August 28

The Governor-General and claims of a conflict of interest



To hear a report on the ABC’s AM on Wednesday 25 August concerning the claim that the governor-General has a conflict of interest because of her daughter's marriage to Bill Shorten, a parliamentary secretary, is at least premature and probably cannot be sustained, click here 


But because this has been raised, the Governor-General, quite correctly, sought legal advice on the claim.


When and if she comes to act under the discretionary powers of the Australian Crown – the reserve powers – she will no doubt act in accordance with that advice.


On this, I found myself in agreement with my republican colleagues, Professor Greg Craven and Professor George Williams. We all agree that there was no conflict of interest.

…Solicitor-General’s advice….

Now according to a report by  Nicola Berkovic in The Australian  (27/8) the
Solicitor-General for the Commonwealth, Stephen Gageler,  says it is unnecessary for the Governor-General to stand aside. He has also cleared her to discharge her duties to resolve a constitutional crisis if the need arises.

“My advice to Her Excellency is that the marriage of her daughter to Mr Shorten gives rise to no constitutional or other legal impediment to the proper discharge of her functions of office,” Mr Gageler says.

Mr Gageler notes that it would only be in extraordinary circumstances that Ms Bryce would be called on to use her own judgment to resolve a crisis in relation to the formation of the next government. But the possibility of extraordinary circumstances arising in the “current state of uncertainty” cannot be excluded.

Recalling that several former governors-general have had prior political careers or personal relationships with members of parliament, he says that in his opinion, “the existence of connections and relationships of that kind can give rise to no disqualification from holding the office nor to any legal impediment to the performance of the functions of the office.”

“Where they exist, connections and relationships of that kind must be recognised as realities. They fall to be managed as a matter of prudence, not of legal obligation or legal impediment.”




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