Mon, Dec 17, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Australia appoints former army chief as governor-general

AFP, SYDNEY

David Hurley, the next Australian governor-general, poses for a photograph at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Former Australian Defence Force chief David Hurley was yesterday appointed as Australia’s next governor-general, the representative of Queen Elizabeth II, but is only to assume the role after crucial state and federal elections next year.

The 65-year-old retired general is to be the second former defense head to assume the role, which is largely ceremonial in the constitutional monarchy, but does hold the power to intervene in the government.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison — whose embattled conservative coalition could be turfed out in next year’s national poll — said that he had chosen Hurley to ensure “stability, continuity, certainty.”

“I had only one choice, my first choice, and he is standing next to me,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra. “I was looking for someone who could fill that constitutional role with great dignity, but with a levelness.”

Morrison’s call for stability contrasts with the turbulent political climate in Canberra.

Australia has had a revolving door of prime ministers over the past few years, with the Liberal and Labor parties ousting their leaders while they were in power.

Morrison is expected to call the federal election in mid-May, while the poll in Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, which also has an incumbent conservative government, is tipped for March.

Amid poor opinion poll numbers, there are fears within the coalition that it could lose power to Labor at the federal election.

Labor welcomed Hurley’s appointment, but said that the party was not informed of the process, despite a national vote just months away.

“Ideally, so close to the election, the Opposition would have been properly consulted on this appointment, which is so important to Australia,” Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers told national broadcaster ABC.

Australia’s governor-general can open and dissolve parliament, commission the prime minister and appoint ministers, rubber-stamp laws passed by parliament, and appoint judges and diplomats.

In 1975, then governor-general John Kerr famously dismissed the Gough-Whitlam Labor government amid a constitutional crisis over deadlocked budget bills, in what became one of the most dramatic episodes in the nation’s political history.

Hurley is to take over from current governor-general Peter Cosgrove, who was appointed in 2014.

He has served as New South Wales governor for four years, before which he spent more than four decades in the Australian Army.

Cosgrove’s term is to be extended to June from March to allow Hurley to conclude his New South Wales term and oversee the state election.

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