May 10

Governors-desgnate making political comments: Sir David Smith’s views

No one in Australia would be better able to speak on the role, function and practice of the Governor- General or the Governors than Sir David Smith.
Sir David has sent us the following letter setting out his considered opinion on the extraordinary practice of governors-designate entering the political and constitutional debate concerning Australia becoming a republic.  Sir David writes: 
“Apropos your newsletter reference to vice-regal republicans, it seems that the practice of newly-appointed vice-regal office holders making inappropriate comments at the start of their terms of office as the Queen’s representatives is really catching on.
It began with Sir William Deane’s appointment in February 1996, when it was announced that he would serve only until 1 January 2001 when it was expected that the first republican president would take office.  This was a most inappropriate and arrogant assumption of a decision yet to be made by the Australian people.
Last year ­ on the Queen¹s birthday weekend no less ­ Victoria’s recently-appointed Governor disgraced himself and his office by giving a newspaper interview in which his remarks about the Queen were lacking in propriety, and his remarks about the 1999 referendum were simply not true, showing an abysmal lack of knowledge of what actually happened that year.  And now, as you have reminded us, the Governor-designate of South Australia seems to have followed suit, with his comments about a coming republic.  So far as I am concerned, those who take the Queen’s shilling have a moral, and a constitutional, duty to keep their republican tendencies to themselves until they are off the public pay-roll.  The system of government that pays them and supports their life-style, and of which their high office is a vital part, is still a constitutional monarchy.
I have no doubt that a monarchist Governor or Governor-General who spoke out in support of the present system would quickly be told by the media and others that his remarks were inappropriate, yet the same stricture seems not to apply to republican Governors and Governors-General.
Incidentally, it is incorrect to describe the  former Governor-General, Mr. Bill Hayden,as having been a "fierce republican".  As I reported in my book Head of State at page 48, the critic who had described him as a republican, when challenged, could not produce any evidence whatsoever to support the allegation.
Yours sincerely, etc”
Sir  David has also written to us about the NSW Parliament again being opened by Ministerial Commission and not by the State Governor.  He rightly refers to this as “a despicable way to treat the office, the  incumbent and the Parliament.”

 

 

 

 


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