Prince Harry or Wil­liam for Aus­tralia gov­er­nor gen­eral? Maybe, says MP

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Kate Lyons

An Aus­tralian MP has raised the pos­si­bil­ity of Prince Wil­liam or Prince Harry be­com­ing gov­er­nor gen­eral of Aus­tralia, dur­ing a de­bate about whether Aus­tralia should be­come a repub­lic.

At the event held at the Lowy In­sti­tute, a think­tank based in Syd­ney, fed­eral Lib­eral MP Ju­lian Leeser was asked by an au­di­ence mem­ber whether he would ever sup­port a gov­er­nor gen­eral who was not an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen.

Leeser, who was speak­ing in favour of Aus­tralia re­main­ing a con­sti­tu­tional monar­chy, said he thought it was “very un­likely” that a non-Aus­tralian would be ap­pointed to the role, but said his sup­port would de­pend on who that per­son was.

“I don’t know who it would be,” he said. “If you’re say­ing to me, would I sup­port Prince Wil­liam or Prince Harry be­com­ing gov­er­nor gen­eral? I think we should leave that pos­si­bil­ity open.

“But I think in the main, the like­li­hood is that we’re only go­ing to have Aus­tralians serv­ing in that role, but you’d have to gauge pub­lic sym­pa­thy.”

The gov­er­nor gen­eral is the queen’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Aus­tralia and is ap­pointed by the prime min­is­ter. There is noth­ing in the Aus­tralian con­sti­tu­tion say­ing they must be an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen and un­til the 1930s, gover­nors gen­eral were Bri­tish.

Michael Cooney, na­tional di­rec­tor

of the Aus­tralian Repub­lic Move­ment, whom Leeser was de­bat­ing, said the com­ment was “a cu­ri­ous thing to say”.

“He wasn’t asked ‘What do you think of Wil­liam and Harry as a gov­er­nor gen­eral?’ he [was asked]: ‘Should it be an Aus­tralian?’ and he in­tro­duced the idea of Wil­liam and Harry.”

Cooney likened the com­ment to Tony Ab­bott’s in­fa­mous de­ci­sion to award a knight­hood to Prince Philip in 2015 and said it was par­tic­u­larly odd given there are cur­rently dis­cus­sions about who will re­place cur­rent gov­er­nor gen­eral Peter Cos­grove when he steps down in March.

Among the names be­ing dis­cussed to re­place Cos­grove, who was ap­pointed by Tony Ab­bott in 2014, is former for­eign min­is­ter Julie Bishop. La­bor leader Bill Shorten wrote to Scott Mor­ri­son last month ask­ing him to ex­tend the gov­er­nor gen­eral’s ten­ure for six months, to give Shorten a chance of pick­ing Cos­grove’s re­place­ment if he wins the elec­tion.

Cooney said it is not the first time that the idea of a royal heir tak­ing the job has been floated, with dis­cus­sion in the 1970s about Prince Charles be­com­ing gov­er­nor gen­eral.

“I think that’s a ter­ri­ble idea,” said Cooney, of any prince be­ing ap­pointed to the role. “The main thing is it il­lus­trates the prob­lem at the mo­ment which is that Aus­tralians get no say. So ba­si­cally a prime min­is­te­rial thought bub­ble de­cides who the gov­er­nor gen­eral is.”

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Leeser said he had noth­ing fur­ther to add to his com­ments.

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