An Australian MP has raised the possibility of Prince William or Prince Harry becoming governor general of Australia, during a debate about whether Australia should become a republic.
At the event held at the Lowy Institute, a thinktank based in Sydney, federal Liberal MP Julian Leeser was asked by an audience member whether he would ever support a governor general who was not an Australian citizen.
Leeser, who was speaking in favour of Australia remaining a constitutional monarchy, said he thought it was “very unlikely” that a non-Australian would be appointed to the role, but said his support would depend on who that person was.
“I don’t know who it would be,” he said. “If you’re saying to me, would I support Prince William or Prince Harry becoming governor general? I think we should leave that possibility open.
“But I think in the main, the likelihood is that we’re only going to have Australians serving in that role, but you’d have to gauge public sympathy.”
The governor general is the queen’s representative in Australia and is appointed by the prime minister. There is nothing in the Australian constitution saying they must be an Australian citizen and until the 1930s, governors general were British.
Michael Cooney, national director of the Australian Republic Movement, whom Leeser was debating, said the comment was “a curious thing to say”.
“He wasn’t asked ‘What do you think of William and Harry as a governor general?’ he [was asked]: ‘Should it be an Australian?’ and he introduced the idea of William and Harry.”
Cooney likened the comment to Tony Abbott’s infamous decision to award a knighthood to Prince Philip in 2015 and said it was particularly odd given there are currently discussions about who will replace current governor general Peter Cosgrove when he steps down in March.
Among the names being discussed to replace Cosgrove, who was appointed by Tony Abbott in 2014, is former foreign minister Julie Bishop. Labor leader Bill Shorten wrote to Scott Morrison last month asking him to extend the governor general’s tenure for six months, to give Shorten a chance of picking Cosgrove’s replacement if he wins the election.
Cooney said it is not the first time that the idea of a royal heir taking the job has been floated, with discussion in the 1970s about Prince Charles becoming governor general.
“I think that’s a terrible idea,” said Cooney, of any prince being appointed to the role. “The main thing is it illustrates the problem at the moment which is that Australians get no say. So basically a prime ministerial thought bubble decides who the governor general is.”
A representative for Leeser said he had nothing further to add to his comments.