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The President of Australia is the Head of State of Australia.
As Australia is a parliamentary republic the president has very little power, and serves merely as a figurehead.
Qualifications of Office
- Must be at least 35 years of age
- Must be a citizen of Australia for at least 15 years
- Must not simultaneously hold the office of Prime Minister or Chief Justice
The Australian President is elected by a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament. Traditionally the Presidential candidates are nominated by a political party, although on several occasions independent figures have been elected.
In order to be a presidential candidate a candidate must be nominated either two state premiers, five MHR's or ten Senators. As such it is very difficult for third party candidates to officially be registered.
The main role of the President is to act as Head of State of Australia, to appoint Prime Ministers, Ambassadors and Federal Judges.
The President may select any member of the House of Representatives and give him a commission as Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister loses a vote of Confidence, or Parliament votes down a budget or supply motion, then he may either dismiss the Prime Minister and appoint another, issue the writs for an immediate federal election, or call a joint sitting of parliament to pass emergency legislation.
The President's power to dismiss a Prime Minister is a controversial power, exercised only by John Kerr in 1975 and attempted to be invoked by John Bjelke-Petersen in several times.
The President is also responsible for granting the Prime Minister an election if he so requests.
If the President dies or is impeached, and his successor has not already been elected, then the speaker of the House of Representatives is invested with the duties and powers of the President until a successor is elected. However, this amendment only came into effect in 1937. Before then any presidential vacancy was to be filled by a special State Council, consisting of a High Court Justice, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
John Forrest is the only President to die in office, and between his death and the inauguration of Joseph Cook a State Council came into effect.
John Kerr is the only President to resign from office. As he was only midway through his term there was no president-elect, and Speaker Billy Snedden assumed the powers of the Presidency until he was elected President two months later.
John Bjelke-Petersen is the only President to be impeached by parliament. He was to go on trial for misuse of powers but he was pardoned by President Stephen. However in 1989, he did go on trial for corruption whilst serving as Premier of Queensland.
The President has several official residences, but usually resides at Yarralumla in Canberra due to its proximity to government offices.