Governor General's role thrown into spotlight by Australia election result

20:25, August 23, 2010      

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With both Labor and the Coalition seeking to form a minority government, Australia's head of state, Governor General has been thrown into spotlight to determine which side of politics is most likely to form a workable majority on the floor of parliament.

Neither Prime Minister Julia Gillard nor opposition leader Tony Abbott gained an outright majority in the Aug. 21 election, meaning one side must win negotiations with independent lawmakers to form a government. Should either gain the independents' support in writing, that would be enough to convince Governor General Quentin Bryce to let that leader form the next government, Dr. Graeme Orr, a law professor at the University of Queensland said in an interview.

The governor general's role, as in most United Kingdom-based parliamentary systems, is largely ceremonial except in specific situations such as when none of the parties wins a legislative majority or a prime minister seeks to suspend parliament.

The governor general, as the Queen's representative, rules on the prime minister's request in those cases.

Bryce issued a statement on Monday, saying she "is seeking advice on concerns raised about her personal position in the current political circumstances."

The governor general is the mother-in-law of Bill Shorten, the parliamentary secretary of the Labor Party. Shorten was a power- broker, instrumental in the June replacement of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with Gillard, Australian Associated Press reported.

An exception to the ceremonial nature of the post in Australia occurred in 1975 when then Governor General John Kerr dismissed the government of Labor Party leader Gough Whitlam, which had been at odds with the Senate, controlled by the opposition. The Senate refused to approve Whitlam's budget bills, leaving the government in a funding crisis.

According to parliamentary tradition, Gillard will have the first opportunity to form a new government. Without firm commitments from independents showing she has their support and therefore the capability to form a majority, Gillard will seek a vote in parliament.

Gillard would likely resign if it became clear the opposition coalition had majority support, and advise Bryce to let Abbott form the next government, according to tradition.

So far, Labor won 71 seats in the 150-seat lower house, according to the Australia Electoral Commission on Monday, which has counted 78.33 percent of the election primary votes. Abbott's coalition of the Liberal Party, the Liberal National Party of Queensland and the Nationals also had 71 seats. One Green Party and three independent members of parliament were elected, while four seats were too close to call until all the votes have been counted.

Source:Xinhua

(Editor:黄蓓蓓)

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