With the newly elected Liberal-National (conservative) government now in power in New South Wales, the question for constitutionalists and traditionalists is "will the Governor return to Government House?"
Viceregal representatives in Canadian provinces do not necessarily live in an official residence, but that has always been the case in Australia, until the previous premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, announced that incoming governor in 1996, Gordon Samuels would not live in Government House. Carr's expectation was that he would not be a full-time Governor and would continue to work as Chairman of the NSW Law Reform Commission. While the former was in Carr's control, the latter was deemed to be unconstitutional.
The ceremonial and community work of Samuels and his successor, Prof. Marie Bashir, has been full-time - but the convenience of a working residence in downtown Sydney has been denied them. It is said Carr made the change to both "soften up" NSW for an Australian republic, and as an act of tribal revenge on behalf of his party against the Crown, as his party perceives itself to be a victim of past use of vice-regal reserve constitutional powers in Australia.
With the change of government in NSW, hopes are high in constitutionalist circles that the new Premier will honour the longstanding commitment of his party to return Government House to full working order. My understanding is that while the new Government will honour its commitment, there is anxiety about how to fund it when its other commitments involve significant outlays on new infrastructure and improved public services. The timeframe is also unknown - it is unclear whether Prof Bashir and her husband, Sir Nicholas Shehadie, will move in or whether that will be reserved for the next vice-regal couple when they assume office some time in 2012.
The good news however is that either way, NSW will have a Governor properly ensconced in their rightful residence and properly equipped to resume a full community and ceremonial function. The office of Governor of New South Wales, is, after all, the oldest continuous office in post-settlement Australia.
The vice-regal banner of the Governor of New South Wales since 1981 is below. It is a variant of the design used by the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario in the early 1960s, and is now part of the common style of vice-regal standards for Australian governors.