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God bless the Governor-General!

The recent announcement that General Peter Cosgrove will become Australia’s next Governor-General brings to mind the importance of praying for civic authorities. Indeed the New Testament gives a double emphasis on upholding community leaders, according to this instruction given by the Apostle Paul:

I urge, then first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Obviously God’s people were neglecting to pray for civic authorities during the New Testament era. Hence the need for Paul’s urgent reminder all those years ago, and perhaps it is also required today.

The Governor-General is one very important authority that Christians perhaps neglect to uphold, though the Vice-Regal office carries a tremendous responsibility. Perhaps it will help if we better understand this crucial position:

First and foremost, the Governor-General is the Queen’s representative in the Australian Commonwealth, and must pledge to serve in that capacity.  By promising allegiance to the Queen as Her Majesty’s representative, each Governor-General inherits obligations under the Coronation Oath which bind every Sovereign in the Westminster tradition.  In particular, it connects Governors-General to the pledge made by each Monarch to govern justly, lawfully and mercifully under the Lordship of Christ.

This hopefully encourages the Governor-General to provide servant-leadership that genuinely promotes a multitude of worthy causes, and provides politically neutral supervision over the democratic process as guardian of the Constitution.

In that capacity the Governor-General usually commissions as new Prime-Minister the individual who commands a majority in the Lower House of the Federal Parliament.  Requiring and enabling MPs to give the Monarch their allegiance, the Governor-General appoints and swears in “the Queen’s Ministers of State” including the Prime Minister.

The Governor-General also serves as Commander-in-Chief of the defence forces, chairs the Executive Council (the senior ministers), and grants Royal Assent to bills duly passed by Parliament.

Each Governor-General is advised by the Executive Council whose members offer proof of the legality and propriety of all the instruments, instructions or legislation they present for approval.  Vice-Regal agreement cannot occur until the proofs are tendered, and this helpfully provides neutral but powerful supervision of government.

Further, when Governors-General receive their Prime Ministers they representatively exercise a Sovereign’s privilege – the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn (as described by Walter Bagehot in The English Constitution, 1867).

On advice and under the Constitution the Governor-General may dissolve the House of Representatives, and issue writs for its election. But resisting any unwarranted request, several Governors-General have refused to grant prime ministers early dissolutions of the House.

Interestingly, if the Lower House cannot decide its leadership (as at the death of Joseph Lyons in 1939), or in the event of a political crisis (as in 1975), the Governor-General may exercise discretionary power to appoint a new Prime Minister.

Such discretion should be encouraged by the gracious example the Queen, who daily keeps her Christian promises.  While the Governor-General does not consult Her Majesty and is fully independent in decision-making, the office represents all that the Queen upholds, including the rule of law and gracious servant leadership in the public good.

When we pray for kings and all those in authority, as a most urgent New Testament priority, it would be good to uphold our Governor-General Quentin Bryce, and also to pray for General Peter Cosgrove as he prepares to take up Vice-Regal responsibilities.

God bless the Governor General!

Here is a brief and quite moving video of the current Governor-General making her promises of office.

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This entry was posted on January 29, 2014 by in Government & society and tagged .

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