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Winning Entries to the 2002 Essay Competition

Winning Essays:

2002 Division 1 (16 - 18 years) Winner

David Webster Oakey State High School

"The Roles of the Queen and the Governor-General in Australia"

'ELIZABETH THE SECOND, by the Grace of God Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth,
WHEREAS by the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, certain powers, functions and authorities are vested in a Governor-General appointed by the Queen to be Her Majesty's representative in the Commonwealth:

So begins the 1984 'Letters Patent Relating to the Office of Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia'. What are the '…certain powers, functions and authorities…' exercised by the Governor-General, and what are those of the Queen herself? This question is the subject of widespread debate and there are many misconceptions regarding these roles. It must be remembered that the term 'Head of State' does not appear within the Australian Constitution. The roles of the Queen and the Governor-General within Australia today can be categorised into two types, these being constitutional and traditional functions.

In Section I of the Constitution, the Queen is specified as being the highest level of Government within Australia. The position of Governor-General is introduced and defined in Section 2 as being Her Majesty's representative within Australia. The first mention of his role comes in Section 5, which states that he may appoint the times for sessions of Parliament, along with having the power to prorogue or dissolve it. In Sections 32 and 33, the Governor-General is given the authority to issue writs for general elections or for by-elections. Section 57 sets down the guidelines for dissolution of Parliament due to disagreement between the Houses, and Section 58 contains the Governor-General's principal legislative authority: to assent to or withhold assent from a law in the Queen's name, or to 'reserve the law for the Queen's pleasure', along with making recommendations for amendments to a proposed law. Alterations to the Constitution, following a successful referendum, shall also be presented to the Governor-General for the Queen's assent. Section 59 deals with the Queen's power to overrule the Governor-General or to disallow and annul any law he may assent to. Under Section 61,'The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the Queen's representative'. The creation of the Federal Executive Council and the way in which the Governor-General acts on its advice is dealt with in Sections 62 and 63, while Ministers of State are named as the Councillors in Section 64. Sections 64, 65, 67 and 72 deal with the appointment of Ministers of State, Civil Servants and Justices of the High Court by the Governor-General. Section 68 names the Governor-General as the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force and Section 126 gives the Governor-General the power to appoint deputies if authorised by the Queen.

Looking at the Constitution, it is evident that the Queen herself exercises almost no Constitutional powers, as although she is vested of executive authority, the powers are exercised by the Governor-General as her representative, making him the effective, although not titular, head of state. In practice, the Queen cannot do anything within Australia, nor even visit the nation, without an invitation from the Prime Minister. Also, the appointment of the Governor-General by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister is little more than a formal acknowledgement of the 'recommendation'.

The overall aim of the Governor-General's position is summed up in Webster's Encyclopaedia of Australia as:
'The role of the Governor-general is to ensure that there is a government in being, guaranteed of support in the House of Representatives, and able to have necessary financial legislation passed by both Houses. The Governor-General may exercise the powers of appointment or dissolution to bring about this condition, if necessary without the advice of the Prime Minister.'

Most of the Governor-General's constitutional actions are made on the advice of the Federal Executive Council, such as appointments to official positions and issuing writs and other proclamations. As the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Forces, the Governor-General plays a purely ceremonial role, acting solely on the advice of the Ministry, appointing the Chief of the Defence Force and the Chiefs of the three armed services, officially issuing commissions to officers and reviewing parades. A non-constitutional duty which is performed on the advice of the Federal Executive Council is the exercising of the prerogative of mercy in the Queen's name.

Along with his constitutional duties, the Governor-General also performs a number of ceremonial duties. Some of these are to open new sessions of the Federal Parliament, to receive the credentials of foreign Ambassadors and High Commissioners to Australia, to conduct investiture ceremonies for awards within the Australian Honours System. The 'unwritten' role of the Governor-General has evolved over the years to also be representative, visiting communities around Australia, receiving and formally entertaining many Australians and representatives of organizations active in the life of the community, accepting patronage of various organizations, partly as a sign of their value within the community, and overall to embody and promote Australian values and beliefs.

The roles of the Queen and the Governor-General are overall intended to be points around which Australians can unite as a nation and as a people. It is obvious that although the roles of the Queen and the Governor-General are relatively small, they, especially the Governor-General, are intrinsic positions within Australian Government, if nothing else, as nonpolitical 'watchdogs' and guardians of the Constitution.

Australia (2001) In Microsoft Encarta (CD ROM) Microsoft Corporation: New York
Australian Electoral Commission (1999) Yes/No - Referendum '99
The Governor-General's Role and The 1984 Letters Patent (online) (8 Aug. 2002)
The role of the Governor-General (online) (18 Aug. 2002)
Webster's Encyclopaedia of Australia (1997) (CD-ROM) Webster Publishing.
Webster's Federation of a Nation (1998) (CD ROM) Webster Publishing.

2002 Division 2 (11 - 15 years) Winner

Brent McIvor Harristown State High School

"Major achievements during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II"

Queen Elizabeth II this year celebrates her 50th year as the Queen of Australia and many other countries in the Commonwealth. She is only the fifth monarch to have achieved this milestone. The following is a review of some of the major achievements during her reign.

The Queen's reign began on Wednesday, 6 February 1952, when her father, King George VI, died after several years of ill health. The 25 year-old Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya with The Duke of Edinburgh on a Commonwealth tour they had just begun. Elizabeth flew home that day and, although she technically became Queen as soon as her father died, she wasn't officially announced Queen until her coronation a few months later.

During her second decade of reign, there were several firsts. In 1962 the Queen opened a new gallery at Buckingham Palace that displayed items from the Royal Collection. This new gallery occupied the space of the Palace's bomb damaged private chapel and was the first time that parts of the Palace were open to the general public. This gallery proved very popular. While she was visiting Australia and New Zealand in 1970, the Queen introduced a new practice - the "walkabout" - to allow them to meet as many people as possible. During this period she became the first monarch to visit West Germany since World War II.

Her third decade of reign from 1972-1981 saw Her Majesty celebrate twenty-five years as Sovereign in 1977 with "The Silver Jubilee" nationwide tour and many Commonwealth visits. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh travelled a total of 89600km visiting many parts of the UK and Commonwealth to mark the occasion. It also saw several firsts on the international stage. These included a visit to communist Yugoslavia in 1972, travelling to Japan as the guest of Emperor Hirohito in 1975 and she officially opened the "Queen Elizabeth II stadium" (Q.E.2) in Brisbane on a rainy 10th March 1977. In 1979 she was the first British Sovereign to visit the Middle East, and she visited Pope John Paul II in the Vatican in 1980.

The decade 1982-1991 saw the Queen and Prince Phillip travel to many parts of the world. She opened the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in 1982, at the "QE2" stadium (now the "ANZ" stadium). These games were famous for "Matilda", a giant winking kangaroo statue who now resides at "Wet and Wild Waterpark". Ties with the rest of the Commonwealth were reinforced with visits to Australia, Canada, the Caribbean and New Zealand. A visit by her to China was marked down in the record books as the first time a British monarch had visited the country. She also visited Australia again as part of the celebrations for Australia's bicentenary year in 1988. In 1990 Her Majesty led the commemoration of an event in the Second World War - the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

In the course of her fifth decade of reign 1992-2002, the Queen has taken part in yet more celebrations. She led celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe in 1995, the arrival of the new Millennium, the 100th birthday of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. In this, her 50th year of Sovereign reign there is expected to be many public events and visits by the Queen and Prince Phillip, throughout the UK and Commonwealth. During her time as Queen she has met more of her subjects and undertaken more official duties than any of her predecessors. With this in mind, this milestone is well worth celebrating.

Bibliography 06/country_06.htm [Accessed 6 August 2002] point/1774990.stm [Accessed 6 August 2002] [Accessed 6 August 2002] [Accessed 11 July 2002]

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