The Queen is the Australian Head of State, not the Governor General

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Despite any misinformation you may have heard to the contrary, the Queen is the Australian Head of State, writes managing editor David Donovan.

Most Australians will have heard republicans talk about the need to have an Australian as our Head of State, not a foreign monarch.

Unfortunately, when Republicans call for an Australian citizen to be our Head of State, some monarchists – usually the ones from the group Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM) – assert that, actually, the Governor-General is our Head of State. But then spokespersons for the other main monarchist group in Australia – the Australian Monarchist League (AML) – insist that Elizabeth Windsor is really our Head of State. In fact, the two groups disagree so violently over this issue that they refuse to even talk to each other.

It is a confusing state of affairs.

Constitutional experts continue to line up to support both options, though by far the majority support the ARM’s (and the AML’s) position that the Head of State is the Queen. In any case, most Australians don’t read the erudite opinions of experts and find the whole discussion pretty bland.

So, what’s the story?

The Australian Constitution, in Sections 2, 60, 61 and 68, makes it explicitly clear that the Governor General is the “Queens representative in Australia”. Remember how the Constitution ain’t broke? The monarchists can’t have it both ways.

If you don’t read the Constitution often, have a look at page 2 of your passport. It clearly states that the Governor-General is “the representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second”. Can’t get much clearer than that! Why keep mentioning the Queen if the Governor-General is the head honcho? It doesn’t make sense.

If you want more proof, take a look at the Australian Government website. The DFAT protocols (15.1 - Head of State and Governor-General) state very clearly:

“Australia's Head of State is the Queen of Australia, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Under the Australian Constitution, the executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercised by the Governor-General as the Queen's representative. The Governor-General is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister of Australia. The Prime Minister is Head of Government.”

The truth is, the Governor-General acts as a sort of de facto Head of State because the monarch – whom we share with about 15 other countries – lives and spends almost all of her time in Britain, and hardly any in Australia. The Governor-General’s job is to represents this borrowed foreign monarch in her absence –– not us the Australian people. It is important to remember that the Governor-General’s power comes from the Queen, not from the Australian people. That makes the incumbent member of the aristocratic, Church of England, English-German, Windsor family our Head of State —whether we want that or not. This is a matter about which we have no say — except by becoming a Republic, of course.

Anyway, if you are sick of arguing the semantics and definitions of ‘Head of State’, think of it this way. Whatever it is our borrowed monarch does, we don’t want or need her to do it anymore. We have more than enough suitable Australians to fill the top job, and the Australian who does will be able to represent us unambiguously to the world and not also be representing other nations.

Australia needs an Australian to be its Head of State.

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