Who is Australia’s Head of State?

Australia is a constitutional monarchy, meaning that Australia’s Head of State is Queen Elizabeth II. 

What the constitution says: 

Section 61 of the constitution states that “the executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor‑General as the Queen’s representative and extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, and of the laws of the Commonwealth”. We’ll get to the Governor‑General in a moment. 

So what does that mean? Does the Queen have any input on the laws in Australia? 

In practice, no. There is very little influence from the Queen in Australian laws and day to day life. She does have a representative though, the Governor-General, whose role is to act as the Head of State. The Governor-General is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force. An easy way to think of it is as Australia having two heads of state, the Queen as the symbolic Head of State and the Governor-General as the Constitutional Head of State. 

Under the Australian Constitution, the only action performed by the Queen is the appointment of the Governor-General (on the advice of the Australian Prime Minister). The Governor-General is not an elected official. The current Governor-General in Australia is David Hurley. 

What is the role of the Governor-General as the Head of State? 

Key constitutional duties include:

  • Presiding over the Federal Executive Council
  • Facilitating the work of the Commonwealth Parliament and Government
  • Dissolving Parliament and issuing writs for a Federal election
  • Commissioning the Prime Minister, appointing Ministers and Assistant Ministers and swearing-in other statutory positions
  • Holding and possibly exercising the Reserve Powers 
    In summary

    While we remain part of the Commonwealth, the Queen (and by extension, the Governor General) is our Head of State. If we were to become a Republic however, everything would change!

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