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ACM Home arrow Governor of New South Wales

Governor of New South Wales

Governor of New South Wales

 

Sir David Martin took office as Governor of New South Wales on 20th January 1989. Wishing  to explain the office of Governor to the Australian people and to make it accessible, he appeared in this educational video which Thomas Flynn has divided into eight parts.

 

 



The Governor of New South Wales Part One Print E-mail
Written by Thomas Flynn   
Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Sir David Martin took office as Governor of New South Wales on 20th January 1989 but was forced to retire early because of ill health. In fact he died from mesothelioma only three days after retirement, on 10th August 1990. Nevertheless in his short time as Governor he took important steps to explain the office of Governor to the Australian people and to make it accessible.

 

He appeared in an educational video about the role of the Governor. In this introduction we see a dramatisation of the swearing in of the Governor as well as an outline of the achievements of previous Governors. This is not just a video about a Governor. In many ways it is a video by the Governor and his shaped by his ideas of the office. This becomes clear as he speaks to camera at the end of this extract.

 

Lest Australians from other states bridle at the unabashed NSW patriotism please note that there is less flogging of the premier state’s tourist attractions in later sections.

 

 
The Governor of New South Wales Part Two Print E-mail
Written by Thomas Flynn   
Wednesday, 15 June 2011

This is part two of the educational video produced in New South Wales during the governorship of Sir David Martin. See part one here .

 

We often hear that the people who have important roles like the Governor or Governor-General be more accessible. The assumption is often that this means doing away with protocol. In fact as this video shows people can easily be taught the elements of protocol.

 

I can predict tedious republican complaints about “court bows” and “curtseys”. This misses the point. Respect for a public officer is respect for the people. So therefore it is respect for ourselves.

 

 

A court bow for the representative of Australia's ancient crown  - the institution that does so much for us - is surely not too much to ask.

 
The Governor of New South Wales Part Three Print E-mail
Written by Thomas Flynn   
Wednesday, 15 June 2011

This is part three of the education video produced in New South Wales during the governorship of Sir David Martin. See also part one and part two .

In this extract Sir David sums up for the visiting school children the power of the governor.

“The governor has his rights in the constitution and they are very simple. His rights are to be advised by the government, to be consulted by the government, to encourage and to warn.”

He also restates the classic formulation for the role of the Crown above politics. The point is that the power belongs to the crown but  - except in certain circumstances, involving the reserve powers - only the elected politicians can advise the legitimate exercise of that power.

“People ask what power the governor has, he has almost none at all. The question should be  - how much power does his presence deny to ministers who would otherwise have absolute power?”

In this video we see how this works in practice. The ministers advise the governor to sign, but it is not until he does so that the matter becomes law.

 

 

 

 
The Governor of New South Wales Part Four Print E-mail
Written by Thomas Flynn   
Wednesday, 15 June 2011

This is part four of the educational video produced in New South Wales during the governorship of Sir David Martin.

Republicans seem to think that the ceremonial role is the only role a Governor or Governor-General plays. Nevertheless the ceremonial function of a governor - like the formal opening of parliament it is one of the public expressions of a state - is important.

In this section Governor Martin emphasises the importance of an impartial figure at public ceremonies. The Governor is someone "who can be be given salutes and marks of respect without anyone wondering whose side he is on, who he's representing, how much money he's got, what religion he is, what party he belongs to. Impartial."


It is striking that the reasons for the constitutional role of the governor as someone above politics ("without anyone wondering whose side he is on...what party he belongs to") are precisely those Governor Martin cites to justify the Governor having a ceremonial role. The roles are inextricably linked. The only reason the ceremonial role has any validity is because of the governor's constitutional role. Otherwise there would be no meaning to it and you might as well have an actor in a military uniform.

 
The Governor of New South Wales Part Five Print E-mail
Written by Thomas Flynn   
Wednesday, 15 June 2011

This is part five of the video produced in New South Wales during the Governorship of Sir David Martin.

In this extract the Governor answers questions from NSW school students about the practical aspects of being a governor. During his time in office, Sir David Martin was determined to "take the Governor to the people". And it showed. This extract concludes with a presentation on the many community groups with which the Governor is involved.

 

 
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