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The Role of a State Governor (p1 of 5)

1988 Endowed Lecture Of The Royal Australian Institute Of Public Administration Queensland Division.
Delivered on March 22nd 1988 by His Excellency the Hon. Sir Walter Campbell, AC, QC Governor of Queensland and Patron of the Queensland Division of the Royal Australian Institute of Public Administration

Our system of government is what is known as a constitutional monarchy: the Queen is the head of state and is represented in the Commonwealth by the Governor-General and in each of the States by the Governor of the particular State. The institutions of the Crown, of parliamentary supremacy and of responsible government have been inherited from the United Kingdom, and The Queensland Constitution Acts 1867 - 1978 (referred to herein as the Constitution Act (s.2A(2)) specifically recognizes that the Parliament of Queensland consists of the Queen and the Legislative Assembly, this State being the only state in the Commonwealth having a unicameral legislature. Of course, the Queen's participation in legislation of the State is purely formal and her powers are exercised by the Governor.

Over the last couple of years there have been enacted some important statutes which bear upon the office of a state Governor, and this calls for a brief historical account. But I hasten to add that such recent legislation has, by virtue of earlier constitutional developments, made only minor changes to the role played by a Governor.

The office of the first Governor of the colony of Queensland was created by Letters Patent issued by Queen Victoria on 6th June 1859 whereby Sir George Bowen was appointed as the first Governor of the new colony of Queensland. However, when I took up my appointment as Governor in July 1985 the office of Governor of the State of Queensland was constituted under Letters Patent passed under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom, dated 10th June 1925, and the manner in which the Governor should exercise his office was prescribed in many respects by the provision of such Letters Patent and by the Royal Instructions to the Governor of the same date.

On 16th October 1985 the Australia Acts (Request) Act 1985, having been duly passed by the Legislative Assembly, was assented to, and similar Acts were passed by the parliaments of all the other states. Following upon the passage of these several State Request Acts the Commonwealth Parliament enacted the Australia Act 1986 and also the Australia (Request and Consent) Act 1986. Then the Parliament at Westminster passed the Australia Act 1986. Both the Commonwealth and the British Australia Acts, which came into force on 3rd March 1986, were in substantially identical terms and constituted legislation to enable certain constitutional arrangements affecting the Commonwealth and the states to be brought into conformity with the status of the Commonwealth of Australia as a sovereign, independent and federal nation.

The Australia Acts, so far as they relate to the functions of State Governors, provide (s.7) that the Queen's representative in each state shall be the Governor; that all powers and functions of the Queen in respect of a state are exercisable only by the Governor of the state, subject to this not applying in relation to the power to appoint and to terminate the appointment of a Governor, and subject also to not precluding the Queen, while personally present in a state, from exercising any of her powers and functions in respect of the state. The Acts also expressly set out (s.7(5)) that the advice to the Queen in relation to the exercise of the Queen's powers and functions in respect of a state shall be tendered by the State Premier. The Acts (s.8) stipulate that an Act of the parliament assented to by the Governor shall not be subject to disallowance by the Queen nor shall its operation be suspended pending Her Majesty's pleasure. Further, they provide that no law or instrument shall be of any effect insofar as it purports to require the Governor to withhold assent from any Bill for an Act that has been passed in such manner or form as may be required by a law made by parliament (s.9(1)), nor shall a law or instrument be of any effect insofar as it purports to require the reservation of any Bill for an Act for Her Majesty's pleasure (s.9(2)). Prior to the Australia Acts the Governor was required, by the terms of the Royal Instructions issued to him and by the provisions of an imperial Act, the Australian States Constitution Act, 1907, to reserve certain classes of Bills for Her Majesty's pleasure. The Australia Acts also expressly declare that the United Kingdom Government shall have no responsibility for the government of any state (s.10). I mention that the Constitution Act, as amended in 1977, also provides that the Queen's representative in Queensland is the Governor who shall hold office during Her Majesty's pleasure.

Of course, for more than sixty years, the Monarch would not have contemplated negating the will of a duly elected parliament of a state, and for a long time the U.K. Government has discharged no independent responsibility for the government of a state. These matters of historical constitutional development have now been formally recognized by the recent legislation.


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Resource: Printed: 2023-12-08
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