Twenty-second Geoffrey Sawer Lecture: The reserve powers in times of political crisis

Date & time

6–7pm Wednesday 27 November 2019


Finkel Theatre

John Curtin School of Medical Research
131 Garran Rd
Acton ACT


Professor Anne Twomey


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Presented by Centre for International and Public Law

Public lecture

Part of the Annual Geoffrey Sawer Lecture series

Anne Twomey

Brexit in the United Kingdom and the Turnbull/Dutton leadership challenge in Australia have given rise to serious consideration about how a Prime Minister might advise the Queen or Governor-General, and whether reserve powers might be exercised, with respect to matters including royal assent, the prorogation or dissolution of Parliament, the appointment and dismissal of a Prime Minister and the exercise of the caretaker conventions. What was previously regarded as inconceivable, has been seriously contemplated. This lecture will place these controversies in the context of constitutional principles, such as the rule of law and representative government, to consider how reserve powers can best operate as a matter of hard or soft power in a manner that supports, rather than opposes, those principles.

The Centre for International and Public Law (CIPL) thanks its major sponsor, the Australian Government Solicitor.




  • Professor Anne Twomey »

    Anne Twomey is a Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Sydney.  She has previously worked for the High Court of Australia, the Commonwealth Parliament and The Cabinet Office of New South Wales.  She is the author of The Veiled Sceptre – Reserve Powers of Heads of State in Westminster Systems (CUP, 2018) which has been drawn upon by participants in, and commentators on, both the Turnbull leadership and Brexit controversies.


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