The constitutional laws of WA provide that the Governor represent the Sovereign as Head of State. The Governor’s role includes important constitutional, ceremonial and community functions. In performing these functions the Governor is required to act in an entirely apolitical way.
Before the attaining of self-government, governors were appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the United Kingdom Government. Since the Australia Acts, the Governor is appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Premier and may only be dismissed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Premier. The Governor is now no longer subject to the control supervision or veto of the United Kingdom Government. Since the Australia Acts were passed by the Commonwealth Parliament (1985) and Parliament of the United Kingdom (1986) at the request of all State Parliaments, the Governor acts on the advice of the Premier, Ministers and Executive Council.
The Governor’s powers and functions are set out in the Letters Patent under which the Governor is appointed and the Constitution Act. These include:
- appointing Ministers, Judges, Magistrates and Justices of the Peace;
- presiding over Executive Council;
- fixing the time and place for each session of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council;
- the proroguing of Parliament and dissolving of the Legislative Assembly;
- issuing writs for general elections; and
- taking, or authorising some person to take, the oath or affirmation of allegiance from members of the Houses of Parliament.
The Governor also signs Treasury authorities for the appropriation of funds for the running of the State Government. A vote, resolution or Bill for the spending of public money cannot be passed by the Western Australian Parliament unless the Governor “sends a message” to the Legislative Assembly recommending it. In each of these things the Governor acts on the advice of the Premier, Ministers and Executive Council.
All Bills passed by the Western Australian Parliament require the Governor’s signature before they become law. The appointment of the most important officials in the public sector also requires the formal approval of the Governor in Executive Council.
As well as the constitutional duties of the Governor, there are important community, ceremonial and promotional functions associated with the position, such as the opening of the Western Australian Parliament.