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Peter Cosgrove tipped for governor-general

Former Chief of the Defence Force is expected to be announced next month as the 26th governer general, replacing Quentin Bryce in March.

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The former chief of the Defence Force, Peter Cosgrove, is next month expected to be announced as Australia’s 26th governor-general.

General Cosgrove will replace Quentin Bryce, who has been Queen Elizabeth’s vice-regal representative to Australia since September 2008. Ms Bryce’s term ends in March.

Former Chief of the Defence Force, General Peter Cosgrove is to be Australia's next governor-general, according to a report.

Former Chief of the Defence Force, General Peter Cosgrove is to be Australia's next governor-general, according to a report. Photo: Tony Walters

News Corp Australia newspapers on Thursday reported that while the decision to appoint General Cosgrove had been taken, it had not been finalised. News Corp reported that the Queen had not yet been advised of the decision.

This process is in contrast to previous vice-regal appointments where Buckingham Palace is informed before any decision is made public. The announcement in 2008 that Ms Bryce would succeed Michael Jeffrey as governor-general was made a week after the then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, had informed Buckingham Palace.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, had no comment on the media reports and said that an announcement would be made in the new year in plenty of time before Ms Bryce steps down.

Current Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

Current Governor-General Quentin Bryce. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss said General Cosgrove would be a great candidate, but there were other suitable candidates too.

''I'm sure Peter Cosgrove would be an excellent candidate but I'm sure there are other people also who could do the job well,'' Mr Truss told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

''I just don’t want to speculate on who might fill the position.''

David Flint, the national convenor of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, said convention dictated that the prime minister consulted the monarch about a proposed appointment for governor-general before taking formal advice.

Professor Flint said this provided the sovereign with the opportunity to raise any reservations or questions about the proposed appointment before advice is formally put to him or her.

But Professor Flint said media reports that Mr Abbott had taken a decision to appoint General Cosgrove did not represent a breach of protocol, because the reports appeared to be "intelligent speculation'' rather than the leaking of a decision.

He said General Cosgrove would make "an ideal appointment" as governor-general.

"He comes with enormous respect across the Australian nation particularly after the liberation of East Timor,'' Professor Flint said.

General Cosgrove rose to national prominence in 1999 during his role as commander of the international peacekeeping forces in East Timor. After his mission as commander of INTERFET in 2000 he was appointed a lieutenant-general and Chief of Army. He was appointed chief of the Defence Force in 2002 and promoted to general. He served as defence chief until 2005. Mr Cosgrove fought in Vietnam where he was award the Military Cross in 1971.

Since leaving the defence force, General Cosgrove has played an active role in business and public life. He sits on the board of Qantas and is the NSW Centenary of Anzac Advisory Council Chair. He has also served on the board of the Australian War Memorial and as a director of the Australian Rugby Union. He was Australian of the Year in 2001.

The general has long been considered a front runner for the position of governor-general and, if confirmed, will play a leading role in Australia’s centenary commemoration of the Anzac landings in April 2015.

Coming to the end of her five-year tenure, Ms Bryce stirred controversy in November when she declared that Australia should become a republic. Veering from the vice-regal tradition of avoiding political statements, Ms Bryce said she wanted Australian children to imagine growing up to be the nation’s first head of state.

She also voiced her support for marriage equality, offering a vision of Australia ‘‘where people are free to love and marry whom they choose and where perhaps, my friends, one day, one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation's first head of state’’.

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is an avowed monarchist and opposes changes to Australia’s marriage laws.

However, Mr Abbott defended Ms Bryce’s right to make her views known.

‘‘'It is more than appropriate for the Governor-General, approaching the end of her term, to express a personal view on a number of subjects,’’' Mr Abbott said at the time.

‘‘'That's what she was doing … and as you would expect with Quentin Bryce, she did it with grace and style.’’

News Corps said Mr Abbott's office on Wednesday refused to comment on whether the offer had been made to General Cosgrove but a spokesman said "the appointment will be announced in due course".

- with AAP and Dan Harrison