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Wednesday, 5 September 1984
Page: 476


Senator MacGIBBON —Is the Attorney- General aware that the Prime Minister in his statement of Friday, 24 August, regarding Letters Patent Relating to the Office of Governor-General made certain claims? The Prime Minister stated:

the title Commander-in-Chief in and over the Commonwealth is not supported by the Constitution.

In the next paragraph, in reference to the same matter, the Prime Minister said:

. . . in any event does not create the status of Commander-in-Chief in and over the Commonwealth.

However, section 68 of the Constitution, which takes precedence over other considerations, states unambiguously:

The commander in chief of the naval and military forces of the Commonwealth is vested in the Governor-General as the Queen's representative.

I ask: On what grounds has the Prime Minister chosen to ignore the provisions of section 68 of the Constitution? Who does the Labor Government designate as the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian defence forces? What consultations were held with the Governor-General and what were his views on the matter? Finally, what other section of the Constitution does the Prime Minister intend to ignore in his quest for an Australian republic?


Senator GARETH EVANS —What the Prime Minister said in his statement, in relevant part, was as follows:

While section 68 vests a function of command in the Governor-General in relation to the naval and military forces of the Commonwealth, that function may only be exercised on advice, and in any event does not create the status of Commander-in-Chief in and over the Commonwealth. While the new style and title of the Governor-General will therefore not include such a reference, the Governor-General will continue to use the title adopted in recent years of ' Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Force' for ceremonial purposes connected with the armed forces.

Just to state the terms of the Prime Minister's announcement makes it clear that there is no substance whatsoever in the sorts of claims or suggestions that have been made by Senator MacGibbon in his question. As to the question of consultation with the Governor-General in the drafting of the new Letters Patent , it is my belief that consultation was, as one would expect it to be, extensive and complete. I will seek further information on that aspect of the question and any other part of it that the honourable senator may feel has been insufficiently answered by my reply.


Senator MacGIBBON —I ask a supplementary question. Will the Attorney-General answer the central question, that is, whether or not the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian defence forces is, as the Constitution provides, the Governor- General of Australia?


Senator GARETH EVANS —The question is based, as so often with Senator MacGibbon, on a totally false premise. The Constitution does not provide that the Governor- General is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.