Constitutional conventions and the headship of state: Australian experience -- Donald Markwell

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Constitutional conventions and the headship of state: Australian experience

Donald Markwell

Hardback, 224 pages, $49.95


Constitutional systems frequently depend upon conventions – unwritten rules based on principle and precedent – to guide their operation, including regarding the role of the head of state. The Queen is Australia’s head of state, with her Australian federal representative, the Governor-General, serving in day-to-day practice as a de facto head of state. Papers in this volume discuss conventions and other practice relating to the Crown in Australia’s Westminster-style system of government responsible to Parliament. Papers consider the “Australianisation” of the Crown since federation in 1901, the evolution of a modern Australian office of Governor-General (exemplified by Sir Zelman Cowen, Dame Quentin Bryce, and others), and the continuing debate on an Australian republic.

Controversies analysed include the exercise of the “reserve powers” by Governor-General Sir John Kerr to resolve the 1975 constitutional crisis, the long but now controversial practice of Governors-General consulting High Court judges on the exercise of their constitutional discretions, and the conventions that relate to “hung parliaments” and to ministerial resignations. These studies highlight the need for careful consideration of constitutional principles and precedents to an understanding of conventions and the office of Governor-General of Australia.

Table of Contents
1 Introduction
2 Constitutional conventions and responsible government 
3 The Crown and Australia (1987)
4 The early Governors-General and the consultation of High Court judges
5 Three Governors-General: Hasluck, Kerr, Cowen 
6 The 1975 constitutional crisis and the conventions of responsible government
7 Debating the headship of state – monarchy to republic? 
8 The Office of Governor-General (2014) 

Appendix 1: Monarchs, Governors-General, Chief Justices of the High Court, and Prime Ministers since 1901
Appendix 2: Glimpses of two modern Governors-General: Hollingworth and Bryce
Appendix 3: Two constitutional scholars: Wheare and Forsey

About the Author
Born in the outback of Queensland, Dr Donald Markwell was Rhodes Scholar for Queensland in 1981, and Fellow and Tutor in Politics at Merton College, Oxford, from 1986 to 1997. As a visiting professor at Victoria University, Melbourne, and subsequently, he worked closely with Sir Zelman Cowen on his memoirs. Dr Markwell served as Warden of Trinity College, University of Melbourne, from 1997 to 2007, and as a Professorial Fellow of the Centre for Public Policy and the Department of Political Science at the University of Melbourne. He has subsequently served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) of the University of Western Australia (2007-2009), and Warden of Rhodes House, Oxford (2009-2012). He spoke at the State Memorial Service for Sir John Kerr in 1991, and the State Funeral for Sir Zelman Cowen in 2011. Dr Markwell is now Senior Adviser to the Attorney-General of Australia and Leader of the Government in the Australian Senate.

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