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Head of State

This diplomatic term was almost unknown in ordinary everyday English until the republican movement began to use it in the 1990’s to support their campaign for major constitutional change. In international law, the head of state is the person held out to be this by a government and who is recognized as such in other countries. The Governor-General is clearly such a head of state.

The term is also used to refer to the person who is the ultimate constitutional guardian. In 1907, the body which can give an authoritative interpretation on the constitution, the High Court of Australia, explained the situation in Australia. The High Court, consisting of five of our leading Founding Fathers, all of whom had been intimately involved in the process of Federation, gave a unanimous ruling. They declared that the Governor-General, who under section 61 of the Constitution exercises the executive power of the Commonwealth, is the constitutional head of the Commonwealth and the Governors are the constitutional heads of state.

Read More: Australia's Head of State Debate Resolved


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