Book Review: The Veiled Sceptre: Reserve Powers of Heads of State in Westminster Systems

Date01 March 2020
DOI10.1177/0067205X19890436
AuthorJoseph Dean
Publication Date01 March 2020
SubjectBook Review
Book Review
Book Review
The Veiled Sceptre: Reserve Powers of Heads of State in Westminster Systems by Anne Twomey (Cambridge
University Press, 2018, 875 pp, AUD$249.95 (hbk))
Reviewed by: Joseph Dean*
DOI: 10.1177/0067205X19890436
I Overview
Anne Twomey’s The Veiled Sceptre: Reserve Powers of Heads of State in Westminster Systems
(TheVeiledSceptre)is a comprehensive exploration of the reserve powers in Westminster parlia-
mentary systems.
1
In Australia,the Governor-General wields thesediscretionary powers; convention
governs their exercise. The book offers a fascinating view of discretionary vice-regal power and its
development or devolution in a wide variety of political systems—both stable and strained.
The text is as thorough as its large size suggests. Over 875 pages, The Veiled Sceptre covers:
advice to and from heads of state; appointment of chief ministers; dismissal of governments; the
dissolution, caretaker conventions, summoning and prorogation of Parliament; vice-regal treat-
ment of unconstitutional advice; and the Sovereign’s appointment and dismissal of vice-regal
officers. There are no obvious omissions for a book on this topic. Even if an unusual issue arises
from the peculiarities of one nation’s constitution (or constitutional convention), the ‘treatment of
unconstitutional advice’ chapter gives the necessary tools to resolve it.
II A Commendable Research Effort
Twomey’s real achievement is the breadth of her research. Twomey is even-handed in her con-
sideration of generally accepted and contentious reserve powers. The author aimed to produce a
near-complete volume on the reserve powers in all the Westminster systems, so weighting the
discussion in that way was appropriate. Read for leisure, the most stimulating parts of the book are
those that deal with the contentious issues, or go into detail about the role of the vice-regal
representative in less stable systems.
* LLB (ANU). The author may be contacted at jdean1995@gmail.com.
1. Anne Twomey, The Veiled Sceptre: Reserve Powers of Heads of State in Westminster Systems (Cambridge University
Press, 2018).
Federal Law Review
2020, Vol. 48(1) 154–156
ªThe Author(s) 2019
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