Retired Army general David Hurley will become the 27th Governor-General next June, having served as New South Wales Governor since October, 2014.
Deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek described Hurley as a “terrific Australian” but said it was “pretty poor form to make an appointment so substantial so close to an election without consulting the opposition”.
“I think it is really quite discourteous,” she said, after accusing the government of using the announcement to distract voters from the policy outcomes of Labor’s national conference over the weekend.
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen echoed these comments, saying Hurley was a “perfectly appropriate” choice but suggesting Prime Minister Scott Morrison should have had the “good grace” to consult opposition leader Bill Shorten, given they would soon contest an election before the appointment would take effect.
Morrison dismissed these gripes, arguing the appointment was always going to be made in this term of government and that on the contrary, it had to be made “to provide certainty” going into an election year.
“It wasn’t my first order of issues to deal with, as I said at the time,” the PM said in a press conference. “But it was one that I knew I would have to resolve and make a recommendation to the palace before the end of the year, which I have now done.”
The switchover from one former general to another means the current G-G, Peter Cosgrove, gets a small extension on the normal five-year stay at Government House, which would have otherwise ended in March.
Hurley remains the Queen’s representative in NSW until he moves up a rung in the vice-regal rankings in a ceremony on June 28. Morrison said he had been very popular in the role, and was his first and only choice for Governor-General.
“From his weekly boxing workouts with Indigenous children as part of the Tribal Warriors program to his frequent regional trips, Governor Hurley is known for being generous and approachable to old and young alike,” the PM said in a statement.
Hurley was chief of the Australian Defence Force from 2011 to 2014, capping off a 42-year Army career. He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2004, then bumped up a notch in 2010 to Companion (AC).
“My commitment to the people of Australia is that we will fulfil our responsibilities in the same full-hearted manner that I have worked in New South Wales or we have worked in New South Wales over the past four years, including supporting and encouraging them in their community endeavors, recognising their achievements and promoting those achievements at home and abroad,” he said, accepting the appointment.
Hurley’s list of military medals includes the Distinguished Service Cross and he has received high honours from eight foreign countries such as Knight of the Order of St John (United Kingdom), Officer of the Legion of Honour (France) and Commander of the Legion of Merit (United States). He has also received three honorary PhDs and seven honorary appointments.
“The Governor-General holds office at the pleasure of The Queen, however the term is usually understood to be five years,” said Morrison.
“General Cosgrove has discharged his duties to date with distinction and grace and I thank him for agreeing to continue in the role to assist in the transition.”