The Sovereign Council ModelBy Peter Crayson, August 2001
Executive SummaryThis model is a completely fresh, new look at a republican model in the light of the failed 1999 republic referendum. One of the most significant failures of the referendum was that republicans were divided into two main camps - the "minimalists" and the "direct electionists". Since the referendum, no models (at least that I've been aware of) have appeared which reconciled these camps, and this fact has been my driving motivation in conceiving this model. The model neatly combines the best elements of the existing constitutional arrangements and those of the most popular republican models - including the entire range from ultra-minimalist (i.e., simple omission of the Queen but retaining appointment of a Governor-General by the Prime Minister), minimalist (i.e., election of President by special parliamentary majority), electoral college to directly elected non-executive President models. Although it can be described as a hybrid, or eclectic model, it is straightforward and free of complications.
The name of the model, the "Sovereign Council model", takes its name from one of the key features of the model, the Sovereign Council. This Sovereign Council could equally well be called the Presidential Council or the Constitutional Council, and draft constitutions are provided which use each of these names, though there are no other differences.
The model proposes a Sovereign Council consisting of five directly elected members and two ex officio voting members (the Governor-General and the immediate past Governor-General), and is headed by the President deputised by a Vice-President. The existing separation of Sovereign and Governor-General is retained in the Sovereign Council and Governor-General respectively. The Council is a direct replacement of the Sovereign, and - with arguably more legitimacy than the Sovereign - represents the sovereignty of the people. Instead of the Sovereign rubber-stamping the Prime Minister's choice of Governor-General, the Council appoints the Governor-General at its discretion upon nomination by (amongst others) the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition or any five MPs; and instead of the Sovereign rubber-stamping the dismissal of a Governor-General by a Prime Minister, the Governor-General can be dismissed by the Council at its discretion, but only upon a resolution to do so by the House of Representatives. The President of Australia is the President of the Sovereign Council and Head of State, and it is the President who assumes the ceremonial and symbolic duties of Head of State. Apart from this, the President, individually, exercises no power (except to convene and chair the Sovereign Council).
There are two options (see section 2) provided for election of the President and Vice-President:OPTION A. Direct election. This option provides that when the Council is elected, the candidate with the highest vote becomes the President and the candidate with the second highest vote becomes the Vice-President.OPTION B. Popular election. This option provides that after the Council is elected, the Council meets to choose one of its number to be President and one to be Vice-President. The Council member chosen as President need not be the member who obtained the highest vote at the election of the Council, though the President will of course have been directly elected as a Council member.The Governor-General would continue to perform much the same role as now, and would essentially retain the same powers and functions, with most powers being exercised on the advice of the executive government, and would still be maintain a position of political neutrality. Some codification and clarification of the Governor-General's discretionary/reserve powers is included in my model, but great care has been taken not to limit the discretion of the Governor-General so that evolution of the reserve powers may still occur as it has since Federation. Rather than being the representative, however, of a distant Sovereign and an appointee of the Prime Minister alone, the Governor-General would be appointed to act as an impartial arbiter by the Sovereign Council (which would represent a diversity of views), acquiring additional democratic legitimacy as a representative of the nation, but without a direct popular mandate which might otherwise tempt a Governor-General to exercise his or her extensive powers inappropriately.
The Governor-General, when exercising any discretionary power (including a reserve power) would be required to advise the Sovereign Council in advance. The Sovereign Council is entitled to be advised, to encourage or to warn. Otherwise, the President and the Sovereign Council (severally or jointly) would perform a mainly ceremonial and symbolic role.
The popularly elected Sovereign Council appoints a Governor-General at its discretion from a field of candidates nominated (jointly or severally) by the present or any past or present Governor-General, by any past or present Prime Minister, by the Leader of the Opposition, by any five M.P.s., or by any State or Territory Premier/Chief Minister. Candidates for members of the Sovereign Council would be nominated by the general public, with each candidate requiring a petition containing 500 signatures. The Governor-General can only be dismissed by the Sovereign Council acting at its discretion, but only following a resolution by the House of Representatives or the Senate requesting the same. Note that the Sovereign Council is a continuing body with a continuing role, not a typical electoral college type of body which simply sits once to choose a President or Governor-General and is thenceforth dissolved.
In exercising any discretionary power (including a reserve power), the Governor-General would be required to advise the Sovereign Council in advance. The Sovereign Council would, at any time, be entitled be advised, to encourage and to warn. Apart from the above powers and functions, the members of the Sovereign Council would be free to perform ceremonial and symbolic duties, either severally or jointly.
As the Governor-General retains the existing powers and functions of the office, and as the President actually exercises no power as an individual except to convene and chair the Sovereign Council, it actually becomes easy to allow for a directly or popularly elected President without any concerns about questions of the codification and extent of the President's powers and about questions of conflicting mandates that have tended to plague other models. By the very fact that the President will have been elected, he or she will have quite a different role to play in government and society, albeit one generally confined to advice, persuasion and ceremony. Recognising the different roles of the new President and of the new republican Governor-General, it's also necessary to provide methods of nomination and appointment which are finely tuned and well suited to each of these two different roles, and this can be seen in the model. Attempts made by other models to merge the two separate roles of Queen and Governor-General into a single office of President will always be fraught with problems as the two roles are essentially different. While the Governor-General would as far as practicable tend to continue to be an apolitical appointment (given the method of nomination and given also that the Sovereign Council would represent a diversity of views), the choice of President, and consequently the evolution of the role, would be entirely up to the people.
The Sovereign Council's role is as a balancing force, and this is most obviously necessary in its role in choosing a Governor-General - there would be obvious difficulties in having a single popularly elected President (or for that matter a Prime Minister) appointing a Governor-General. There is also scope for later expansion of the role of a Sovereign Council, for example, in appointing other non-partisan officials in much the same way as it appoints a Governor-General, such as (especially) the Justices of the High Court and other judges. (This is currently done by the government of the day and is thus vulnerable to politicisation.)
I have been very careful in my model neither to weaken nor to strengthen but to retain unaltered the federal nature of our system of government. In a republic referendum, any change in this respect could develop as a major distraction - and you can bet the monarchists are looking for distractions.
The model might be seen as "repatriating" and democratising the office of Sovereign - reconstituted as the Sovereign Council - and through its new democratic legitimacy, giving it a meaningful role in choosing the Governor-General. The authority it exercises will be more moral than real, but unlike the Governor-General, its members would not be confined to a position of political neutrality. Ultimately, it will be the people, who every six years will elect the members of the Sovereign Council, who will determine the evolution of the composition and thus the character of the Sovereign Council, the President and the Governor-General in our system of government.
The Sovereign CouncilThe model proposes a Sovereign Council consisting of five directly elected members and two ex officio voting members (the Governor-General and the immediate past Governor-General), and is headed by the President deputised by a Vice-President. The Council is elected nationwide by proportional representation (with the entire nation being a single electorate) and and is elected once every six years. Unlike the Sovereign, the Sovereign Council would enjoy substantial democratic legitimacy.
There is a need for some degree of continuity and constancy in the Sovereign Council, and its length of term should reflect this. For this reason, I've suggested (see below) that the term of the Governor-General be five years (i.e., one or two years more than members of the House of Representatives) and that the term of the Sovereign Council be six years (i.e., one more than the Governor-General, but equal to senators). Seven years (one year more than senators) is also conceivable (this is the term of the French President), but I suspect that many people would regard seven years as excessive. The President is limited to two terms - more than twelve years in office would generally be regarded as excessive.
It would be prudent for a set of protocols and conventions be recognised and/or established which aid in promoting the dignity of and respect for the Sovereign Council. If members of the Sovereign Council are tempted to conduct themselves inappropriately they will attract criticism from the media, politicians and the public (just as Governors-General or the Sovereign would), but unlike Governors-General or the Sovereign, the people will also have the right to pass judgement on Sovereign Council members at the ballot box.
Method of election of the Sovereign CouncilI suggest that:
I don't take a strong position on whether or not voting should be compulsory, though my preference would be for optional voting. With optional voting, only people who care about the election of the Sovereign Council will vote. It's not necessary to spell out all facets of an election in the Constitution; details can be prescribed by Parliament from time to time.
- the members of the Sovereign Council may be elected in a similar manner to the delegates of the 1998 Constitutional Convention, with a statement for each candidate made available to all electors in booklets.
- voting would be optional, and it would be by the method of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote (i.e., the same as the Senate), but groupings of candidates on the ballot would not be permitted (so it would look like a House of Representatives ballot paper, though probably longer or requiring a number of columns).
- at least five squares (equal to the number of vacancies to be filled) would have to be numbered for a vote to be valid.
As voting would be by proportional representation, a diversity of views will probably be represented in the composition of the Council. Any philosophical or political bias in any one member would probably be diluted or counterbalanced by the philosophical or political bias (or lack thereof) of other members.
The President and the Vice-PresidentThe President is the Head of State and is also the President of the Sovereign Council. As such, the President assumes the ceremonial and symbolic duties of Head of State. The Vice-President is the deputy to the President. The President, individually, exercises no formal power except to convene and chair the Sovereign Council. A small number of perfunctory ceremonial powers are assigned to the President; namely, to swear in the Governor-General and to receive the letter of resignation from the Governor-General.
There are two options (see section 2) provided for election of the President and Vice-President:OPTION A. Direct election. This option provides that when the Council is elected, the candidate with the highest vote becomes the President and the candidate with the second highest vote becomes the Vice-President.OPTION B. Popular election. This option provides that after the Council is elected, the Council meets to choose one of its number to be President and one to be Vice-President. The Council member chosen as President need not be the member who obtained the highest vote at the election of the Council, though the President will of course have been directly elected as a Council member. The Council votes by secret ballot using optional preferential voting.The President, or any two members of the Sovereign Council, may convene meetings of the Sovereign Council. The President is limited to two terms in office.
Qualification for candidature/membership of the Sovereign CouncilAny person enrolled as a House of Representatives elector would be qualified for candidature and continuance as a member of the Sovereign Council. However, no MP or member of a political party would be qualified to sit as a member of the Sovereign Council. This does not exclude anyone who is an MP or a member of a political party from being nominated or chosen (i.e. elected), as this might be perceived as unfairly limiting the choice of the people; however, once elected, they would have to resign from their party.
Nomination of members of the Sovereign CouncilMembers of the Sovereign Council may be nominated by any citizens by means of a petition to the House of Representatives containing at least 1000 signatures of registered House of Representatives electors. The House of Representatives may review a nomination if it sees fit and reject it by a 2/3 vote, but any such motion must be sponsored by both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, or by at least three members of the Government party and three members of the Opposition party. Such a rejection would be very difficult to achieve without bi-partisan support.
If the number of nominations is greater than 50 (this would result in unwieldy "Melbourne Cup" ballot papers), the House of Representatives may reduce the number to 50 candidates (i.e., ten times the number of places to be filled) by voting using proporional representation for 50 candidates, and the remainder would be eliminated.
Dissolution of the Sovereign Council and removal of a member of the Sovereign CouncilThe Sovereign Council may be dissolved by a 2/3 vote of each house of Parliament. The Sovereign Council is automatically dissolved if four or more members die, resign or are removed. A member of the Sovereign Council may be removed by a 2/3 vote of each house of Parliament.
Casual vacancies on the Sovereign CouncilIf a member of the Sovereign Council dies, resigns or is removed, the position is filled by "counting back" using the ballot papers from the last election (as used in the Tasmanian House of Assembly and in the A.C.T. Legislative Assembly).
Expiry of term of the Sovereign CouncilWithin ten days of expiry of the term of the Sovereign Council, or when the Sovereign Council is dissolved, writs for elections must be issued.
Powers of the Sovereign CouncilThe Sovereign Council appoints and dismisses the Governor-General (as specified later). The Sovereign Council has the right to be informed in advance by the Governor-General of the exercise of any reserve (or other discretionary) power by the Governor-General. It is entitled to the traditional entitlements of the Sovereign: to be advised, to encourage or to warn at any time.
The Sovereign Council takes the place of the Sovereign in all jurisdictions (Commonwealth and State), being a symbolic lynchpin of the federation. Though the States retain their Governors, the Sovereign Council may appoint and dismiss the Governors of the States (just as the Sovereign does now), but only if the State so wishes and if the Sovereign Council agrees, but a State may specify any other means if it so wishes. In any case, the Governor may be inducted into office by the President, and in this way, the Sovereign Council plays a similar role to that of the Sovereign.
One of the traditional duties of the Sovereign (real or perceived, past or present), or of a head of state of a democratic country in general, is to protect the constitution and to safeguard democratic processes. An important aspect of this duty is the ability to speak freely. Although it might be argued that this might duplicate or overshadow the function of the Opposition and other non-Government parties in Parliament's Question Time, no damage will be done to democracy if this (often inneffectual) exercise in keeping a Government honest, transparent and accountable is supplemented by the Sovereign Council, as this will assist in preventing dishonesty, corruption or mismanagement. If anything, Governments will be more accountable for their actions than under current arrangements.
Nothing prevents the President or the other members of the Sovereign Council from engaging in symbolic and ceremonial activities, and thus the President might well take over some of the symbolic and ceremonial activities of the Sovereign and of the Governor-General.
Just as the roles of the Sovereign and Governor-General have evolved since federation (and will continue to do so), so will the role of the President and the Sovereign Council. This will depend very much on the incumbents, and this in turn will depend upon the views of the people expressed at each election of the Sovereign Council. In this sense, a great deal of flexibility is built into the system.
In the Long Term: Other Powers of the Sovereign CouncilThere is scope for other powers to be assigned to the Sovereign Council or to the Governor-General at some future time, but I would not recommend that consideration be given to these suggestions at any referendum to establish a republic - only subsequent referendums should decide these matters after some time observing the way in which the roles of the Sovereign Council and the Governor-General evolve.
These powers would be exercised either (1) by the Governor-General acting with the advice and consent of the Sovereign Council, or (2) by the Sovereign Council acting with the advice (but not the consent) of the Governor-General. These powers could include:
- the awarding of national honours, titles and decorations.
- the appointment and removal of High Court Justices and other judges (instead of by the Government of the day through the Governor-General in Council, which is what occurs now) and the appointment of a Judicial Commission to provide advice in relation to this.
- the appointment of non-voting members of the Senate (with the approval of the Senate) for the remainder of the term thereof, such as indigenous members. (This would be similar to appointed peers in the UK House of Lords.)
- the appointment of the Auditor-General, Ombudsman, a Human Rights Commission, an Electoral Commission, an Anti-corruption Commission, and such other agencies which should ideally be absolutely free from political interference, influence, manipulation and corruption.
- the power to introduce (but not to reject) legislation, particularly in relation to the powers listed here.
- the granting of reprieves, pardons, commutations of sentences, and the granting of extraordinary certificates to (re)appeal to a Court (including the High Court).
- the power to initiate or to request the review of any rule or order of the House of Representatives or of the Senate.
- the power to appoint or dismiss, or to bring to account, the Speaker or the President of the Senate, subject to the approval of that house, with a view to making the Speaker or the President of the Senate more independent of political parties.
Low Risk of Party Politicisation of the Sovereign CouncilThe risk of party politicisation would be low as:
- the requirement for politicians to resign from a political party may be a disincentive for politicians to nominate.
- the role of the Sovereign Council (apart from the appointment/dismissal of a Governor-General) is essentially advisory, inquisitorial and ceremonial/symbolic, and a politician might well feel constrained by this. The Sovereign Council does not have a policy-making or policy-executing role, so this would decrease the probability of a politician seeking election to it - once elected there'd be little scope for a politician to achieve anything individually in promoting a political agenda.
- if a member of the Sovereign Council were to introduce party political sentiments into the deliberations of the Sovereign Council, that member would have to contend with (and be either neutralised or balanced by) the other members and may even - in extreme cases - be removed by the Parliament.
The Governor-GeneralThe role of the Governor-General would be almost identical to the role played nder current arrangements.
The Governor-General is appointed to a five year term by the Sovereign Council at the discretion of the Sovereign Council. Nominations may be made at any time up to 28 days before the expiry of the term of the incumbent Governor-General, or up to 28 days following a vacancy occurring in the office of Governor-General or upon the announcement of intended resignation of the Governor-General, whichever is the earlier. Nominations may be made by the present or any past or present Governor-General, by any past or present Prime Minister, by the Leader of the Opposition, by any five M.P.s., or by any State/Territory Premier/Chief Minister. Any number of nominations may be made. If no nominations are thus made (extremely unlikely) the Sovereign Council itself may make nominations.
14 days after the close of nominations, the process whereby the Sovereign Council designates a new Governor-General begins. First, a rating system is used by the Sovereign Council to narrow the field of candidates to two candidates. Namely, each candidate is rated by secret ballot on a scale of 1-5 by each member of the Sovereign Council (with "5" being most preferred and "1" being least preferred), and the ratings of all Sovereign Councillors for each candidate are tallied. This process is repeated until only two candidates have the two highest ratings (note that if certain candidates have had tied with the highest or second highest rating there will be more than two candidates with the highest and second highest ratings, so the process would have to be repeated including only those tied in first or second place, as the case requires.)
Second, of the two candidates achieving the highest rating, the Sovereign Council elects one to become Governor-General, voting by secret ballot. The person so elected becomes the Governor-General-designate. The Governor-General-designate enters upon the office of Governor-General at the expiry of the term of the incumbent Governor-General or when the office becomes vacant.
If the Sovereign Council has not designated a new Governor-General prior to the expiry of the term of the Governor-General, the incumbent Governor-General continues in office until a new Governor-General is deignated.
Qualification for candidature/continuance in office as Governor-GeneralAny person enrolled as a House of Representatives elector would be qualified for candidature and continuance in office as Governor-General. However, no member of the Sovereign Council, no MP or member of a political party is qualified.
If there is no Governor-GeneralDeputies to the Governor-General could be appointed by the Governor-General (subject to the approval of the Sovereign Council), and these deputies would be ranked in terms of seniority. The most senior deputy would act as Governor-General in the absence of a Governor-General. If there were no deputy to the Governor-General, then in this most unlikely event the Parliament could prescribe that a certain officer would act as Governor-General; and in the most unlikely event that Parliament has not prescribed the Constitution, a list of succession applies including the President of the Senate, the Speaker, and other such officers as the Governor-General may have appointed.
Dismissal of the Governor-GeneralThe Governor-General may be dismissed by a majority vote of the Sovereign Council, but only upon a resolution passed by the Senate or by the House of Representatives, and only within 7 days of that resolution.
Powers of the Governor-GeneralWhether or not the powers of the Governor-General are codified should not make much of a difference to my model. However, I'd suggest that with the newly acquired legitimacy - resulting from appointment by the Sovereign Council (which itself represents the sovereignty of the people) rather than by a monarch - gives weight to the proposition that the Governor-General should retain some, if not all, of the discretionary (including the reserve) powers that the Governor-General currently enjoys. (The Governor-General has a number of discretionary powers, a subset of which are considered "reserve" powers - these would include, at least, the appointment of a Prime Minister, the dismissal of a Prime Minister, the refusal to dissolve the House of Representatives on the advice of the Prime Minister, and power to force a dissolution of the Parliament.)
Some rationalisation of which constitutional powers are exercised by the Governor-General (which, technically, under current arrangements, may be fully discretionary) and which by the Governor-General in Council (which, technically, under current arrangements, may be partly discretionary in so far as the Governor-General may refuse or fail to act in accordance with advice) would be prudent. I would suggest that under the new arrangements powers exercised by the Governor-General in Council would not involve any discretion whatsoever.
Thus, section 57 changes references to the Governor-General to the Governor-General in Council, and sections 32 and 33 change references to the Governor-General in Council to the Governor-General.
Comparison with ultra-minimalist modelsUltra-minimalist models tend to favour the abolition of the Sovereign with no other change whatsoever apart from alternative provision for the appointment of the Governor-General by the Prime Minister, either directly or rubber-stamped by a body which otherwise has no powers or functions.
An example of an ultra-minimalist model is the McGarvie model, which proposes that a Constitutional Council, consisting of the three most recent Governors-General, take the place of the monarch. All conventions which apply in respect of the monarch would apply in respect of the Constitutional Council. Premier Bob Carr has suggested that the Governor-General be appointed directly by the Prime Minister with the office of Sovereign (or equivalent) simply abolished.
My model retains the Governor-General with more or less the same powers and functions and also retains an equivalent to the Sovereign in the form of the Sovereign Council. Given the likely politically balanced composition of the Sovereign Council, the ability of the Sovereign Council to carefully consider nominations and the method of nomination of the Governor-General, it is likely that the calibre of person to occupy the office should be comparable to the incumbents of the last couple of decades and that the incumbent will be at arm's length from party politics. However, unlike the Sovereign, the Sovereign Council carries with it a clear electoral mandate of the people to appoint and dismiss the Governor-General, and restores to it the discretion (lost over the years through convention) that the monarch once exercised - a discretion which establishes a democratically legitimate check and balance (one often imagined by monarchists to continue in some ill-defined sense).
Comparison with minimalist modelsMinimalist models propose the abolition of the Sovereign and tend to favour the renaming of the Governor-General as President. The powers and functions of the Sovereign to appoint and dismiss the Governor-General/President would be assumed by the Parliament voting with special majorities or by other officers of the Parliament or the Executive Government.
An example of a minimalist model is the one proposed at the failed 1999 referendum. This proposed that the Parliament elect the President based on a motion of the Prime Minister, with a committee of politicians and appointees of the Prime Minister advising the Prime Minister (who is not bound by the advice), and that the Prime Minister be empowered to dismiss the President at will.
Under my model the Governor-General would perform essentially the same role as a minimalist President. Given the likely non-partisan composition of the Sovereign Council, the ability of the Sovereign Council to carefully consider nominations and the method of nomination of the Governor-General, it is likely that the calibre of person to occupy the office should be comparable to the incumbents of the last couple of decades and that the incumbent will be at arm's length from party politics. A key concern of supporters of the minimalist model is that the process of appointment of the President be non-partisan. Although under my model the Parliament would not elect the Governor-General, members of Parliament would make nominations to the Sovereign Council, which would then choose from amongst those nominees. I dare say that if any person were jointly nominated by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, the Sovereign Council would be highly likely to choose that person as Governor-General, and in any case, given the likely composition of the Sovereign Council, it is likely that any choice will be non-partisan. Problematic in many minimalist models is the question of dismissal of the President/Governor-General; where this is done by the Prime Minister it can result in a "race to dismissal" if one suspects the other is planning to exercise the power to dismiss. This is avoided in my model where there is the extra "layer" of the Sovereign Council's discretionary power to consider a request from the House of Representatives to dismiss the Governor-General, and to accept or reject it, akin to the Sovereign considering a request under current arrangements.
Comparison with electoral college modelsElectoral college models propose the abolition of the Sovereign and the renaming of the Governor-General as President. The powers and functions of the Sovereign to appoint (and possibly dismiss) the Governor-General/President would be assumed by an electoral college. The electoral college could be some combination of sitting MPs, perhaps including State and Territory MPs, or it could be popularly elected quite separately from the Parliaments. Electoral colleges tend to consist of a large number of members (perhaps comparable to or even greater than the number of members of the House of Representatives) and exist only ephemerally; once an electoral college has elected the President it would probably be dissolved.
An example of an electoral college model is the German, Indian or Italian systems of Government where members of the Federal and State (or Regional) legislatures combine in a specified way to elect a President. No electoral college models proposed for an Australian system have won significant support.
In my model, the Sovereign Council may be seen as a form of electoral college. Like an electoral college, its membership is separate from the Parliament and it exercises discretion in choosing a Governor-General. However, it is a small body and it continues to exist beyond the choosing of a Governor-General. An electoral college might or might not be a partisan body, and the method of nomination of and voting for a President varies from model to model. By comparison, the likely politically balanced composition of the Sovereign Council, the ability of the Sovereign Council to carefully consider nominations and the method of nomination of the Governor-General, it is likely that the calibre of person to occupy the office should be comparable to the incumbents of the last couple of decades and that the incumbent will be at arm's length from party politics, and importantly, candidates would not tend to be restricted only to those willing or able to run for election.
Comparison with directly elected non-executive presidential modelsModels proposing the direct election of a non-executive President propose the abolition of the Sovereign and the renaming of the Governor-General as President. The powers and functions of the Sovereign to appoint and dismiss the Governor-General/President are redundant as the people elect the President. Mainly in order to prevent political abuse of the office, the powers of the President (including the reserve and other discretionary powers) would be codified in the Constitution.
An example of a model with direct election of a non-executive President is the Irish system (but note that a popular election does not occur there if there is only one candidate).
Under my model the Sovereign Council would be directly elected and the President directly or popularly (see discussion above of these two options) elected and would represent the sovereignty of the people. Although the powers of the Sovereign Council do not extend to the appointment and dismissal of the Prime Minister, they do extend to the appointment and dismissal of the Governor-General and also extend to the right to be fully informed in advance by the Governor-General of any discretionary exercise of power by the Governor-General, and it is entitled to encourage or to warn at any time. Given the likely politically balanced composition of the Sovereign Council and the method of nomination of the Governor-General, it is likely that the calibre of person to occupy the office should be comparable to the incumbents of the last couple of decades and that the incumbent will be at arm's length from party politics, and importantly, candidates would not tend to be restricted only to those willing or able to run for election.
Comparison with directly elected executive presidential modelsModels proposing the direct election of an executive President propose the abolition of the Sovereign and the renaming of the Governor-General as President. The President would be the Head of State and the Head of Government. The powers and functions of the Sovereign to appoint and dismiss the Governor-General/President are redundant as the people elect the President. The office of President would be overtly political, contested at elections by political parties, and candidature would obviously be restricted only to those willing or able to run for election. A Prime Minister may exist (as in France or Russia) but the Prime Minister would essentially be subordinate to the President and would most probably be appointed by the President at the discretion of the President. Alternatively there might be no Prime Minister. Either way, the powers and functions of the Sovereign, the Governor-General and the Prime Minister would be rolled into one single office of President (as in the USA), and moreover, there is no Leader of the Opposition: the person obtaining the second highest vote simply becomes jobless.
In my model neither the Sovereign Council nor the Governor-General performs the role of an executive President; in fact, quite contrary to rolling the powers and functions of the three positions into one, the separate roles of the three positions is reinforced so as to strengthen the checks and balances built into the system. While the powers and functions of a Head of State are shared by the Sovereign Council and the Governor-General, the position of Head of Government remains clearly and unambiguously with the Prime Minister in the context of a Parliamentary system.
However, I must stress here that if proponents of an executive presidency support that model because they wish to directly elect the Head of Government (as distinct from the Head of State), nothing prevents this in my model (or indeed under current constitutional arrangements). It is possible to directly elect the Head of Government without combining the position with the role of Head of State - this can be done by modifying the Parliamentary electoral system in a similar way to New Zealand (but with some modification to suit Australian conditions). This is actually quite separate from the constitutional matters being considered here, and although it can be discussed at great length, and I do not propose to do that here.