Republican to be 'last' governor of Australia

ROBERT MILLIKEN

Sydney

As Australia moves towards a referendum on becoming a republic, the Queen yesterday appointed a liberal High Court judge with republican sympathies to be the country's next, and possibly last, Governor-General.

Sir William Deane, 64, is to take over in February from Bill Hayden, a former Labor minister, as the Queen's constitutional representative in Australia.

Paul Keating, the Prime Minister, who recommended the appointment, plans in the event of a successful referendum for Australia to become a republic in 2001, the centenary of the country's federation. Indicating that he sees Sir William as the last representative of the monarchy, Mr Keating said: "Although the appointment is at the Queen's pleasure, Sir William has agreed that it would be appropriate for it to terminate on 31 December in the year 2000." This is the first time that any Australian government has placed a time limit short of the usual five-year viceregal term.

Sir William's appointment took commentators by surprise. Many had predicted that Mr Keating would make a symbolic appointment of a prominent woman, an Aborigine or an Aboriginal woman. Lois O'Donoghue, chairwoman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the most powerful public body in Aboriginal affairs, and Betty Churcher, director of the National Gallery in Canberra, were the widely touted names.

In choosing a male High Court judge, Mr Keating has made a conservative decision which may yet turn out to be radical as well. Sir William (he was knighted before Australia ditched the British, or Imperial, honours system) has been an intellectual driving-force on the High Court, the final appeal court, since 1982.

In the court's 1992 decision which gave native land title to Aborigines for the first time, Sir William wrote one of the most passionate judgments in favour of Aboriginal rights. When it made another landmark judgment last year on freedom of speech, effectively revolutionising Australia's strict defamation laws, Sir William argued that politicians should have no right at all to sue for defamation. He also holds progressive views on Australia's written constitution, first drafted 100 years ago with the monarch as the central figure of power and authority, and initially passed as an Act of the British Parliament.

Sir William made it clear yesterday that he regards such a constitutional configuration as dated. "On my swearing-in as a justice of the High Court more than 13 years ago, I pointed out that the source of all government authority and legitimacy in a true democracy such as Australia is the people," he said. Legal experts said that the underlying philosophy of Sir William's views on constitutional reform and free speech was a republican one.

Privately, he is a shy, retiring, diffident man whose friends expressed surprise yesterday that he had agreed to take on a job with such a high public profile. In some respects, at least, he should find common ground with the Queen. His interests are said to be horse-breeding, theology and history.

Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

MS Dynamics NAV Developer

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: MS Dynamics NAV...

Technical / Engineering Manager - West Yorkshire - £50k+

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: The company ...

MS Dynamics NAV Developer

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS Dynamics N...

Data Analytics Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading organisation...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star