Stephen Murray reviews 'The Veiled Sceptre: Reserve powers of heads of state in Westminster systems' by Anne Twomey

Stephen Murray reviews 'The Veiled Sceptre: Reserve powers of heads of state in Westminster systems' by Anne Twomey

The Veiled Sceptre: Reserve powers of heads of state in Westminster systems

by Anne Twomey

Cambridge University Press, $249.95 hb, 910 pp, 9781107056787

The first season of Netflix’s drama The Crown sees the young Princess Elizabeth’s constitutional education taken in hand by Eton history master Henry Marten, whose schooling of the future monarch was largely historical rather than legal, a necessity given Britain’s unwritten constitution.

In 1975, as reported in Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston’s The Dismissal (2015), Sir John Kerr undertook his own constitutional education upon becoming Australia’s governor-general, convening an academic seminar at Australian National University. Kerr soon steered the seminar – established ostensibly to consolidate various instructions given to governors-general over the years – towards his interest in the reserve powers: those powers of the monarch, or their representatives in Westminster systems, which may be exercised without, or against, the advice of the government of the day. These include the power to appoint and dismiss governments, and the power to refuse a dissolution of parliament. To Australians, the reserve powers are best known from Sir Philip Game’s dismissal of Jack Lang’s government in New South Wales in 1932, and Kerr’s dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Stephen Murray

Stephen Murray

Stephen Murray is a legal journalist and commentator, with an interest in constitutional law and politics.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.