LOOKING FORWARD: IS THE GOVERNOR’S POSITION STILL TENABLE?
This final section will confront the question of whether the role of the Governor under our current system of Government has been diminished “from official supervision to social patronage”. In other words is the Governor now only nominally significant, or is there a persistent need for a political figure such as the Governor? The short answer as to whether the Vice-Regal office remains feasible is ‘yes’. However the question is still a contentious one for many. The foremost criticism of the role of the contemporary Governor is that there are other individuals in our political system able to carry out the formal duties of the office. These individuals include the speaker of the Legislative Assembly or the President of the Upper House. This claim, although theoretically sound, is limited in its scope, as it fails to take into consideration the context of the political system in which the Governor operates. This paper has demonstrated at length that the contemporary Governor still exercises an important role in the political and social life of Western Australia. Before undermining, as many have sought to do, the viability of the Governor’s office in the dawn the 21st century, it is important to consider the potential crisis which would be on our hands if the Governor’s powers and prerogatives were either entirely absent or relinquished to another figure without most thorough consideration. Ultimately, the Governor is manifestly important in terms of the smooth running of responsible government and safeguarding democracy, as well being the sole executor of the Reserve Powers in the event of a political crisis or stalemate. The Governor himself (His Excellency Lieutenant General John Sanderson) considers his role in the political process to be “the guardian of good governance”. This expression very modestly, yet concisely conveys the fact that the continuance of the current system of government and its smooth functioning depends on the co-existence of several integral parts, one of which is our Vice-Regal officer.
Recent political developments and the loosening of relations with Britain have indeed had an effect on the Governor’s office since the era of the decidedly powerful early Governors. Having said that, it is both rash and indeed naïve to assert that the Governor’s role has been limited to merely social tasks on behalf of the Crown and the State. Despite being the ‘phantom at the feast’ in terms of political prominence, it is patently clear that the Governor remains an indispensable cog in the Western Australian socio-political machine.
Black and Cohen (eds.) ‘Australia: A Topical History’, p214.