Updated: 01/28/2014 11:59 | By Agence France-Presse

Ex-military chief appointed Queen's envoy in Australia

Former defence forces chief Peter Cosgrove was on Tuesday appointed Australia's new Governor-General, representing Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in the constitutional monarchy.

Ex-military chief appointed Queen's envoy in Australia

General Peter John Cosgrove (R), with US President Barack Obama (L) and Australia's Governor General Quentin Bryce, in Canberra on November 17, 2011 - by Andrew Taylor

Cosgrove, 66, had long been considered the conservative government's preferred candidate to replace outgoing envoy Quentin Bryce, whose term expires in March.

The retired general, who stood down as Australia's defence chief in 2005, commanded the international peacekeeping force that oversaw East Timor's transition to independence and also served as a platoon commander in Vietnam.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Queen had approved Cosgrove's recommendation, describing him as someone who had "dedicated his life to serving and supporting the Australian community."

"Throughout his life he has demonstrated a commitment to our country and a commitment to service. He has given service of the very highest order to our country," Abbott told reporters.

"I am confident that in this new role he will continue to deliver to a grateful nation leadership beyond politics."

Cosgrove said he was honoured and humbled to assume one of the "great constitutional offices of our democracy."

"With the government's blessing I hope to visit widely and often, I hope to meet as many of my fellow Australians as possible," he said.

Governor-Generals maintain direct contact with the Queen, who is Australia's head of state, and the British monarch delegates executive power to them in almost every respect.

They have the power to open and dissolve Australia's parliament, commission the prime minister and appoint ministers, rubber-stamp laws passed by parliament and appoint judges and diplomats. 

Though the role is largely ceremonial, the governor-general can intervene in Australia's government.

In 1975 the then-appointee John Kerr famously dismissed the Gough-Whitlam Labor government amid a constitutional crisis over deadlocked budget bills in one of the most dramatic episodes in Australia's political history.

Debate periodically flares about Australia becoming a republic, but republicans failed to win a national referendum on the question in 1999. Cosgrove and Abbott are both staunch monarchists.

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