# Governor-General of Australia

Governor-General of Australia
Incumbent
David Hurley

since 1 July 2019
Viceregal
StyleHis Excellency the Honourable
StatusRepresentative of the Head of state
Commander in chief
ResidenceGovernment House (Canberra)
SeatCanberra
NominatorPrime Minister of Australia
AppointerMonarch of Australia
on the advice of the prime minister
Term lengthAt Her Majesty's pleasure
(usually 5 years by convention)
Formation1 January 1901
First holderThe Earl of Hopetoun

### Symbols

The official cars of the governor-general fly the Flag of the Governor-General of Australia and display St. Edward's Crown instead of number plates. A similar arrangement is used for the governors of the six states. When the Queen is in Australia, the Queen's Personal Australian Flag is flown on the car in which she is travelling.

### Transport

1970 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI limousine, the official car used on ceremonial occasions to transport the Governor-General of Australia and visiting heads of state.

The governor-general travels in a Rolls-Royce Phantom VI limousine for ceremonial occasions, such as the State Opening of Parliament. However, for official business, the current choice of car is an armoured BMW 7 Series.

During the Queen's 2011 visit to Australia, she and the Duke of Edinburgh were driven in a Range Rover Vogue.

### Official dress

At one time, governors-general wore the traditional court uniform, consisting of a dark navy wool double-breasted coatee with silver oak leaf and fern embroidery on the collar and cuffs trimmed with silver buttons embossed with the Royal Arms and with bullion edged epaulettes on the shoulders, dark navy trousers with a wide band of silver oak-leaf braid down the outside seam, silver sword belt with ceremonial sword, bicorne cocked hat with plume of ostrich feathers, black patent leather Wellington boots with spurs, etc., that is worn on ceremonial occasions. There is also a tropical version made of white tropical wool cut in a typical military fashion worn with a plumed helmet. However, that custom fell into disuse during the tenure of Sir Paul Hasluck. The governor-general now wears an ordinary lounge suit if a man or day dress if a woman.

Viscount De L'Isle, 15th governor-general of Australia (1961–65), in his court uniform

### Titles and honours

Governors-general have during their tenure the style His/Her Excellency the Honourable and their spouses have the style His/Her Excellency. Since May 2013, the style used by a former governor-general is the Honourable; it was at the same time retrospectively granted for life to all previous holders of the office.

From the creation of the Order of Australia in 1975, the governor-general was, ex officio, Chancellor and Principal Companion of the order, and therefore became entitled to the post-nominal AC. In 1976, the letters patent for the order were amended to introduce the rank of Knight and Dame to the order, and from that time the governor-general became, ex officio, the Chancellor and Principal Knight of the order. In 1986 the letters patent were amended again, and governors-general appointed from that time were again, ex officio, entitled to the post-nominal AC (although if they already held a knighthood in the order that superior rank was retained).

Until 1989, all governors-general were members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom and thus held the additional style The Right Honourable for life. The same individuals were also usually either peers, knights, or both (the only Australian peer to be appointed as governor-general was the Lord Casey; and Sir William McKell was knighted only in 1951, some years into his term, but he was entitled to the style "The Honourable" during his tenure as premier of New South Wales, an office he held until almost immediately before his appointment). In 1989, Bill Hayden, a republican, declined appointment to the British Privy Council and any imperial honours. From that time until 2014, governors-general did not receive automatic titles or honours, other than the post-nominal AC by virtue of being Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Australia. Dame Quentin Bryce was the first governor-general to have had no prior title or pre-nominal style. She was in office when, on 19 March 2014, the Queen, acting on the advice of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, amended the letters patent of the Order of Australia to provide, inter alia, that the governor-general would be, ex officio, Principal Knight or Principal Dame of the order. Until 2015, the honour continued after the retirement from office of the governor-general. Formerly, all governors-general had automatically became a knight upon being sworn in.

Spouses of governors-general have no official duties but carry out the role of a vice-regal consort. They are entitled to the courtesy style Her Excellency or His Excellency during the office-holder's term of office. Most spouses of governors-general have been content to be quietly supportive. Some, however, have been notable in their own right, such as Dame Alexandra Hasluck, Lady Casey and Michael Bryce.

## History

The letters patent issued by Queen Victoria in 1900 creating the office of governor-general

The office of "governor-general" was previously used in Australia in the mid-19th century. Sir Charles FitzRoy (Governor of New South Wales from 1846–1855) and Sir William Denison (Governor of New South Wales from 1855–1861) also carried the additional title of Governor-General because their jurisdiction extended to other colonies in Australia.

The office of governor-general for the Commonwealth of Australia was conceived during the debates and conventions leading up to federation. The first Governor-General, the Earl of Hopetoun, was a previous governor of Victoria. He was appointed in July 1900, returning to Australia shortly before the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901. After the initial confusion of the Hopetoun Blunder, he appointed the first prime minister of Australia, Edmund Barton, to a caretaker government, with the inaugural 1901 federal election not occurring until March.

Early governors-general were British and were appointed by the queen or king on the recommendation of the Colonial Office. The Australian Government was merely asked, as a matter of courtesy, whether they approved of the choice or not. Governors-general were expected to exercise a supervisory role over the Australian Government in the manner of a colonial governor. In a very real sense, they represented the British Government. They had the right to "reserve" legislation passed by the Parliament of Australia: in effect, to ask the Colonial Office in London for an opinion before giving the royal assent. They exercised this power several times. The monarch, acting upon advice of the British Government, could also disallow any Australian legislation up to a year after the governor-general had given it the assent; although this power has never been used. These powers remain in section 59 of the Constitution of Australia, but today are regarded as dead letters.

The early governors-general frequently sought advice on the exercise of their powers from judges of the High Court of Australia, Sir Samuel Griffith and Sir Edmund Barton.

During the 1920s, the importance of the position declined. As a result of decisions made at the 1926 Imperial Conference, the governor-general ceased to represent the British Government diplomatically, and the British right of supervision over Australian affairs was abolished. As the Balfour Declaration of 1926, later implemented as the Statute of Westminster 1931, put it:

It is desirable formally to place on record a definition of the position held by the Governor-General as His Majesty's representative in the Dominions. That position, though now generally well recognised, undoubtedly represents a development from an earlier stage when the Governor-General was appointed solely on the advice of His Majesty's Ministers in London and acted also as their representative. In our opinion it is an essential consequence of the equality of status existing among the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations that the Governor-General of a Dominion is the representative of the Crown, holding in all essential respects the same position in relation to the administration of public affairs in the Dominion as is held by His Majesty the King in Great Britain, and that he is not the representative or agent of His Majesty's Government in Great Britain or of any Department of that Government.

However, it remained unclear just whose prerogative it now became to decide who new governors-general would be. In 1930, King George V and the Australian Prime Minister James Scullin discussed the appointment of a new Governor-General to replace Lord Stonehaven, whose term was coming to an end. The King maintained that it was now his sole prerogative to choose a governor-general, and he wanted Field-Marshal Sir William Birdwood for the Australian post. Scullin recommended the Australian jurist Sir Isaac Isaacs, and he insisted that George V act on the advice of his Australian prime minister in this matter. Scullin was partially influenced by the precedent set by the Government of the Irish Free State, which always insisted upon having an Irishman as the governor-general of the Irish Free State.

The Earl of Hopetoun, the first governor-general, 1901–1903
Sir Isaac Isaacs, the first Australian-born governor-general, 1931–1936
Dame Quentin Bryce, the first female governor-general, 2008–2014

The King approved Scullin's choice, albeit with some displeasure. The usual wording of official announcements of this nature read "The King has been pleased to appoint ...", but on this occasion the announcement said merely "The King has appointed ...", and his private secretary (Lord Stamfordham) asked the Australian solicitor-general, Sir Robert Garran, to make sure that Scullin was aware of the exact wording. The opposition Nationalist Party of Australia denounced the appointment as "practically republican", but Scullin had set a precedent. The convention gradually became established throughout the Commonwealth that the Governor-General is a citizen of the country concerned, and is appointed on the advice of the government of that country.

In 1931, the transformation was concluded with the appointment of the first Australian governor-general, Isaacs, and the first British Representative in Australia, Ernest Crutchley. 1935 saw the appointment of the first British high commissioner to Australia, Geoffrey Whiskard (in office 1936–1941).

After Scullin's defeat in 1931, non-Labor governments continued to recommend British people for appointment as governor-general, but such appointments remained solely a matter between the Australian government and the monarch. In 1947, Labor appointed a second Australian Governor-General, William McKell, who was in office as the Labor premier of New South Wales. The then leader of the Opposition, Robert Menzies, called McKell's appointment "shocking and humiliating".

In 1965 the Menzies conservative government appointed an Australian, Lord Casey, and thereafter only Australians have held the position. Suggestions during the early 1980s that the Prince of Wales might become the governor-general came to nothing due to the prospective constitutional difficulty that might ensue if Prince Charles became king.[citation needed] In 2007 media outlets reported that Prince William might become governor-general of Australia. Both the prime minister, John Howard, and Clarence House repudiated the suggestion.

### Backgrounds of governors-general

All the governors-general until 1965 were British-born, except for Australian-born Sir Isaac Isaacs (1931–1936) and Sir William McKell (1947–1953). There have been only Australian occupants since then, although Sir Ninian Stephen (1982–1989) had been born in Britain. Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, was a senior member of the royal family. Dame Quentin Bryce (2008–2014) was the first woman to be appointed to the office. Sir Isaac Isaacs and Sir Zelman Cowen were Jewish; Bill Hayden was an avowed atheist during his term and he made an affirmation rather than swear an oath at the beginning of his commission; the remaining Governors-General have been at least nominally Christian.

Various governors-general had previously served as governors of an Australian state or colony: Lord Hopetoun (Victoria 1889–1895); Lord Tennyson (South Australia 1899–1902); Lord Gowrie (South Australia 1928–34; and New South Wales 1935–1936); Major General Michael Jeffery (Western Australia 1993–2000); Dame Quentin Bryce (Queensland 2003–2008); General David Hurley (New South Wales 2014 - 2019). Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson had been offered the governorship of South Australia in 1895 and of Victoria in 1910, but refused both appointments. Lord Northcote was Governor of Bombay. Lord Casey was Governor of Bengal in between his periods of service to the Australian Parliament.

Former leading politicians and members of the judiciary have figured prominently. Lord Dudley was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1902–1905). Lord Stonehaven (as John Baird) was Minister for Transport in the Cabinets of Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin; and after his return to Britain he became Chairman of the UK Conservative Party. Sir Isaac Isaacs was successively Commonwealth Attorney-General, a High Court judge, and Chief Justice. Sir William McKell was Premier of New South Wales. Lord Dunrossil (as William Morrison) was Speaker of the UK House of Commons. Lord De L'Isle was Secretary of State for Air in Winston Churchill's cabinet from 1951 to 1955. More recent governors-general in this category include Lord Casey, Sir Paul Hasluck, Sir John Kerr, Sir Ninian Stephen, Bill Hayden and Sir William Deane.

Of the eleven Australians appointed governor-general since 1965, Lord Casey, Sir Paul Hasluck and Bill Hayden were former federal parliamentarians; Sir John Kerr was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales; Sir Ninian Stephen and Sir William Deane were appointed from the bench of the High Court; Sir Zelman Cowen was a vice-chancellor of the University of Queensland and constitutional lawyer; Peter Hollingworth was the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane; and Major-General Michael Jeffery was a retired military officer and former Governor of Western Australia. Quentin Bryce's appointment was announced during her term as Governor of Queensland; she had previously been the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner. General David Hurley was a retired Chief of Defence Force and former Governor of New South Wales.

Significant post-retirement activities of earlier Governors-General have included: Lord Tennyson was appointed Deputy Governor of the Isle of Wight; Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson (by now Lord Novar) became Secretary of State for Scotland; and Lord Gowrie became Chairman of the Marylebone Cricket Club (Lord Forster had also held this post, before his appointment as governor-general).