Australia has had 25 Governors General. At first they were selected and appointed by the monarch. From 1926 the Australian Government had a choice - from a list prepared by the Colonial office. Some of those chosen were reluctant; others saw it as a stepping stone to something better. They have been aristocrats, generals, lawyers, academics, politicians, boilermakers and a clergyman. Their beginnings have been humble, on foreign soil or with a silver spoon. Some were outstanding, others mediocre, and some had to face constitutional challenges. One was described as 'playing pornie pranks with matrons and maids' and 'playing court to the chorus girls now displaying their bulging busts and beefy buttocks at the Criterion Theatre'. (Admittedly, the writer was John Norton and the publication Truth.) One died in office, another 'displayed to all Australians the sort of qualities that a head of state in an Australian republic should have - tolerance, compassion, a unifier, and above party politics'. Some have had a very clear idea of what the role entailed, and the constitutional obligations and restraints. Others have been seen to over step these bounds or to be ignorant. Details of their backgrounds, their time as Governor General and their life afterwards are given. In modern Australian constitutional debate, the future of the governor-general in an Australian republic is a topic of constant conjecture.
Publication Date: 10/1/2004