The Governor-General’s Role in the Formation of Government in a Hung Parliament

26 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2010

See all articles by Anne Twomey

Anne Twomey

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: August 27, 2010


Convention requires the Governor-General to commission as Prime Minister the person who holds the confidence of the lower House. When there is a hung Parliament and no party has a majority in the lower House, the Governor-General's role becomes more controversial. This article identifies and analyses the conventions that apply in these circumstances. It considers the benefits of incumbency, whether the Governor-General must act on the advice of the outgoing Prime Minister, who the Governor-General calls upon to form a government if the Prime Minister resigns, the relevance of constructive motions of no confidence and whether the Governor-General should take into account matters such as the popular vote or broken election promises. The article then analyses two controversial cases of the formation of government in hung Parliaments in Tasmania in 1989 and 2010 and contends that these precedents should not alter the well-established constitutional conventions.

Keywords: hung Parliament, reserve powers, Governor-General, Crown, minority government, coalition government, resignation of Prime Minister, constitutional conventions, Constitution, formation of government, no confidence motions, elections, prerogatives, election promises

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Twomey, Anne, The Governor-General’s Role in the Formation of Government in a Hung Parliament (August 27, 2010). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 10/85, Available at SSRN:

Anne Twomey (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

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