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A journalist for Governor-General

By Sasha Uzunov - posted Thursday, 28 October 2010

The role of the Governor General in Australia's political system has come into question in recent times over whether it is still relevant. Perhaps having a prominent journalist in the position might reinvigorate the Vice-Regal office.

Reporter David Penberthy ignited the recent debate by writing:

"There's been an on-again, off-again debate about whether the G-G plays any real role at all anymore. Save for the swearing in of ministers and delivering the PM's speech at the opening of Parliament, the statesmanlike role of the Governor-General is now blurred with the office of the Prime Minister. That goes to being our mourner-in-chief when our troops die serving their country overseas, or when civilians fall prey to an act of terror or a natural catastrophe and on happier occasions, when simply cheering on our many national teams at major sporting events."

The Commonwealth of Australia, a federation founded in 1901, is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. Her representative in this county is the Governor General, largely a ceremonial position. Likewise, each of the six states has Governors.

The Governor General is Commander in Chief and can sack the Prime Minister. This has only happened once, in 1975. According to well established political convention, the Governor General acts on the advice from the Prime Minister on political matters.

Male politicians, diplomats, soldiers, judges have traditionally fulfilled the role of the Governor General. But in September 2008, academic and lawyer Quentin Bryce became the first woman to be sworn in as Australia's Governor-General.

Perhaps it is now time for a journalist to occupy Yarralumla, the GG's official residence.

Journalists, for better or worse, now play a major role in our society in defending freedom of speech and keeping democracy healthy.


Our Canadian cousins have already had three women, two who have been journalists, as Governor General. Canada is a constitutional monarchy and a federation similar to ours but is officially bi-lingual, English and French being the national languages.

We reached nationhood in 1901 with federation of the 6 colonies whilst the Canadian's reached theirs in 1867 with the confederation of their various provinces.

Canadian Adrienne Clarkson (nee Poy) was an author and television anchor before becoming the first Asian-Canadian and the second woman to serve in the position of Governor General, serving from 1999 to 2005. She was born in Hong Kong to a Chinese Australian merchant father, William Poy.

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About the Author

Sasha Uzunov graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, in 1991. He enlisted in the Australian Regular Army as a soldier in 1995 and was allocated to infantry. He served two peacekeeping tours in East Timor (1999 and 2001). In 2002 he returned to civilian life as a photo journalist and film maker and has worked in The Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. His documentary film Timor Tour of Duty made its international debut in New York in October 2009. He blogs at Team Uzunov.

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