Becoming a republic

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Republic question Referendum 1999

Electors were asked whether they approved of:

A proposed law: To alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament.

The Monarch and the Constitution

59. The Queen may disallow any law within one year from the Governor-General’s assent, and such disallowance on being made known by the Governor-General by speech or message to each of the Houses of the Parliament, or by Proclamation, shall annul the law from the day when the disallowance is so made known.

The Status of the GG

Sections 61 and 68 of the Constitution provide that the Governor-General exercises certain powers as the Queen’s representative. The limited form of this representation was explained in a 1988 Constitutional Commission report which concluded “the Governor-General is in no sense a delegate of the Queen. The independence of the office is highlighted by changes which have been made in recent years to the Royal instruments relating to it”.[6]

Although the Governor-General and the Queen occasionally observe certain formalities, in practice the Governor-General has constitutional responsibilities without reference to the Queen. In 1975, the Queen, through her Private Secretary, wrote that she “has no part in the decisions which the Governor-General must take in accordance with the Constitution”.

PM versus GG

As no Australian Governor-General has ever been dismissed, it is unclear how quickly the Queen would act on such advice. The constitutional crisis of 1975 prominently raised the possibility of the Prime Minister and the Governor-General attempting to dismiss each other at the same time.

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