodDay (talk) 05:52, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Australia's Governor-General is in a unique position within the Commonwealth Realms. He derives his powers from the Constitution which may not be altered except by referendum. While one might imagine that s2 only gives him "such powers and functions of the Queen as Her Majesty may be pleased to assign to him", there is no mechanism for the monarch to alter his constitutional powers (except in such minor details as appointing deputies, as covered by the Letters-Patent) nor may they be amended by regular legislation.
The powers of the office derive from the people. This is not the case in (for example) Canada. --Pete (talk) 06:12, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The Canadian governor general has as much independence (for example) as the Australian governor-general. The monarch doesn't interfere in either Australian or Canadian politics, as constitutional monarchs tend to stay above politics. GoodDay (talk) 06:25, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't think you understand the point being made. The Australian Governor-General isn't the same as the Canadian Governor General, despite them having similar titles and roles. That's like saying a zebra is the same as an ass because they are both kind of horsey.
ETA: The Canadian Governor General exercises the monarch's powers.

The 1947 letters patent state: "And We do hereby authorize and empower Our Governor General, with the advice of Our Privy Council for Canada or of any members thereof or individually, as the case requires, to exercise all powers and authorities lawfully belonging to Us in respect of Canada."

The Australian Governor-General exercises his own constitutional powers which the monarch may not exercise under any circumstances. Big difference. --Pete (talk) 20:58, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Myself & Safes007, have already settled on the opening. GoodDay (talk) 21:49, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That's not the point here. If you don't understand how and why the Australian Governor-General has a different situation to your Canadian version, why are you attempting to have our articles state that they are the same? Spare a thought for our readers who come here seeking information they can trust! --Pete (talk) 21:56, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"...our articles..."? GoodDay (talk) 21:58, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Wikipedia's articles. I'm not sure that you're really helping the mission if you are pushing untruths. --Pete (talk) 22:01, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Don't be so hypocritical, when mentioning pushing untruths. Anyways, I'm not going to let you drag us down into personal attacks, via circularly arguments. GoodDay (talk) 22:04, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Just acknowledge the point, please. Governor-General of Australia and Governor General of Canada: distinctly different in their roles through ownership of constitutional powers, as shown above. Cheers. --Pete (talk) 22:13, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Give it a rest. GoodDay (talk) 22:16, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This doesn't make sense to me. Whilst the most of other realms have a common historical origin for the GG (although they also had differences then as mentioned by Pete) there is no legal connection between the offices anymore. The High Court could suddenly overturn past precedent and interpret the Constitution literally and make the GG a dictator, but that would affect Canada's GG.
Also, I don't know of any requirement to rewrite the other pages before changing this one even if that wasn't the case. Safes007 (talk) 07:38, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The governor-general represents the monarch. We had an RFC in 2016 (closed by @JzG:) with a resounding result, as to 'who' Australia's head of state is. Australia hasn't become a republic, in these last eight years. So you see, my concern is that you're slowly (figuratively) down playing the monarch to the point that's he's the same as the Swedish monarch. I highly doubt that any of the governors-general phone the king up on a daily basis & asks for permission to do this or that. GoodDay (talk) 07:44, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The changes have nothing to do with the role of the monarch or their position as head of state. All it does is clarify that whilst the GG is the monarch's representative, that doesn't imply agency or a need to follow or advocate for the views of the monarch personally which may be implied if you don't understand how responsible government works or don't have much experience with Westminster system concepts. Safes007 (talk) 09:32, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I've restored the change you made. I just wanted to point out, the governors-general of the other non-UK commonwealth realms, are of the same situation. Their governments are also under the Westminster system. GoodDay (talk) 09:36, 20 January 2024 (UTC)Reply[reply]

References