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§ 60. “May Appoint such Times.”

This is the first section in the Constitution in which a specific power to perform executive acts is vested in the Governor-General. It will be noticed that the section states that the Governor-General may perform these acts, and there is no reference to his so acting by the advice of the Federal Executive Council. The powers conferred on the Governor-General by this, and other sections similarly worded, may be here summarized for the purpose of comparing them with other powers conferred on the Governor-General in Council.

STATUTORY POWERS OF THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL.—The Governor-General may appoint the times for the holding the sessions of Parliament (sec. 5).

The Governor-General may prorogue Parliament (sec. 5).

The Governor-General may dissolve the House of Representatives (sec. 5).

The Governor-General shall notify to the Governor of a State interested the happening of a vacancy in the Senate (sec. 21).

The Governor-General may recommend to Parliament the appropriation of revenue or money (sec. 56).

The Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously (sec. 57).




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The Governor-General may convene a joint sitting of members of both Houses (sec. 57.)

The Governor-General may assent in the Queen's name to a proposed law, or withhold assent, or reserve the law for the Queen's pleasure (sec. 58).

The Governor-General may recommend to Parliament amendments in proposed laws (sec. 58.)

The Governor-General may exercise, as the Queen's representative, the executive power of the Commonwealth (sec. 61).

The Governor-General shall choose and summon members of the Federal Executive Council, and may dismiss them (sec. 62).

The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer departments of State, and may dismiss them (sec. 64).

The Governor-General may, in the absence of Parliamentary provision, direct what offices shall be held by Ministers of State (sec. 65).

The Governor-General as the Queen's representative has the command-in-chief of the naval and military forces (sec. 68).

The Governor-General may proclaim dates when certain departments shall be transferred to the Commonwealth (sec. 69).

The Governor-General may, “in respect of matters which, under this Constitution, pass to the Executive Government of the Commonwealth,” exercise all powers and functions which at the establishment of the Commonwealth are vested in the Governor of a colony (sec. 70).

STATUTORY POWERS OF THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL IN COUNCIL.—On the other hand there are numerous sections in which authority to do executive acts is vested expressly in the Governor-General in Council, thus:—

The Governor-General in Council may issue writs for general elections of the House of Representatives (sec. 32).

The Governor-General in Council may issue writs for elections to fill vacancies in the House of Representatives (sec. 33).

The Governor-General in Council may establish departments of State (sec. 64).

The Governor-General in Council may appoint and remove all officers except Ministers of State (sec. 67).

The Governor-General in Council may exercise, “in respect of matters which under this Constitution pass to the Executive Government of the Commonwealth,” all powers and functions which at the establishment of the Commonwealth are vested in the Governor of a colony with the advice of his Executive Council (sec. 70).

The Governor-General in Council shall appoint the Justices of the High Court, and may appoint Justices of other Federal Courts (sec. 72).

The Governor-General in Council may, on addresses from both Houses, remove Justices of the High Court and of other Federal Courts (sec. 72).

The Governor-General in Council may draw money from the Federal Treasury and expend the same until the first meeting of the Parliament (sec. 83).

The Governor-General in Council may appoint members of the Inter-State Commission (sec. 103).

The Governor-General in Council may, on addresses from both Houses, remove members of the Inter-State Commission (sec. 103).

MODE OF EXERCISING THESE POWERS.—Without anticipating our general comments on the Executive Government of the Commonwealth, which naturally appear under the heading of Chapter II. (note § 271) it may be advisable here to make a preliminary observation in explanation of the two groups of executive powers, so classified.




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The first group includes powers which properly or historically belong to the prerogatives of the Crown, and survive as parts of the prerogative; hence they are vested in the Governor-General, as the Queen's representative. The second group includes powers either of purely statutory origin or which have, by statute or custom, been detached from the prerogative; and they can, therefore, without any constitutional impropriety, be declared to be vested in the Governor-General in Council. But all those powers which involve the performance of executive acts, whether parts of the prerogative or the creatures of statute, will, in accordance with constitutional practice, as developed by the system known as responsible government, be performed by the Governor-General, by and with the advice of the Federal Executive Council. (See Note § 275.) If the section now under review had been made to read “the Governor-General in Council may appoint such times for holding the sessions of the Parliament,” &c., the words “in Council” would have been an invasion of the Royal prerogative; because it is invariably recognized as a prerogative of the Crown to summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament. The words would moreover have been mere surplusage; nothing would have been gained, since parliamentary government has well established the principle that the Crown can perform no executive act, except on the advice of some minister responsible to Parliament. Hence the power nominally placed in the hands of the Governor-General is really granted to the people through their representatives in Parliament. Whilst, therefore, in this Constitution some executive powers are, in technical phraseology, and in accordance with venerable customs, vested in the Governor-General, and others in the Governor-General in Council, they are all substantially in pari materia, on the same footing, and, in the ultimate resort, can only be exercised according to the will of the people.

“There are certain prerogative rights which have been long demitted or got rid of by statute or by other practice—generally by statute—and in any statute drafted the words “in Council” are inserted. There are certain other prerogative rights which, not having been the subject of such demission, as it is sometimes called, I believe, not having been given up in any way, apparently, are not so described in a statute. There are certain prerogative rights—this was all gone into at Adelaide, and decided by the Convention according to the contention I am advocating—which are not described in a statute as rights of the Governor in Council, simply because no statute has ever dealt with them, and because they belong to that part of the prerogative which has never been nominally given up by the Crown. Of such is the power to summon and dissolve Parliament, to which no one who understood these matters would dream of adding the words ‘in Council.’ But yet these rights can never be exercised without the advice of a responsible Minister, and if that advice is wrongly given it is the Minister who suffers.” (Mr. E. Barton, Conv. Deb., Melb., pp. 2253-4.)

The executive powers referred to, however, must not be confounded with the authority vested in the Governor-General to assent to a proposed law or withhold his assent or to reserve it for the Queen's pleasure. (See Note, § 267.) This is not an executive, but a legislative power entrusted to him as the Queen's representative and one which he may exercise “according to his discretion.” That is the only section in which a discretionary power is clearly and unequivocally given to the Governor-General; it is in reference to matters of legislation and not matters of administration. (See Note, § 271, “The Executive Government.”)

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