Delusions of Viceroys
At Government House in Hobart on Friday night I picked up a brochure that gives a guide to the building. It contains some inaccurate observations about Australian government.
For example that Tasmania "possesses all the constitutional elements of an independent state, including its own head of state who is the Governor."
No Australian state enjoys "the constitutional elements of an independent state." They lack, to start with, the capacity to make treaties and to run defence forces. They have to accept that the federal government has powers given to it by section 51 of the constitution: over the census, posts and telegraphs, copyright, immigration, insurance, marriage and so on. There have been more important powers awarded or upheld by High Court decisions. For the Commonwealth to impose income tax or duties on petrol, for example. In other words, Australian states have to accept that the Commonwealth has these powers and the states do not. The states cannot be said, therefore, to possess the qualities of independent states.
Tasmania is a state in a federation and, by definition, has nothing approaching independence.
Moreover their governor is not head of state. The Queen is. That's what it means to be a constitutional monarchy. The governor is her representative and not remotely a head of state.
In listing the governor's powers the brochure includes "determining the machinery of elections." I have no idea what this means.
There is another clanger. The brochure says that from 1812 one Lieutenant-Governor "administered the whole state." What? In 1812? Tasmania did not become a state until 1901 when Federation commenced. Until then it was a colony. There were no states before 1901.
A school text would be withdrawn if it included such inaccuracies.
The Tasmanian governor should trash this brochure before it confuses school students.
A knowledge of constitutional practice should be required of people appointed state governor.
I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the brochure's observations on the Huon pine floor of the ball room or the hand painted French Empire wallpaper, although the brochure does not specify which of the two empires.