Linda Burney has refused to deny growing speculation she is the frontrunner to become Australia’s next Governor-General.
Appointing the senior Labor minister to the role would make Ms Burney, 66, the first ever Aboriginal Australian to become the head of state.
When approached by Daily Mail Australia about the speculation, she didn’t deny she had been at least sounded out to replace outgoing Governor-General David Hurley.
‘The Minister declines to comment,’ a spokesman from her office said.
While the position becomes available in July 2024, Daily Mail Australia has been told Anthony Albanese will make his recommendations to King Charles III by year’s end.
Mr Albanese and Ms Burney are close allies and friends. Ms Burney largely credits the PM for encouraging her to run for federal politics
Mr Albanese’s office was also approached for comment.
Mr Albanese and Ms Burney are close allies and friends, and their inner-Sydney electorates of Grayndler and Barton sit next to each other.
The Indigenous Australians minister, who previously held the seat of Canterbury in the NSW parliament, largely credits the PM for encouraging her to run for federal politics.
One well-placed source told Daily Mail Australia that Ms Burney’s move to Governor-general had been ‘floated for a while’ and was ‘openly discussed’ by some running the failed ‘Yes’ campaign.
At its peak, support for the Voice to parliament was at about 65 per cent, but the Yes23 campaign failed to maintain this momentum and in just a few months approval had plummeted.
Another Canberra source said Ms Burney’s move to the Governor-General would allow the promotion of Malarndirri McCarthy from assistant minister after the senator’s strong performance when she was deployed toward the end of the referendum campaign to promote the Yes campaign.
She received widespread praise for the way in which she handled heated exchanges and tough questions about the proposal, which was already polling badly.
In the role, she would serve as King Charles’ representative in Australia, performing constitutional and ceremonial duties as Australia’s head of state
There have been growing calls for the prime minister to recommend a First Nations person for the role as a step forward toward reconciliation.
The role involves serving as King Charles’ representative in Australia and performing constitutional and ceremonial duties as Australia’s head of state.
The Governor-General is commander-in-chief of the defence force, is responsible for appointing ministers and swearing in significant positions. The Governor-General also has the power to dismiss a prime minister if they have lost the support of the party or break the law.
These reserve powers are rarely used.
Political analyst Peter van Onselen agreed the appointment of an Aboriginal Australian to the role would help reconciliation, and he believed most Australians would ‘welcome the move’.
‘I’m just not sure that person should be Linda Burney,’ he said, after criticism of her ability to handle tough questioning about the Indigenous Voice to Parliament and refusing to debate her Coalition opponent, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.
‘Her poor advocacy was a key reason the Yes case lost. She’s obviously partisan too. But I can see why appointing her to the role would suit Albo.’
Appointing the senior Labor minister to the role would make Ms Burney, 66, the first ever Aboriginal Australian to become the head of state
Mr van Onselen described Ms Burney as ‘a parliamentary performer [who] deserves replacing in her ministerial role’.
‘But dumping her would be a terrible look,’ he said. ‘Imagine doing that to an Indigenous affairs minister straight after the referendum’s defeat.’
Mr van Onselen said either Labor Senator Pat Dodson or former Liberal Ken Wyatt would be better options for the role.
Mr Dodson is often referred to as ‘the father of reconciliation’ while Mr Wyatt was Australia’s first Indigenous lower house MP and minister.
However, Mr Dodson is receiving treatment for cancer in Western Australia.
‘Ken Wyatt would be a show of bipartisanship. He was a Yes advocate who was Australia’s first Indigenous lower house MP as well as the first Indigenous affairs minister.’
Former Libera senator Eric Abetz, who now serves as the campaign chair at the Australian Monarchist League, told Daily Mail Australia Ms Burney’s role in the Voice campaign should exclude her from discussions about the future Governor-General.
‘The position of Governor-General is that of protector of the Australian Constitution and Australia’s parliamentary system beside being Australia’s Head of State,’ he said.
Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians Malarndirri McCarthy (left) has been touted as a potential replacement for Minister Burney’s current role, while others suggest Senator Pat Dodson (right) would be the ideal candidate for Governor-General
‘The Governor-General cannot bring with them their pet projects or biases from their previous life.
‘They need to leave their “causes” behind them and devote themselves to a neutrality so all Australians can have confidence in their independence should they be called upon to make constitutional or parliamentary adjudications.
‘In the current climate it would be inappropriate to appoint one of the protagonists in the recent referendum campaign.’
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has never shied away from his desire for Australia to separate from the monarchy and become a republic.
He flagged his intentions by appointing Matt Thistlethwaite as assistant minister for the republic after his election in 2022.
He swore allegiance to King Charles at his coronation in May and despite being a ‘life-long republican’, insisted he has ‘a great deal of respect’ for the King.
And he assured members of the public both in Australia and abroad a referendum on whether Australia should become a republic is out of the question for the near future.
‘What I don’t want to do is to be a prime minister who presides over just constitutional debates,’ he said at the time.