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Governor-General of Australia

Governor-General of Australia
IncumbentQuentin Bryce
Incumbentsince5 September 2008
Appointed ByQueen Elizabeth II
First GgJohn Hope, 7th Earl of Hopetoun
Date1 January 1901
ResidenceGovernment House, Canberra
Admiralty House, Sydney

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The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative in Australia at federal/national level of the Australian monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II). He or she exercises the supreme executive power of the Commonwealth. The functions and roles of the Governor-General include appointing ambassadors, ministers and judges, giving Royal Assent to legislation, issuing writs for elections and bestowing honours. The Governor-General is President of the Federal Executive Council and Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force. All these things are done and all these posts are held under the authority of the Australian Constitution. Further, the Governor-General acts as vice-regal representative to the Australian Capital Territory.

The Constitution provides that a "Governor-General appointed by the Queen shall be Her Majesty's representative in the Commonwealth . . ." The Constitution grants the Governor-General a wide range of powers, but in practice he or she follows the conventions of the Westminster system and (with rare exceptions) acts only on the advice of the Prime Minister of Australia or other ministers. Even in the appointment of the prime minister, the Governor-General rarely exercises any discretion, usually appointing the leader of the largest party or coalition of parties in the House of Representatives.

Beyond constitutional functions, the Governor-General has an important ceremonial role. He or she travels widely throughout Australia to open conferences, attend services and commemorations and generally provide encouragement to individuals and groups who are contributing to their communities. When travelling abroad, the governor-general is seen as the representative of Australia, and of the Queen of Australia, and is treated as a head of state.

The main official residence of the Governor-General is Government House, Canberra. There is a second official residence, Admiralty House in Sydney. When visiting the other states, the Governor-General is usually a guest at the Government Houses in the state capitals.

The current Governor-General and the first female to hold the role is Quentin Bryce. The Governor-General is supported by a staff headed by the Official Secretary to the Governor-General; the current Official Secretary is Stephen Brady.

When a Governor-General is overseas on official duties or unable to perform their functions, or the office is vacant, the senior state governor is appointed as Administrator of the Commonwealth, and is effectively acting Governor-General.

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