Posted by: jkirkby8712 | February 24, 2011

Thursday, 24th February 2011 – Governors

Amongst the various pieces of correspondence and news I receive from time to time are the regular newsletters from my old university – Melbourne University – and while I feel beyond  actually participating in any of their Alumina activities these days, I’m always interested in keeping in touch with what is happening at the university. That was where I completed my Bachelor of Commerce Degree back in the early 1970s, a course I undertook on a part time basis whilst I was working over a period of  7 years [took me a year longer than it should have  when I had to repeat a couple of subjects – must have been some major distractions around at that time – a story for another day!].

Anyway, recent news from the Vice Chancellor of the university [Glyn Davis] advises that the current Chancellor, the Hon Justice Alex Chernov [who has filled that role for the past two years] is to be the next Governor of Victoria, as from April. He will take over from the present Governor, whom I met [at a distance] during the community awards ceremony at Government House back on the 1st October [Professor David de Kretser, AC]. He is expected to  serve the people of Victoria with the same graciousness and dedication he brings to his University role.  Mr Davis describes Justice Chernov as  been an exemplary Chancellor, who  has invested an enormous amount of time doing voluntary work for this University in Australia and around the world, and has proved engaged and enthusiastic about the University. He has also been impeccable in respecting the difference between governance and management, leading a talented Council that remains focused on strategy, committed to rigorous financial and administrative scrutiny but respectful of academic judgment in making curriculum and research choices.  Readers unfamiliar with the role of ‘Governor’ might be interested in the following summary of how it came about.

Australia is a constitutional monarchy, a federation and a parliamentary democracy. Each of these terms describes a different aspect of its form of government. The Queen [of the United Kingdom] is formally Australia’s head of state, but she is represented by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Governors of each of the six States. They exercise all the constitutional powers of a head of state in their respective spheres.

Australia became a federation on 1st January 1901 after the people of the six Australian colonies agreed and the Parliament of the United Kingdom consented that there should be a Federal Government for the whole nation as well as a Government in each of the States (as the colonies were to be called). The Commonwealth Constitution gives the Commonwealth powers over specific subjects, including foreign affairs, defence and international and interstate trade. Powers not allocated to the Commonwealth are exercised by the States. Some responsibilities, such as for education and health, are, in practice, shared.  The States and the Commonwealth each have democratically-elected parliamentary systems based on that of the United Kingdom.

Thus the State of Victoria has a Governor who, appointed by the Queen, acts as head of state; a Parliament in Melbourne with an upper House, the Legislative Council, and a lower House, the Legislative Assembly; a Government or Cabinet comprising the Premier and other Ministers who are drawn from both Houses but must have the confidence and support of the majority of the Legislative Assembly; a system of law courts; and a public service, for each department of which a Minister is responsible to Parliament.  At the Commonwealth level, the Governor-General corresponds to the Governor of a State and the Prime Minister to the Premier. The Governor-General, in relation to the Governors is treated as the first among equals, but has no control or supervision over them.

The Premier of Victoria, not the Government, chooses who is to be appointed Governor. The Queen on the advice (mandatory request) of the Premier appoints that person as Governor. If the Premier advised it, the Queen would dismiss the Governor. The Governor is appointed ‘at pleasure’ and could be dismissed at any time. Before appointment Governors usually arrange with the Premier a domestic agreement on the term of office which is to be served.  Although the Governor could be dismissed during the arranged period of service, this has not happened in Australia during the last 75 years. A Premier knows that such a dismissal would draw the damnation of the community and history unless good reason for it could positively be shown. There is a sophisticated balance between the powers of Governor and Premier. The Governor has power to dismiss the Premier but is equally aware of the enormous disapproval of public opinion and posterity which would be aroused unless the clearest constitutional reasons for doing so could be shown to exist.
That information is just part of quite a detailed explanation and description of the role of the Governor of Victoria on the relevant Victorian Government website. I was aware that a new Governor was to be appointed this year. I’m wondering who recommended this appointment – the present new Premier, Ted Bailleau, or his predecessor, John Brumby, defeated at last November’s State election!

On matters closer to home, I was a little disappointed to receive a text from my eldest son today – he has just commenced a return to university to undertaken a teaching qualification, and already has decided to ‘defer’ his studies for a year –  well, he did ask me for my opinion, which I will give him, however, I get the feeling that it will not really matter what I say, as he has probably already made up his mind.  I indicate ‘disappointment’ mainly because to my mind, such a decision is a continuation of similar decisions to discontinue with plans etc, over the past dozen or so years, rather than making an effort to persist for a while at least. However, his direction these days is really beyond my control, all one can do is advise and suggest options as best as possible, but the eventual decision has to be his own.  Whilst I had felt that a return to studies at near age 30 was a bit of a risk, I had been quite pleased at the reason for doing so – he has always been very good working and communicating with younger children, and I felt the plan to teach at the Primary school level was an excellent career choice and he would have been well suited to such a role. But, perhaps that is not what ‘fate’ has in store for James!

Meanwhile,  in Australia’s World Cup cricket match the other day, it seems that our captain, Ricky Ponting, was a little bit upset after he was run out. As a result, he has been reprimanded by the International Cricket Council after damaging a television set in the team dressing room following his dismissal against Zimbabwe on Monday.  The report of the incident noted that  Ponting was charged with a level one breach of the ICC code of conduct under clause 2.1.2, which covers “abuse of cricket equipment or clothing, ground equipment or fixtures and fittings during an international match”.  He accepted the charge and the sanction issued by the match referee, Roshan Mahanama, negating the need for a formal hearing, and apologised for his action  The ICC settled for the low-level charge and minimum sanction – level one offences can carry punishments up to a fine of 50% of the player’s match fee – after accepting that the damage was accidental.  Their statement noted that “the damage occurred when he threw down a piece of equipment which bounced off his kit bag and hit the corner of the television”.  Mahanama added: “Ricky knows that his action was in breach of the code, involving a brief moment of frustration. That said, it was clear that the damage he caused was purely accidental and without malice, he apologised shortly after the incident at the ground and immediately agreed to pay for the damage.”  I would imagine that cricket fans over in India, whom I don’t think really like Ricky Ponting very much, might have been hoping that he would be suspended for a couple of matches!! Admittedly, over recent seasons, he has lost his ‘cool’ on a few occasions as a very competitive player, who sometimes finds it difficult to accept a decision that he perceives to be unfair or wrong!  Hopefully, he will take this opportunity and learn to remain a little calmer in the future!

I have just remembered that I have to be up at the radio station early in the morning to give a brief local sports report, so perhaps I should aim for an earlier night than I’ve been having recently!!

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