In what instance in the past has the Governor-General used his powers?
As the Queen’s representative in Australia, the Governor-General has 2 types of power; executive power and reserve power. The Governor-General regularly exercises – uses – their executive powers but rarely exercises their reserve powers.
The Australian Constitution gives the Governor-General executive power. This power includes giving Royal Assent to laws passed by the Australian Parliament and starting the process for a federal election. The Governor-General exercises these powers on the advice of the Prime Minister and ministers, who have day-to-day responsibility for governing Australia.
The Governor-General’s reserve powers are not included in the Constitution. They come from the authority of the Queen, who the Governor-General represents. The only guide to these powers is convention – tradition. This means the exact nature and scope of these powers is arguable.
The Governor-General’s reserve powers are generally agreed to include:
- The power to appoint a Prime Minister if an election has not resulted in a clear outcome.
- The power to dismiss a Prime Minister if they have lost the support of the majority of members of the House of Representatives.
- The power to refuse a request for a double dissolution.
- The power to dismiss a Prime Minister or minister if he or she breaks the law.
- The power to refuse a request from a Prime Minister to call an election.
The use of reserve powers by governors-general is rare. In fact, they have only been used a handful of times. An example is in 1909 when Governor-General William Humble Ward refused to agree to an election after the government lost the support of the majority of the House of Representatives. Instead, he commissioned Alfred Deakin as Prime Minister and asked him to form a coalition government (the Fusion Government).
The Governor-General delivers his opening of Parliament address.
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