Monday, April 14, 2008

Australia gets a woman

For the first time in its 107 year history since Federation, Australia’s Governor General will be a woman, Quetin Bryce. Bryce has been a lawyer specialising in anti-discrimination and human rights law before becoming Governor of Queensland in 2003.

The position of Governor General in countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada is a largely ceremonial role with constitutional duties. The person is also known as a “vice regal” or “vice royal” and represent Queen Elizabeth—sort of a “deputy monarch”.

Their constitutional duties include providing royal assent to legislation passed by Parliament, and other duties on advice of the government of the day. They spend much of their time touring the country, attending official functions of various sorts. Governors General often use their position as a kind of bully pulpit to promote the issues they’re interested in, usually non-controversial.

New Zealand has already had two female Governors General, as well as ones who weren’t of European descent (sorry, but I don’t know the history of Canada’s Governors General), so for us, frankly, Australia’s move is a bit of a yawn.

Still, this is progress and should be recognised as such. Whether there ought to even be a Governor General is another issue entirely, and a topic for another day. For now, though, I say well done, Australia and Kevin Rudd.

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