14 April 2008

The last Governor-General?

Ms Quentin Bryce AM will be the next Governor - General of Australia. She is exceptionally well-qualified for the job, in fact for many jobs.

Whether she will be the last Governor-General is a question which many have already asked. The tide of opinion in favour of a republic is certainly flowing strongly, even if we judge this only by the lack of support for the current arrangements, except, and it's a significant exception, when a new appointment is made and obviously widely accepted.

Today's Australian editorial "A safe pair of hands" reflects the dilemma:

Like Major General Jeffery and Sir Zelman Cowen and Sir Ninian Stephen before him, Ms Bryce has been apolitical, non-controversial and non-interventionist during her time as Queensland Governor. She has been a safe pair of hands, respecting the boundaries of the office. Aside from a well-publicised turnover of personal staff that has not impacted on her public role, her tenure has been smooth, characterised by enthusiasm and hard work in cities and small towns across Queensland.

While there are those eager to see an Australian republic replace the constitutional monarchy, Mr Rudd, wisely, was not being drawn yesterday on whether Ms Bryce would be Australia's last governor-general. The move to a republic is a standing commitment of the Rudd Government and Mr Rudd put the debate back on the public agenda in London. As he said yesterday, however, it is "not a top-order question" in the face of many other priorities. Given her discretion in Queensland about Australia's constitutional future, Ms Bryce would be unlikely to indulge in any such speculation.

The Government House website defines the governor-general's role as being "to encourage, articulate and represent those things that unite Australia as a nation". Ms Bryce is well-qualified to carry it out, and we wish her well.

It is easy for all us couch republicans to wish for the inevitable transition to take place sooner rather than later, but the PM's assessment that it isn't a "top order question" is accurate enough at the moment, and with our political system already being a de facto republican one in so many respects, not to mention the protracted processes necessary to obtain approval for any constitutional change, I'd be surprised if Ms Bryce is our last GG.

Update 15 April

There's a great Bill Leak cartoon in today's Australian (published online in colour, but in print only in B&W)":

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