The present monarch is Elizabeth II, styled Queen of Australia, who has reigned since 6 February 1952. She is represented in Australia by the Governor General, in accordance with the Australian constitution and Letters Patent from the Queen. In each of the states, the monarch is represented by a governor, appointed directly by the Queen on the advice of each of her respective state governments.
The Australian monarch, besides reigning in Australia, separately serves as monarch for each of 15 other Commonwealth countries known as Commonwealth realms. This arrangement developed from the former colonial relationship to Britain, but the two countries are now independent of each other, and are legally distinct.
On all matters of the Australian Commonwealth, the monarch is advised by Australian federal Ministers of the Crown and, effective with the Australia Act 1986, no British government can advise the monarch on any matters pertinent to Australia. Similarily, on all matters relating to any Australian state, the monarch is advised by the Ministers of the Crown of that State. The British government is thus considered a foreign power in regard to Australia's domestic and foreign affairs.
Members of the Royal Family have been present in Australia since the late 1800's, on military manoeuvres, for official tours, or as the vice-regal representative of the monarch. Queen Elizabeth II was the first reigning monarch of Australia to set foot on Australian soil on 3 February 1954. The Queen has visited the country 16 times, usually on important milestones, anniversaries, or celebrations of Australian culture, while other royals have been asked to participate in lesser occasions.
Official duties involve the sovereign representing the state at home or abroad, or other Royal Family members participating in a government organised ceremony either in Australia or elsewhere. The sovereign and/or his or her family have participated in events such as various centennials and bicentennials; Australia Day; the openings of Olympic and other games; award ceremonies; D-Day commemorations; anniversaries of the monarch's accession; and the like. Other royals have participated in Australian ceremonies or undertaken duties abroad, such as Prince Charles at the Anzac Day ceremonies at Gallipoli, or when the Queen, Prince Charles, and Princess Anne participated in Australian ceremonies for the anniversary of D-Day in France in 2004.
On 22 February 2009, Princess Anne represented Queen Elizabeth II at the National Bushfires Memorial Service in Melbourne. The Queen also showed her support for the people of Australia by making a personal statement about the bushfires and by also making private donation to the Australian Red Cross Appeal. The Duke of Edinburgh was the first to sign a book of condolences at the Australian High Commission in London.
Unofficial duties are performed by Royal Family members on behalf of Australian organisations of which they may be patrons, through their attendance at charity events, visiting with members of the Australian Defence Force as Colonel-in-Chief, or marking certain key anniversaries. The invitation and expenses associated with these undertakings are usually borne by the associated organisation.
Apart from Australia, the Queen and other members of the Royal Family regularly perform public duties in the other 15 nations of the Commonwealth in which the Queen is sovereign. As the Crown within these countries is a legally separate entity from the Australian Crown, it is funded in these countries individually, through the ordinary legislative budgeting process.
TitleBoth the shared and domestic aspects of the Crown are highlighted in the sovereign's Australian title, currently, Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth. Queen of Australia and is addressed as such when in Australia or performing duties on behalf of Australia abroad. Prior to 1953, the title had been the same as that in the United Kingdom.
The sovereign is the only member of the Royal Family to have a title established through Australian law; other members are accorded a courtesy title, which is the title they have been granted via Letters Patent in the United Kingdom.
"God Save the Queen" is Australia's royal anthem. The Vice-Regal Salute, played only for the Governor General and each state governor, is the first four and last four bars of "Advance Australia Fair".
There are also hundreds of places named after Australian and British monarchs and members of the Royal Family. The states of Queensland and Victoria were named after Queen Victoria; Adelaide, the capital of South Australia is named after Queen Adelaide, the consort of William IV; numerous streets, squares, parks and buildings are also named in honour of past or present members of the Royal Family.
Vice-regal residencesThe Governor General's official residence is Government House, commonly known as "Yarralumla", in the city of Canberra. The Australian monarch stays there when visiting the country as do visiting heads of state. Government House is the site of most state banquets, investitures, swearing-in of ministers, and other ceremonies. Another vice-regal residence is Admiralty House, in Sydney, and is used principally as a retreat for the Governor General. The states of New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and South Australia also maintain residences, used by the respective Governors, though the monarch or other members of the Royal Family will stay there when in the state. These residences are the property of the Crown in respect of each relevant federal or state government, and not of the monarch in his or her personal capacity.
Australian Defence ForceThe Crown has a place in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). -
Section 68 of the Australian Constitution says: "The command in chief of the naval and military forces of the Commonwealth is vested in the Governor General as the Queen's representative." In practice, however, the Governor General does not play any part in the ADF's command structure and the ADF is under the control of the Minister for Defence and several subordinate ministers. The minister advises the Governor General, who acts as advised in the normal form of executive government.
Australian naval vessels bear the prefix Her Majesty's Australian Ship (HMAS) and many regiments carry the "royal" prefix. Members of the Royal Family have presided over military ceremonies, including Trooping the Colours, inspections of the troops, and anniversaries of key battles. When the Queen is in Canberra, she lays a wreath at the Australian War Memorial. In 2003, Elizabeth II acted in her capacity as Australian monarch when she dedicated the Australian War Memorial in Hyde Park, London.
Some members of the Royal Family are Colonels-in-Chief of Australian regiments, including: the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery; Royal Australian Army Medical Corps; the Royal Australian Armoured Corps and the Royal Australian Corps of Signals, amongst many others. The Queen's husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, is an Admiral of the Fleet in right of the Royal Australian Navy, Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force, and Field Marshal of the Australian Army.
SuccessionSuccession is according to originally British laws that have been incorporated into Australian law, both federal and state: the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Act of Settlement 1701. These acts limit the succession to the natural (non-adopted), legitimate descendants of Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and stipulate that the monarch must be in communion with the Church of England upon ascending the throne.
By adhering to the Statute of Westminster 1931, in 1942, Australia agreed to change its rules of succession only in agreement with the UK and the other then Dominions. In that spirit, the Perth Agreement of 2011 among the Commonwealth realms committed all of them to amending the line of succession to follow absolute primogeniture for those in the Royal Family born in and after 2011. As part of that change, Australia repealed the Royal Marriages Act 1772, which gave precedence to male heirs and excluded from succession a person married to a Roman Catholic.
Upon the death or abdication of a sovereign, it is customary for the accession of the new monarch to be publicly proclaimed by the Governor General on behalf of the Federal Executive Council, which meets at Government House, Canberra, after the accession. Parallel proclamations are made by the governors in each State. Regardless of any proclamations, the late sovereign's heir immediately and automatically succeeds, without any need for confirmation or further ceremony; hence arises the phrase "The King is dead. Long live the King!". Following an appropriate period of mourning, the new monarch is crowned in a ceremony held in the United Kingdom, though this ritual is not necessary for a sovereign to reign; for example, Edward VIII was never crowned, yet was undoubtedly king during his short time on the throne. After an individual ascends the throne, he or she typically continues to reign until death.
Constitutional role and royal prerogativeAustralia has a written constitution based on the Westminster model of government, but with specific federal elements modeled on the United States Constitution . For example, the Governor General is Commander in Chief of the Australian Defence Force just as the US President is, but the Queen does not hold that title or authority in the UK.
The Governor General is empowered by the constitution to summon and prorogue parliament, and to call elections; however the powers are almost never exercised without advice from the Prime Minister. Still, the royal prerogative belongs to the Crown, and none of the ministers or the Governor General may unilaterally use these powers except in an exceptional constitutional crisis situations, such as when, during the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, Sir John Kerr dismissed Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, on the occasion of a stalemate over government funding between the House of Representatives and the Senate.
There are also a few duties which must be specifically performed by the Queen. These include signing the appointment papers of Governors-General, the confirmation of the creation of awards of Australian honours and the approval of any change in her Australian title.
In accordance with convention, the Governor General, to maintain the stability of government, must appoint as Prime Minister the individual most likely to maintain the support of the House of Representatives. This is usually the leader of the political party with a majority in that house, but also when no party or coalition holds a majority (referred to as a minority government situation), or other scenarios in which the Governor General's judgment about the most suitable candidate for Prime Minister has to be brought into play. The Governor General also appoints to Cabinet the other Ministers of the Crown, who are, in turn, accountable to the Parliament, and through it, to the people. The Queen is informed by her viceroy of the acceptance of the resignation of a Prime Minister and the swearing-in of a new Prime Minister and other members of the ministry.
Members of various executive agencies and other officials are appointed by the Governor General, including High Court justices. Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries are also appointed to the Federal Executive Council (Australia). Public inquiries are also commissioned by the Crown through a Royal Warrant, and are called Royal Commissions.
The royal prerogative also extends to foreign affairs: the Governor General-in-Council negotiates and ratifies treaties, alliances, and international agreements. As with other uses of the royal prerogative, no parliamentary approval is required; however, a treaty cannot alter the domestic laws of Australia; because an Act of Parliament is necessary in such cases. The Governor General, on behalf of the Queen, also accredits Australian High Commissioners and ambassadors, and receives diplomats from foreign states. In addition, the issuance of passports falls under the royal prerogative, and, as such, all Australian passports are issued in the name of the Governor General as the monarch's representative.
ParliamentThe sovereign, along with the Senate and the House of Representatives, being one of the three components of parliament, is called the Queen-in-Parliament . The authority of the Crown therein is embodied in the mace in the House of Representatives and in the Black Rod in the Senate, which both bear a crown at their apex. The monarch and viceroy do not, however, participate in the legislative process save for the granting of Royal Assent by the Governor General. Further, the constitution outlines that the Governor General alone is responsible for summoning, proroguing, and dissolving parliament, after which the writs for a general election are usually dropped by the Prime Minister at Government House.
The new parliamentary session is marked by the State Opening of Parliament, during which either the monarch or the Governor General reads the Speech from the Throne. As the monarch and viceroy, by convention, cannot enter the House of Representatives, this, as well as the bestowing of Royal Assent, takes place in the Senate chamber; Members of Parliament are summoned to these ceremonies from the House of Representatives by the Crown's messenger, the Usher of the Black Rod, after he knocks on the doors of the lower house that have been slammed closed on him to symbolise the barring of the monarch from the House of Representatives.
All laws in Australia, except in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Legislative Assembly, are enacted only with the viceroy's granting of Royal Assent, done by the Governor General or relevant governor, with the Great Seal of Australia or the appropriate state seal, while territorial legislatures, unlike their state counterparts, are subject to the oversight of the government of Australia. The Governor General may reserve a bill "for the Queen's pleasure"; that is withhold his consent to the bill and present it to the sovereign for her personal decision. Under the constitution, the sovereign also has the power to disallow a bill within one year of the Governor General having granted Royal Assent. This power, however, has never been used.
CourtsIn the United Kingdom, the sovereign is deemed the fount of justice. However, he or she does not personally rule in judicial cases, meaning that judicial functions are normally performed only in the monarch's name. Criminal offences are legally deemed to be offences against the sovereign and proceedings for indictable offences are brought in the sovereign's name in the form of The Queen [or King] against [Name] (sometimes also referred to as the Crown against [Name]. Hence, the common law holds that the sovereign "can do no wrong"; the monarch cannot be prosecuted in his or her own courts for criminal offences.
Civil lawsuits against the Crown in its public capacity (that is, lawsuits against the government) are permitted; however, lawsuits against the monarch personally are not.
In international cases, as a sovereign and under established principles of international law, the Queen of Australia is not subject to suit in foreign courts without her express consent.
The prerogative of mercy lies with the monarch, and is exercised in the state jurisdictions by the governors, who may pardon offences against the Crown, either before, during, or after a trial.
In addition, the monarch also serves as a symbol of the legitimacy of courts of justice, and of their judicial authority; sessions of the High Court, for example, are opened with the words "the High Court of Australia is now in session; God Save the Queen." In a practice dating back to colonial times, state courts traditionally display the arms of the sovereign in right of the United Kingdom, except in New South Wales and Queensland where some of these have been replaced with the state arms.
States and territoriesIn accordance with the Australia Act 1986, the Queen has the power to appoint, on the advice of the relevant state premier, a Governor in each of the Australian States, who themselves appoint executive bodies, as well as people to fill casual Senate vacancies, if the relevant state parliament is not in session, under the Great Seal of the State. The state governors continue to serve as the direct representatives of the Queen, in no way subordinate to the Governor General, and they carry out on her behalf all of the Queen's constitutional and ceremonial duties in respect of their respective state.
The Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory resemble states in many respects, but are administered directly by the Commonwealth of Australia; an Administrator, appointed by the Governor General upon the advice of the Commonwealth government, takes the place of a State Governor in the Northern Territory. The Australian Capital Territory has no equivalent position.
FinanceAustralians do not pay any money to the Queen, either for personal income or to support the royal residences outside Australia. Only when the Queen is in Australia, or acting abroad as Queen of Australia, does the Australian government support her in the performance of her duties. This rule applies equally to other members of the Royal Family. Usually the Queen's Australian governments pay only for the costs associated with the Governor General and governors in their exercising of the powers of the Crown on behalf of the Queen, including travel, security, residences, offices and ceremonial occasions.