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Wednesday, 2 December 1953

Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (Prime Minister) . - by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The powers conferred by this Parliament on the Executive are almost invariably expressed to be exercisable by the Governor-General acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council. By section 61 of the Constitution, the executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen, and the Sovereign often exercises that power acting on the advice of her Australian Ministers. For example, she does so in reference to the appointment of Australian Ambassadors, and the late King George VI. did so in the case of the declaration of war on Japan. However, I am advised that, notwithstanding section 61 of the Constitution, Her Majesty cannot, as a matter of strict law, exercise any power conferred on the Executive by a statute of the Parliament. In other words, she can exercise a prerogative right but not a statutory right as the law now stands.

This bill therefore provides that any power under a statute which is exercisable by the Governor-General may be exercised by ITer Majesty the Queen when she is personally in Australia. The exercise of the executive power by Her Majesty "will then take its place among the executive acts of the Commonwealth alongside those performed by the GovernorGeneral as the Queen's representative. A similar measure has been passed by the New Zealand Parliament. The object of this bill, of course, is to ensure that Her Majesty, when present in Australia, shall be clothed with the complete executive power .of the Commonwealth, whether it be derived from common law or from statute. It is not expected that this power will need to be exercised much, if at all, but I am sure it is the feeling of all members of this House and of all the people of Australia that, although Her Majesty, while she is here, will still be represented by the Governor-General, who will, in the normal course of events, perform a number of important executive acts, it will be agreeable if, while she is here, she can meet with her executive councillors in her own country of Australia and, if the occasion arises, perform executive acts without legal question.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.

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