The Governor-General is the representative of the Sovereign, appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Australian Prime Minister.
Powers and functions
The Governor-General exercises the executive power of the Commonwealth of Australia on the advice of the Prime Minister. Certain other powers and functions conferred by the Constitution include the powers to:
- appoint times for holding the sessions of the Parliament
- dissolve the House of Representatives
- dissolve the House of Representatives and the Senate in the event of a double dissolution
- cause writs to be issued for general elections of members of the House of Representatives
- assent in the Queen's name to a proposed law passed by both Houses of the Parliament
- appoint and summon executive councillors, who hold office during the Governor-General's pleasure
In addition, the Governor-General, as the Queen's representative, is Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces. Many Acts of the Commonwealth Parliament provide that the Governor-General may make Regulations to give effect to such Acts. The Governor-General may also be authorised by statute to issue proclamations, for example, to declare an Act in force. The Governor-General has been given power by statute to legislate for certain of the Australian territories.
In all such matters the Governor-General acts on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The Governor-General also possesses what are referred to as 'reserve powers'. These may be used without the advice of the Prime Minister, but are used only in times of political uncertainty.
The Constitution and the Letters Patent provide for the Queen to appoint an Administrator of the Commonwealth when the Governor-General is out of the country, ill or when the position of Governor-General is vacant. By convention, the longest-serving state governor is appointed as Administrator.
Holders of office
His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC (Retd) has been Governor-General since 11 August 2003.
Those persons who have held the office of Governor-General from the inception of the Commonwealth of Australia are pictured below.
- appoint ministers of state for the Commonwealth of Australia.
Rt Hon. John Adrian Louis,
Earl of Hopetoun,
P.C., K.T., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O.
Rt Hon. Hallam,
Rt Hon. Henry Stafford,
P.C., G.C.M.G., G.C.I.E., C.B.
Rt Hon. William Humble,
Earl of Dudley,
P.C., G.C.B., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O.
Rt Hon. Thomas,
P.C., G.C.M.G., K.C.V.O.
Rt Hon. Sir Ronald,
Rt Hon. Henry William,
Baron Forster of Lepe,
Rt Hon. John Lawrence,
P.C., G.C.M.G., D.S.O.
Rt Hon. Sir Isaac Alfred Isaacs,
G.C.B., G.C.M.G., K.C.
Brigadier-General the Rt Hon. Alexander Gore Arkwright,
V.C., P.C.,G.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O., K.G.St.J.
His Royal Highness Prince Henry William Frederick Albert, Duke of Gloucester,
K.G., P.C., K.T., K.P., G.C.B., G.C.M.G.,G.C.V.O.
Rt Hon. Sir William John McKell,
Slim, Field Marshal Sir William Joseph,
K.G., G.C.B., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., G.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., K.St.J.
Rt Hon. William Shepherd,
P.C., G.C.M.G., M.C., K.St.J., Q.C.
Rt Hon. William Phillip,
Viscount De Lisle,
V.C., P.C., G.C.M.G.,G.C.V.O., K.St.J.
Rt Hon. Richard Gardiner,
K.G., P.C., G.C.M.G., C.H., D.S.O., M.C., K.St.J.
Rt Hon. Sir Paul Hasluck,
G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., K.St.J.
Rt Hon. Sir John Robert Kerr,
A.K., G.C.M.G., K.St.J., Q.C.
Rt Hon. Sir Zelman Cowan,
A.K., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., K.St.J., Q.C.
Rt Hon. Sir Ninian Stephen,
A.K., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., K.B.E.
His Excellency, Hon. William
Sir William Patrick Deane,
His Excellency the Right Reverend Dr Peter John Hollingworth,
His Excellency, Major General
AC, CVO, MC (Retd)