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Monday 16 May 2016

The Queensland Governor’s main constitutional duty is to ensure Queensland enjoys stable government.

However, Governors also have an important constitutional duty relating to the Commonwealth parliament, the issuing of the writ – a document which brings about an election – for senators of Queensland (see s 12 Australian Constitution).


Having state Governors sign writs for the election of federal senators is one way of reinforcing that the Senate is, as it has been historically regarded, the 'State’s House' – a powerful Upper House of the bicameral federal parliament where each state of the Australian federation is ensured equal representation (another way this is reinforced is through the requirement that the parliament of a state chooses a person to hold the place of a senate vacancy (for example when a senator retires or dies in office) until the expiration of the term; see s 15 Australian Constitution).

In practice, once the Governor-General has accepted the advice of a Prime Minister in seeking an election, the Governor-General will write to each state Governor, inviting them to adopt a suggested date.

Governors are provided advice through Executive Council, which is a body comprised of the Premier and Ministers which gives legal authority to certain decisions, that the suggested date is agreeable, and upon that advice, the Governor signs the writ (see s 3 Senate Elections Act 1960 (Qld)). Therefore, while in practice senate elections are ultimately under the control of each state, removing them from control of the federal government, they invariably take place at the same time as elections for the House of Representatives (the Lower House), the writs for which are issued by the Governor-General.

In a first, Queensland’s Governor today signed the writ from a regional centre, in Cairns, and not from Government House in Brisbane.

Because the Governor-General accepted the advice of the Prime Minister for a double dissolution election (you can see the Prime Minister’s advice here, all 12 Queensland senate positions are up for election on 2 July 2016.  

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