Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Federal Executive Council
The Federal Executive Council is the formal body holding executive authority under the Australian Constitution. It is equivalent to bodies in other Commonwealth Realms such as the Executive Council of New Zealand and the Canadian Privy Council. The Council is presided over by the Governor-General of Australia and exists to "advise" (in reality to direct) the Governor-General in the administration of the government.
The Council is established by section 62 of the Constitution. Section 64 establishes that Ministers of State (the Cabinet) are members of the Council. Membership of the Council is normally for life, although in practice only serving government Ministers are invited to attend meetings. Members of the Executive Council are entitled to the style The Honourable.
The position of Vice-President of the Executive Council is given to a Member of Cabinet, typically a Minister without portfolio.
Meetings do not require the Governor-General's attendance, but the Governor-General must be notified of the meeting in order for it to be valid. A quorum for meetings is the Governor-General and two serving ministers or parliamentary secretaries. If the Governor-General is not in attendance, Quorum is the Vice-President and two serving ministers or parliamentary secretaries. In the absence of the Vice-President, quorum is three ministers, one of whom, a senior minister, will preside. In practice, meetings will only be attended by a small number of Councillors rather than the full Cabinet.
Most of the powers vested by the Governor-General, such as appointments and the authorisation of budgets, are exercisable only by "the Governor-General in Council" - that is, under advice from the Federal Executive Council. The Council acts as a formal ratification body for decisions of the Cabinet. In a parallel manner to the royal assent given to legislative Acts by the Governor-General after they have passed both Houses of Parliament, proposed executive actions will receive the approval of the Governor-General in Council after they have been agreed to by the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Each state of Australia also has an Executive Council, presided over in like manner by the Governor of that State.
The Governor-General has the power to dismiss any member of the Executive Council, but that is not exercised in practice -- although, it might be exercised, if hypothetically a former minister was convicted of a serious criminal offence.
- Federal Executive Council of Australia Handbook, from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
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