Representing the Queen in Australia

by Cliff Skinner

The Governor-General of Australia is the official national representative of the Queen as Head of State. He or she is appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Australian Prime Minister, and serves at the pleasure of the Queen. In current practice this is regarded as a term of five years.

As representative of the Sovereign, the Governor-General is the commander-in-chief of the Australian Armed Forces but acts on this and many other matters on the advice of the Australian Prime Minister and his/her Government.

Quentin Bryce was born in Brisbane, Queensland in 1942 and attended the University of Queensland, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws. She and her husband Michael were married in 1964 and have two daughters, three sons and eight grandchildren.

She became one of the first women accepted to the Queensland bar and held senior positions both in Australia and overseas, receiving many national and international awards and honours. In October 2011 the Queen invested her as a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) at Government House in Canberra and prior to her appointment as Governor-General, she held the post of Governor of Queensland for 5 years. Her husband, Michael, is a well known architect.

Apart from her many Constitutional duties, the Governor-General also undertakes similar duties to the Queen in Britain, e.g: attending military parades, meeting and entertaining visiting Heads of State, Heads of Government and other prominent visitors to Australia. She receives the credentials of Ambassadors and conducts investitures under the Australian Honours System. She is also Patron of many organisations and travels widely throughout Australia.

It is interesting to note that the late Duke of Kent was appointed as Governor-General to succeed Lord Gowrie in 1945. Sadly, when the Duke died in an aircraft crash in Scotland in 1942 whilst on active service, his elder brother, the Duke of Gloucester, was appointed in his place.

Government House and grounds at Yarralumla

On my trips back to England over the past few years I have often been asked about the Republican Movement in Australia and whether the country is moving in the direction of actually becoming a republic. My answer is that the question as to whether the Queen remains as our Head of State is entirely in the hands of the people of Australia, it is for them alone to make such a momentous decision.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and Govenor General of Australia Quentin Bryce walk through the gardens at Government House during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Australia.

A few years ago, during Prime Minister Howard’s tenure, a national referendum was held to determine this actual question. To explain how this process works, a change can only occur if there is a double majority. This is, when more than half of the voters in Australia and a majority of states vote “yes” for the change.

The referendum to amend the Constitution of Australia for it to become a republic was defeated. It has been stated that this was due to sustained opposition from monarchist groups and division amongst republicans on the method proposed for selecting the president. The Government wanted to have some control over the method of appointing a President but the people wanted it to be made by a popular vote. The Government considered this method impractical.

And so, for now, the status-quo remains. However, I imagine that the republicans will regroup and this matter will probably rear its head again sometime in the future. But for now and possibly for the foreseeable future, highly regarded people like Quentin Bryce will continue in their honoured role as the official representative of the Queen in Australia.

The Governor-General, Her Excellency, Ms Quentin Bryce, AC inspects an Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) Graduation Parade.

It seems to me that whether the voters of this country are monarchists or republicans, most do share a great respect and admiration for the current monarch.

Thanks to our sponsor.

Click here to find out about a visit to the Brewery.