For the first time in Australia’s existence as a nation it is to have a female Governor General. It has been announced that Queensland’s Governor, Quentin Bryce, has been appointed to replace Major General Michael Jeffery when he retires at the end of his five year term, in July this year. This gives Mrs Bryce the privilege of becoming Australia’s first female Governor General.
The role of Governor General in Australia is often seen as purely ceremonial. Quentin Bryce’s term as Australian Governor General will be filled with official functions. Any Australian Governor General, male or female, carries a high-profile surrounded by pomp and circumstance. But the role is much more than ceremonial. An Australian Governor General is much more than a rubber stamp to the decisions of the Australian Parliament.
In simple terms there are three entities who wield political power in Australia. The first level of political power in Australia is the people of Australia. The Australian Constitution enshrines the right of each Australian citizen to nominate who they will allow to exercise government over them. That is why, at each election, Australian politicians must come, hat in hand, to woo the support of the most powerful political entity in the nation. If the people do not assign authority to a politician then that politician is just another citizen. The second level of authority, then, is the elected representatives, politicians. They can exercise political privilege, delegated to them by the Australian people, on various terms, such as a limited duration of their tenure. The laws they can pass are limited by the Australian Constitution.
Since power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, those who created the Australian Constitution sought to find an effective balance of power. With the British and American experiences to draw from the drafters of the Australian Constitution sought to find an effective balance between the people, who own the land, and the politicians those people elect to govern the land. Since two competing parties could always come to a stalemate a third party was created to protect the most important element of Australian society – the people.
In the British system the Monarchy, which once ruled with absolute power, had been forced to share power with both politicians and the people. Huge social landmarks were crossed in the process, such as establishing all people equal under the law, including the King. The new (in relative terms) role for the monarch was no longer to govern, nor to yield absolute power, but to be the protector of the people who they once ruled, defending them against the potential abuses of politicians. The Monarch (King or Queen as the case may be from time to time) had long had to acknowledge that his or her place was a privilege they held under God’s authority. They could not take office until they had sworn to honour God and to uphold the Bible as the book from which society was to be governed. In so doing, the King or Queen became God’s agent for the protection of the people.
Little more than a century ago, when the Australian Constitution was drafted, the relatively new role for the Monarchy was appreciated and built into the Australian governmental model. A representative of the British Monarch was to be appointed as the Australian Head of State, extending the British Monarch’s divine mandate to uphold the Bible as the rule of law and the basis for society. This person who functioned as the Head of State, designated the Australian Governor General, stood to protect the Australian people from their elected politicians.
Once an ordinary citizen has become a politician and been elevated to a place of political power over others that person ceases to be ‘ordinary’ and may be tempted to exploit their privilege by abusing the very people who placed them in power. They might decide, for instance, that they should have privileges others do not have. So, every law that Australian politicians can legally make has to go through a final vetting process. The only ones empowered to make such rules are the politicians. To protect the Australian people from abuses of that political power, the Australian Governor General must give authority to those rules by signing them into law.
It is convention that the Governor General of Australia do just that, sign the laws that have been crafted by Parliament. But this is not to suggest that they are a mere rubber stamp. Any true Governor General recognises their place as a protector of the Australian people and upholder of the Bible as the rule of law. If they see any law being promulgated by an elected parliament that opposes the Biblical mandate for social law and order, they have the authority, right and responsibility to oppose that law and refuse to sign it into existence.
Further than this, an Australian Governor General can even take the drastic measure of removing a government which they deem to have exceeded its privileges and to be acting in a manner that is damaging to the people of Australia. Such actions are rare to the point of near extinction, except for the amazing example of Sir John Kerr, Australian Governor General between 1974 and 1977, who dismissed the Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam.
So Mrs Quentin Bryce, in becoming Australia’s Head of State, as the first Australian female Governor General, becomes a hero of the Australian people. She is their protector. She is the one who has the power to protect them from their elected parliamentary politicians. She is the one who must weigh each law against the Bible and determine whether it upholds or contradicts what God has charged her to live by.
Let us all pray that she does what she is being given the privilege to do.