Royal commission (Redirected from Royal Commission)

A royal commission is a major ad-hoc formal public inquiry into a defined issue in some monarchies. They have been held in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Malaysia, Mauritius and Saudi Arabia. In republics an equivalent entity may be termed a commission of inquiry.

Such an inquiry has considerable powers, typically equivalent or greater than those of a judge but restricted to the terms of reference for which it was created. These powers may include subpoenaing witnesses, taking evidence under oath and requesting documents.

The commission is created by the head of state (the sovereign, or their representative in the form of a governor-general or governor) on the advice of the government and formally appointed by letters patent. In practice—unlike lesser forms of inquiry—once a commission has started the government cannot stop it. Consequently, governments are usually very careful about framing the terms of reference and generally include in them a date by which the commission must finish.

Royal commissions are called to look into matters of great importance and usually controversy. These can be matters such as government structure, the treatment of minorities, events of considerable public concern or economic questions. Many royal commissions last many years and, often, a different government is left to respond to the findings.

Notable royal commissions


Royal commissions (sometimes called commissions of inquiry) have been held in Australia at a federal level since 1902. Royal commissions appointed by the governor-general operate under the Royal Commissions Act 1902 passed by the Parliament of Australia in 1902.

Royal commissions are the highest form of inquiry on matters of public importance. A royal commission is formally established by the governor-general on behalf of the Crown and on the advice of government ministers. The government decides the terms of reference, provides the funding and appoints the commissioners, who are selected on the basis of their independence and qualifications. They are never serving politicians.

Royal commissions are usually chaired by one or more notable figures. Because of their quasi-judicial powers the commissioners are often retired or serving judges. They usually involve research into an issue, consultations with experts both within and outside government and public consultations as well. The warrant may grant immense investigatory powers, including summoning witnesses under oath, offering of indemnities, seizing of documents and other evidence (sometimes including those normally protected, such as classified information), holding hearings in camera if necessary and—in a few cases—compelling all government officials to aid in the execution of the commission. The results of royal commissions are published in reports, often massive, of findings containing policy recommendations.

Due to the verbose nature of the titles of these formal documents they are commonly known by the name of the commission's chair. For example, the “Royal Commission into whether there has been corrupt or criminal conduct by any Western Australian Police Officer” is known as the Kennedy Royal Commission.

While these reports are often quite influential, with the government enacting some or all recommendations into law, the work of some commissions have been almost completely ignored by the government. In other cases, where the commissioner has departed from the Warranted terms, the commission has been dissolved by a superior court.


New South Wales


South Australia

  • Commission appointed by the Governor-in-Chief to inquire into the loss of the "Admella" (1859)
  • Royal Commission in regard to Rupert Max Stuart (1959)
  • Splatt Royal Commission (1983–1984)
  • Hindmarsh Island Royal Commission (1995) investigating the legal and political controversy that involved the clash of Indigenous Australian religious beliefs and property rights regarding the construction of a bridge to Hindmarsh Island
  • Kapunda Road Royal Commission (2005) investigating the circumstances of the hit and run death of Ian Humphrey and those of the trial and conviction of Eugene McGee
  • Child Protection Systems Royal Commission (2014–2016) investigating the effectiveness of the child protection systems that are currently in place
  • Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (2015) investigating opportunities and risks for South Australia
  • Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission (2018–2019) investigating the operations and effectiveness of the Murray-Darling Basin system


Western Australia

Northern Territory


  • Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking and Government Corruption (November 1983 – December 1984) (formerly The Commission of Inquiry Appointed to Inquire Into the Illegal Use of the Bahamas for the Transshipment of Dangerous Drugs Destined for the United States of America) A three-person Commission of Inquiry was appointed after US-television reports alleged the government was taking bribes from drug traffickers to look the other way as drugs flowed through the Bahamas bound for the United States.




Hong Kong

  • Commission of Inquiry into the Construction Works at and near the Hung Hom Station Extension under the Shatin to Central Link Project (2019–2020)
  • Commission of Inquiry into Excess Lead Found in Drinking Water (2015–2016)
  • Commission of Inquiry into the Collision of Vessels near Lamma Island (2012)
  • Commission of Inquiry on Allegations relating to the Hong Kong Institute of Education (2007)
  • Commission of Inquiry on the New Airport (1998–1999)
  • Commission of Inquiry into the Garley Building Fire (1996–1997)



  • Royal Commission on Slave Trade: Commissioners of Eastern Inquiry, Mauritius (1826–1828)
  • Fever Inquiry Commission in Mauritius (1866–1868)
  • Commission of Enquiry on living conditions of Indentured Coolies in Mauritius (1872–1874)
  • Commission of Enquiry into Unrest on Sugar Estates (Hooper Commission, 1937)
  • Commission of Enquiry into Disturbances in the North of Mauritius (Moody Commission, 1943)
  • Trustram-Eve Electoral Boundaries Commission (1957–1958)
  • Commission of Inquiry Sugar Industry by Balogh & Bennett (1962)
  • Banwell Commission on the Electoral System of Mauritius (1966)
  • Commission of Inquiry in corruption with Ministry of Social Security and Ministry of Cooperatives (1978–1979)
  • Commission of Enquiry on the Sugar Industry (1984)
  • Commission of Enquiry on Drugs (1986–1987)
  • Margo Commission of Enquiry on crash of South African Airways Flight 295 (1987)
  • Truth and Justice Commission on the lasting impact of slavery and indentured labour (2009–2011)
  • Commission of Inquiry on Horse Racing in Mauritius (2014–2016)
  • Commission of Enquiry on Drug Trafficking (2015–2018)
  • Commission of Inquiry on the sale of Britam and BAI (2017–ongoing)
  • Commission of Inquiry on violation of the Constitution and other laws by former President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim (2018–ongoing)


New Zealand

United Kingdom

See also

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