September 2

Test for the G-G is “What would The Queen do?” – declares leading republican.

Paul Kelly has advised the Governor-General on how to exercise her role in the formation of the next government and on whether to grant an election ( “Many pitfalls for the G-G to avoid”, The Australian 1 September).

For such a republican, his test on what viceroys should do is instructive, and for constitutional monarchists, comforting.

His test is: what would The Queen do? Why he is a republican is not apparent.

How often has ACM advised viceroys to adopt this test, especially those few who undermine their allegiance to the Crown by going on about a politicians’ republic? As we pointed out here, Richard Butler even “verballed” The Queen on the 7.30 Report in 2003.

The best policy is this:” If you are in doubt, Your Excellency, just ask yourself what would The Queen do.”

..very early election doubtful…


Mr. Kelly  is correct  in saying that a very early election is doubtful, especially if  Ms. Gillard were to lose the confidence of the House.

He is also correct in saying that the situation in the Senate is irrelevant to the Governor-General’s considerations, but not necessarily to the independents.

Then he says the numbers in the Senate cannot decide whether Ms. Gillard or Mr. Abbott has the confidence of the lower house, which is correct.

Curiously, he cannot resist returning to his bête noire, the “wrongful” dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975.

So he gratuitously adds these words, “despite (Chief Justice Sir) Garfield Barwick's wrong opinion on this issue in 1975.”

…Chief Justice’s 1975 advice….

Sir Garfield was advising on a refusal to grant supply. Notwithstanding suggestions that Gough Whitlam and Governor-General Sir John Kerr should have ignored the Senate’s refusal, no one seriously doubts that the government could not have continued.

The only arguments were first, whether the Senate might succumb under the pressure. It was suggested some Coalition Senators might cross the floor. As far as I know this has never been confirmed.


The other argument was the timing. Sir David Smith points out that it was Mr Whitlam who triggered his dismissal on 11 November.

This was by his advice that morning to call a half Senate election. Even if the States had agreed, any new state Senators would not have taken office until 1 July 1976. He forced the Governor-General’s hand.

The point is that had the Senate and Mr. Whitlam refused to compromise in the next few days or even weeks, Mr. Whitlam’s commission would have had to be withdrawn.

No government can constitutionally continue without a grant of supply, and that is the point Sir Garfield was making.

…Calling in the independents…

Mr. Kelly also says the Governor-General has no role at any time in calling in the independents to test their intentions. That would surprise many viceroys.  

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He says the examples of viceroys doing this discussed by Dr Anne Twomey were wrong.

That cannot be so. There are many precedents for this.

In addition to those cited by Dr. Twomey and those mentioned here, I was reminded that in 1935, when the Country Party withdrew from the Victorian UAP Coalition, the Australian born Victorian Governor Lord Huntingfield called in the Labor Leader Thomas Tunnecliffe for an assurance that Labor would support a Country Party minority government.
 A viceroy has a wide discretion in the exercise of the prerogative, which is to grant a commission to form a government.

Mr. Kelly may question the wisdom of doing this in a particular case; it is not unconstitutional.


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