The Governors

Admiral Arthur Phillip

Admiral Arthur Phillip

The  Governor of New South Wales is the oldest office in Australia. The Governor administered the colony under the law and in accordance with detailed instructions from London.

As the colonies received self-government mainly in the middle of the nineteenth century, the Governor’s functions receded to those of a local constitutional monarch, with the additional function of representing the Imperial British government.
The latter ended in 1926, but at the specific request of Australia, the Statute of Westminster, 1931, did not apply to the states.

This meant that in State matters, for example, the appointment of the Governor, the Sovereign would act on the formal advice of the British ministers, who almost always acted according to the wishes of the State government.

The only recorded case of disagreement between a Premier and the British ministers was the refusal to renew the appointment of Sir Colin Hannah as Governor of Queensland. He had criticised the Whitlam government in public and had thus entered the political debate. Governors should, of course, be above politics. The British view was that as long as the States wanted the British ministers to advise The Queen, they would do so in accordance with a constitutional convention. The arrangement whereby the Sovereign was formally advised on State matters lasted until 1986, not because of any wish by the British to remain involved in internal Australian affairs.

It continued because State governments of all parties trusted the British ministers more than they did the Federal government. As Australia voluntarily assumed this, it cannot be said that Australia was not independent. In a similar vein, the Canadian constitution could only be amended by the British Parliament until 1982. This was because the Canadians could not agree on an amending formula.

Finding a solution to the position of the Australian States, which was satisfactory to the Commonwealth, all of the States, the British government and The Queen, was not easy. Fortunately, The Queen played a significant role in finding such a solution, one which had eluded generations of Australian politicians.

Her Majesty agreed to a solution which is unique in the Commonwealth and applies to no other Realm, including Canada. This provides that on State matters, The Queen is to be advised by the relevant Premier. This arrangement ended in 1986 with the passing of the Australia Acts by the British and Australian Parliament. This story is related to an excellent book by Dr Anne Twomey, The Chameleon Crown: The Queen and Her Australian Governors, The Federation Press, Sydney, 2006, which Sir David Smith has reviewed.


Does the Act have a Governor?

Unlike the Australian States and the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly directly elects one of their number to be the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory as the head of the Government, rather than being appointed by a Governor or Administrator.

Who governs Canberra?

Canberra is not only the national capital but, as the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), it is a self-governing city-state of more than 300,000 citizens.

Does the Northern Territory have a Governor? No an Administrator

The Administrator of the Northern Territory is appointed by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

With a similar role to a State Governor, the Administrator represents the Crown in the right of the NT and has the power to administer the government through the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978.

SEE: This eight-part video series on The Governor of New South Wales shows the activities, role and function of our Governors :

Sir David Martin took office as Governor of New South Wales on 20th January 1989. Wishing  to explain the office of Governor to the Australian people and to make it accessible, he appeared in this educational video, which Thomas Flynn has divided into eight parts.

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Crowned Republic

A Crowned Republic is a form of government that features a monarch who serves as a symbolic, ceremonial leader with limited authority over matters related to the executive branch and constitutional issues. This type of system is exemplified by countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom, which are officially classified as constitutional monarchies. Additionally, the term can be applied to historical republics where the head of state held the title of "doge," such as those found in Venice, Genoa, and the Republic of San Marino. In these cases, the monarch's role was largely symbolic, with actual governance being carried out by elected officials or other government bodies. Overall, a crowned republic is a unique blend of monarchical and republican features in which the monarch's role is largely symbolic but still serves an important ceremonial function.
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