September 15

The Queen of Australia approves extension of term of NSW Governor

The term of the popular Governor of New South Wales, Professor Marie Bashir, has, on the advice of the Premier of New South Wales, the Honourable Barry O'Farrell, been extended by Her Majesty The Queen of Australia, Queen Elizabeth II until February 2014.

Under section 7 (5) of the Australia Act, 1986:   "The advice to Her Majesty in relation to the exercise of the powers and functions of Her Majesty in respect of a State shall be tendered by the Premier of the State"


This uniquely Australian arrangenent ensures that the Australian states are in no way beholden to the federal government in relation to the appointment of their Governors. It was a fear of the potential for federal politicians to  exercise improper control of states which ensured the Australian states were not included within the purview of the Statute of Westminster 1931 which was formally adopted in Australia in 1942.

As a result of this, appointment of the governors of the Australian states were made normally in accordance with the choice of the state premiers but formally by the Queen of the United Kingdom acting on the advice of her British ministers. 

It should be stressed that this anomaly continued until 1986 not because of any wish by the British to retain control over the Australian states, but because of the express wish of the Australian government acting because of the concerns of the Australian states. This is very well described in Ann Twomey's excellent book, The Chameleon Crown, reviewed by Sir David Smith here.

The ministerial statement delivered to the Parliament of New South Wales on 14 September , 2011 by the Premier The Honourable Barry O'Farrell follows together with the supporting statement by the leader of Her Majesty's New South Wales Loyal Oopposition, the Honourable John Robertson follow.



…Ministerial Statement….

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai—Premier, and Minister for Western Sydney) [2.19 p.m.]: I inform the House that Professor Marie Bashir has agreed to continue as Governor of New South Wales for a further two years. Her Majesty, The Queen of Australia, has approved my request for Professor Bashir's term as Governor to be extended until February 2014. Professor Bashir is the State's thirty-seventh Governor and she follows in a line that extends from Arthur Phillip's arrival on these shores 223 years ago. She, of course, was the first woman appointed to an office that has had so few firsts: in 1913, the first and only Catholic was appointed Governor; in 1946, the first Australian-born person was appointed, a tradition that thankfully has continued; and 1996 saw the first person of the Jewish faith appointed to the office.

(Continued below)


This extension means that Professor Bashir will become one of only three people to have served in the vice-regal post for more than 10 years, the others being Sir Roden Cutler for 15 years, and Professor Bashir's beloved Lachlan Macquarie, who served for 11 years and 11 months. I know that people across the State will be delighted that Professor Bashir has agreed to continue in the role. It is often trite to say that someone is loved, but when it comes to Marie Bashir it is a statement of fact. Over the past 10 years the Governor's caring nature, her genuine interest in local communities and her extraordinary work rate have endeared her to people everywhere.

Professor Bashir's commitment to the role is best demonstrated by her entry in Who's Who, where she lists the following as her recreations: Indigenous health, medical education and training; innovative health service delivery via new technologies; Australian social, economic and political history; contemporary Australian art; Aboriginal art; and classical music. The Governor inspires all those she meets, whether they be student leaders attending leadership functions that she hosts annually at Government House, members of so many Indigenous or ethnic groups or communities that she endlessly visits, or those business leaders or heads of state who come to New South Wales.

Professor Bashir's best qualities are perhaps summed up as an unshakeable belief in the inherent decency of people—she believes in those "better angels" that exist within all of us—and a strong conviction that hard work will deliver results, something she demonstrates daily in her own life. Because of her diverse background, career and interests, Professor Bashir has given a historic and important post a contemporary relevance and resonance.

Australians have an innately tuned radar for the detection of artifice. The leaders we most admire are those who genuinely believe that the office they discharge is not about them but about the people the office is to serve. This is why the woman who commands an international reputation in medical science and academia reaches people as strongly through these accomplishments as she does through the uncontrived fruits of her background and childhood—the humility, practicality and hard work no doubt instilled by her parents in her early life in Narrandera. The values of personal responsibility and of making the most of one's gifts in the service of others are reflected in a thousand stories across our State about how the unpretentiousness of our Governor in action sustains this most distinctive character of her office.

On behalf of the Government and the people of New South Wales, I thank Professor Bashir for agreeing to this extension of her term. I also thank her partner, Sir Nicholas Shehadie, for his support.

Our State is very fortunate to have two such fine Australians as its vice-regal couple. When Professor Bashir was appointed in 2001, I said in this House that I hoped a Liberal-Nationals Government would have had the wisdom and foresight to have made the appointment that Bob Carr did, and I expressed my confidence that she would serve the community with distinction.

It was a confidence clearly proven correct, and I am delighted to have had the opportunity today to appoint Professor Bashir to serve as the State's Governor for a further two years.

Mr JOHN ROBERTSON (Blacktown—Leader of the Opposition) [2.23 p.m.]: I begin by saying what a wise decision of the Premier to reappoint Professor Marie Bashir as Governor of New South Wales. Her Excellency has made a great contribution to the State over many years and brings a great deal of passion and commitment to her role.

As the Premier rightly points out, Her Excellency displays leadership and encourages all people to do as well as they can. In the brief moments one might be privileged to spend with her—as I did at Executive Council meetings on quite a number of occasions—one can learn so much in such a short time. Her Excellency is inspirational.

As the Premier said, the appointment by Bob Carr of Professor Bashir in 2001 was welcomed by all members of the Parliament. The Sydney Morning Herald editorial at that time described the appointment as an inspirational choice, stating that Professor Bashir would be a powerful advocate for the powerless.

As Governor, Professor Bashir has indeed been an effective and strong advocate, and in doing so she has never been partial in her approach. That is to her great credit and evidence of the efficiency with which she carries out her role.

I am sure her upbringing in Narrandera has contributed greatly to the skills and tenacity that she brings to her role. The Bashir family is well known in Narrandera. I have had the opportunity to meet many members of the family, some of whom still live in Narrandera. I know some members of the family personally. The Bashir family has worked very hard and has contributed greatly to the local Narrandera community, and Professor Bashir in her capacity as Governor has made a significant contribution to the State.

I too acknowledge Professor Bashir's husband, Sir Nicholas Shehadie, who contributes greatly to the role played by the Governor. They are a team; they go to many places together.

The active participation of Sir Nicholas in so many of the activities undertaken by the Governor is a great tribute to both of them. On behalf of the Opposition I also welcome the appointment and congratulate the Governor on the extension that has been offered to her.


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