The Governor-General and the formation of Government in a Hung Parliament

3 September 2010

Associate Professor Anne Twomey suggests that while the role and powers of the Governor-General in a hung parliament are uncertain, they are strictly confined by convention.

In a paper published on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) and referred to by John Hirst in an opinion piece in The Age, Associate Professor Twomey asserts that the Governor-General's role in commissioning a Prime Minister is technically the exercise of a reserve power.

"The reason why the Governor-General's act of commissioning a Prime Minister is not popularly regarded as the exercise of a reserve power is that this function is very closely bound by convention." she writes.

"In nearly all cases, the Governor-General has no discretion or genuine choice. "Convention requires that the Governor-General commission as Prime Minister the person who holds the confidence of the House of Representatives to lead the government.

"Normally there will be no problem in identifying this person, as he or she will be the leader of the political party which holds a majority of seats on the floor of the House.

"Matters become difficult, however, where no party or established coalition of parties, wins a majority of seats in the House of Representatives.

"This is known as a hung Parliament.

"In such circumstances the role of the Governor-General becomes more controversial and closer scrutiny of the relevant conventions is required."

Download the paper - The Governor-General's role in the formation of government in a hung Parliament - Associate Professor Anne Twomey

Contact: Greg Sherington

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