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My Australian friend says yes. I'm not so sure, considering the monarchy collects no taxes from England, much less a country in the commonwealth. What's the verdict? Can she say "you're fired" and Tony Abbot is out?

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Yes, but if she does so without a VERY good reason that most people in Australia agrees with, she will no longer be the queen of Australia. –  Ian Ringrose Mar 17 at 17:42
    
Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom, Queen of Australia, and many other countries. But she is not the Queen of England. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_of_England en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_II –  Andrew Grimm Mar 20 at 11:41

3 Answers 3

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Theoretically, yes.

The prime minister is appointed by the governor-general, who is the representative of the Australian monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II). The queen could instruct her representative to appoint a new prime minister at any time. (If the governor-general refused, the queen could appoint a new governor-general.)

In practice, however, the governor-general usually only appoints a new prime minister as advised by Parliament or a resigning prime minister.

(In a rare exception to this practice, in 1975 the governor-general dismissed a prime minister whose party held a majority in the House. (Wikipedia))

Also in practice, the monarch usually only appoints a governor-general that has been nominated by the prime minister.

It's important to remember that Elizabeth doesn't have these powers as queen of England, but as queen of Australia. Legally, Australia is a monarchy, with its own royal family. It happens to be that this royal family resides in England, and that the queen of Australia is also queen of several other countries, but only for historical reasons.

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The Governor-General doesn't require advice from parliament or a resigning Prime Minister to fill a vacancy, as shown in the first decade after federation when the seats were split fairly evenly between 3 parties. There's also the famous case of Governor-General Sir John Kerr appointing Malcolm Fraser to replace Gough Whitlam despite the latter still commanding a majority in the House of Representatives. –  lins314159 Jul 13 '12 at 5:47
    
@lins314159, good point. I'll make a note. –  Joe Jul 13 '12 at 6:00
    
Is she then Elizabeth the First in Australia? Like there was "James VI and I" in Scotland and England. –  Voitcus Jun 18 '13 at 12:00
    
@Voitcus, you'd think so, but the Commonwealth countries use the same nomenclature as each other today. –  Joe Jun 18 '13 at 14:24
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@Joe, you start your answer "Theoretically, yes." However, while most of your details are correct, a better summary is "Technically, no." Section 61 of the Constitution says "The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the Queen’s representative". PM Robert Menzies had to pass a law specially for Queen Elizabeth to be able to open Parliament when she visited Australia in 1954, because that power was exercisable only by the G-G, not the Queen. Similarly, the Queen can't sack the Prime Minister - only the G-G can. –  Algernon_Asimov Jan 31 at 11:36

Section 61 of the Constitution says "The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the Queen’s representative [...]".

Prime Minister Robert Menzies had to pass a Parliamentary standing order specially for Queen Elizabeth to be able to open Parliament when she visited Australia in 1954 because he received legal advice that, based on the above wording of the Constitution, that power was exercisable only by the Governor-General, not the Queen. So, for the Queen to open Parliament while she visited, a standing order had to be passed through Parliament: "When Her Majesty the Queen is present in Australia and intends to indicate in person the cause of the calling together of Parliament, references in this chapter to the Governor-General shall be read as references to Her Majesty the Queen." Note that this standing order relates only to the opening of Parliament, and is only effective when the Queen is present in Australia.

Constitutionally, the Queen can't exercise the executive power required to dismiss the Prime Minister - only the Governor-General can do this. The Queen can instruct the Governor-General to dismiss a Prime Minister (and, it's worth noting that there's no constitutional or legal requirement for the Governor-General to follow the Queen's instructions), but she can't dismiss the Prime Minister herself.

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It's a slow climb to surpass an accepted answer this old, even with a clearly better one, but I have seen it done. You have my vote. –  Pieter Geerkens Jan 31 at 12:11
    
I'm not trying to "surpass an accepted answer this old"; I just wanted to provide extra information for this question. But thanks for the vote! –  Algernon_Asimov Jan 31 at 12:38
    
Can the Queen dismiss and appoint the Governor-General? –  Lohoris Feb 1 at 13:31
    
It would help if the asker @SamtheBrand would accept this answer (in case he considers it better, of course) –  Lohoris Feb 1 at 13:33
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@Lohoris: The Queen certainly can - and does - dismiss and appoint the Governor-General. By convention, she usually appoints the candidate recommended to her by the Prime Minister, but she's allowed to appoint any person she wishes as Governor-General and to dismiss the Governor-General at any time. It's one of the very few exercisable powers she does have in the Australian Constitution. –  Algernon_Asimov Feb 1 at 20:21

The Queen (or King) of England is a constitutional monarch, a ceremonial figure whose powers are strictly circumscribed by the constitutions of England (or other Commonwealth countries).

In THEORY, the "chain of command" goes from the queen, to the governor-general of the Commonwealth, to the Prime Minister of Australia. In actual fact, the queen and governor general will do what the Australian (or English) Parliaments tell them to do.

So the queen does "hire and fire." But not of her own volition, but as a result of the constitutional process.

The short answer is "she does," (what she is told to do) but "she can't" (on her own).

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While it's true that most of the Queen's powers (or these days, HM Government's powers) are limited by law, the power to appoint or dismiss a prime minister is one of a dwindling number which is not. It's a prerogative power, which is governed not by law, but by convention. Hence why, in theory, the Queen can do this; but in practise, she doesn't. –  Steve Melnikoff Jul 13 '12 at 16:36
    
    
@SteveMelnikoff: My guess is that if the queen tried to exercise this "prerogative" against the will of the people, (except possibly in a crisis like that of Gough Whitlam) it would cause a constitutional crisis that could lead to the abolition of the monarchy. Especially in Australia. –  Tom Au Jul 13 '12 at 17:16
    
Oh, absolutely. –  Steve Melnikoff Jul 13 '12 at 22:09

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