Scope of Agency
This agency includes the Lieutenant-Governor (1851 to 1855) and the Governor (from 1855), as well as the Governor’s Office.
Formal Structure of Government in Victoria and Role of Governor from 1855
The formal structure of Government and the role of the Governor are set down in the Victorian Constitution Act 1975 (No.8750), which re-enacted with additions and amendments the provisions of the 1855 Victorian Constitution Act (passed as a Schedule to the Imperial Act, the Victorian Constitution Statute, 18 and 19 Victoria c.55, proclaimed on 23 November 1855), and the consolidated Constitution Act Amendment Act 1958 (No.6224).
The Governor represents the Crown in Victoria (1975 Act, section 6). On all official state occasions, the Governor performs ceremonial functions as the representative of the Crown. The Governor is appointed by the British monarch under Letters Patent accompanied by Royal Instructions which refer to the powers conferred on the Governor by the Constitution Act. Until 1986 they defined classes of bills to be reserved for royal assent. They also provide for the Governor to grant pardons and make grants of Crown Land, and for the Governor to act on the advice of the Executive Council (VA 2903), unless exceptional circumstances arise (clause VI, Royal Instructions). The State Government advises the monarch on the appointment of the Governor, this advice being routed through the British Commonwealth and Foreign Office until 1986, when the Australia Acts enabled the Premier to tender advice to the Queen.
Legislative or lawmaking power is vested in Parliament comprising the Crown and two elected Houses, the Legislative Assembly (VA 2585) and the Legislative Council (VA 471); (1975 Act, sections 15 and 16; 1855 Act, section I). The Governor does not sit in Parliament, but exercises the royal prerogative of assenting to bills as the Crown’s representative, with the exception, until 1986, of those bills reserved for royal assent which included bills which altered the Constitution, affected the Governor’s salary or pension entitlements, or were required to be reserved by a post-1907 Act of the State Parliament (as provided in the Imperial Australian State Constitution Act 1907). The Governor summons and prorogues Parliament and has the power to dissolve the Legislative Assembly and, in cases of deadlock between the two Houses, the Legislative Council (1975 Act, sections 8 and 66 (2); 1855 Act, section XXVIII). The Governor can also recommend amendments to bills presented for royal assent (1975 Act, section 14; 1855 Act, section XXXVI).
Apart from money bills, legislation can be initiated by any member of either House, although in practice almost all bills are introduced by Ministers as a result of policy decisions taken in Cabinet.
The Constitution establishes Parliament’s financial control over the imposition of taxes, consolidated revenue and its appropriation for public purposes. Money bills – those imposing taxes and appropriating revenue – must originate in the Legislative Assembly and may be rejected, but not amended, by the Legislative Council (1975 Act, sections 89-93, and 1855 Act, sections LV, XLIV-V, XLVII re controls over consolidated revenue; 1975 Act, sections 62-65, and 1855 Act, sections LVI-LVII re taxation and appropriation bills). The Governor must recommend taxation and appropriation bills to the Assembly (1975 Act, section 63) and issues warrants to the Treasurer for expenditure of consolidated revenue (1975 Act, section 93; 1855 Act, section LVIII).
Ultimate executive power, the power to execute or apply the laws made by Parliament, is vested in the Crown and is formally exercised by the Governor, as the Crown’s representative, generally with the advice of the Executive Council. The Constitution provides for the appointment by the Governor of a specified number of officers from the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council as Ministers of the Crown. These Ministers are also appointed as members of the Executive Council (1975 Act, sections 50-51; section XVIII of the 1855 Act, which provided that four of the seven responsible officers of Government or Ministers of the Crown be members of Parliament, was replaced by the 1859 Officials in Parliament Act, the original basis for the current provisions regarding the appointment of Ministers and members of the Executive Council). The Governor acting on the advice of the Executive Council is given numerous powers under Acts of the Parliament, for example to make Orders-in-Council and regulations, to appoint and dismiss public officials.
Constitutional Conventions and Cabinet Government
Key features of the system of Government in Victoria are derived from constitutional conventions, customs and understandings which have evolved in Britain, America and Australia, as well as from formal constitutional law. The system operates through institutions, such as the Cabinet (VA 2989), political party structures, lines of accountability and power relationships that do not form part of the legal form of Government at all and are informed by notions of the separation of powers and the need for checks and balances. Characteristic features of what is variously termed “Westminster”, “Cabinet” or “responsible government” that are based on constitutional convention rather than formal law include:
The Governor, as the representative of the Crown, generally exercises his/her legislative and executive powers on the advice of and through the Ministers of the Crown (who form the Cabinet) in their capacity as members of the Executive Council; thus in reality the exercise of formal powers by the Governor with the advice of the Executive Council gives effect to Cabinet and ministerial decisions – Lumb p.73-4.
the Chief Minister known in Victoria as the Chief Secretary or Premier is elected by a ballot of the parliamentary members of his/her party
the Ministers of the Crown (Cabinet) form the Government and are appointed from the members of Parliament belonging to the political party or coalition of political parties commanding a majority in the lower house -in Victoria the Legislative Assembly; they are considered to be collectively and individually responsible to Parliament and through the Parliament to the electorate.
Reserve Power of Governor
Although the Governor generally exercises formal power only, in certain circumstances he/she may exercise discretionary power, e.g. in cases of political or constitutional crises if there is doubt about whether the Ministry has Parliamentary support, the Governor may not take the advice of the Executive Council in relation to the dissolution of Parliament. This “reserve power” is supported by clause VI of the Royal Instructions, but the exact nature of the “reserve power” is not defined and there are no rules regulating the exercise of this power.
The Office initially consisted of the Governor, a Secretary, Aides-de-Camp, Military Secretary and a Clerk. Until 1863, the salaries of all officers were funded from general revenue but with the proclamation of Act No.189, the Governor became responsible for the payment of all salaries from the Governor’s own salary vote, except that of the Clerk. This separation of personal and official staff continued until 1986.
The Official Secretary was responsible for the provision of administrative services to the Governor and in particular for the maintenance of official records.
The Official Secretary was located within the Chief Secretary’s Department (VA 475) until 1936 when the position was transferred to the Department of the Premier (VA 2717). From 1982 the position was located within the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (VA 1039) where it remained until 1986. As it appears that the Chief Secretary and the Premier had responsibility for personnel matters only the movement of the position between the departments has not been shown as a function transfer.
Administrative support to the Executive Council (VA 2903) was the responsibility of the Clerk of the Executive Council. From 1911, the Clerk of the Executive Council was required to perform the duties of the Official Secretary to the Governor and these duties continued to be jointly performed by the one officer until 1986.
In 1984, an Office of the Governor was established by Order-in-Council. This Office initially consisted of the Secretary to the Governor (previously the Secretary) who had Chief Administrator status. In 1986, following a further Order-in-Council, the responsibilities of the former Official Secretary were assumed by the Secretary and a single office, known as the Official Secretary, Office of the Governor, was established. This latter agency is located at Government House.
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