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Would you eat food that’s 18 years past its sell-by date?

Wasteful Britons are said to dump more than seven million tonnes of food a year
Some of this is inev..



  • Wasteful Britons are said to dump more than seven million tonnes of food a year
  • Some of this is inevitable but 4.4million tonnes are in 'avoidable waste'
  • FEMAIL gathered ageing foodstuffs and sent them to a laboratory for tests

By Beth Hale for the Daily Mail

Published: 22:00 GMT, 6 February 2018 | Updated: 22:01 GMT, 6 February 2018

The label has faded to illegibility, there’s a shameful layer of dust on the lid, and the ‘best before’ stamp predates your firstborn child.

Who hasn’t got some of these ancient food relics hanging around at the back of the cupboard, or buried deep in the chest freezer?

So, what should you do with a can of six-years-out-of-date tuna? Most of us, unsurprisingly, favour caution. Throwaway Britons are said to dump more than seven million tonnes of food every year.

While some of this is inevitable (tea bags, bones etc), 4.4 million tonnes is ‘avoidable waste’ — food that could have been eaten. That’s enough to provide six meals a week for the average family — and save them £700 a year.

Most of us, unsurprisingly, favour caution. Throwaway Britons are said to dump more than seven million tonnes of food every year 

Most of us, unsurprisingly, favour caution. Throwaway Britons are said to dump more than seven million tonnes of food every year

One reason for the colossal food waste mountain is the confusing hotchpotch of labels that tell us whether something is still all right to eat — ‘sell by’, ‘best before’, ‘display until’ and so on. So, what do they all mean?

‘Use by’ is very clear, and typically found on meat and fresh foods that spoil quickly. But ‘best before’ is usually just a mark of quality such as flavour and texture. Meanwhile, ‘sell by’ and ‘display until’ dates are aimed at encouraging storekeepers to shift stock.

But often tinned foods and dried pasta and flour are binned when they reach these dates, because consumers think they are unsafe or as stores clear their shelves of old stock.

Last year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Food Standards Agency and waste advisory charity Wrap introduced new guidelines saying that ‘use by’ dates should only be put on foods that pose a health risk if kept for too long. Yet still, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food are being binned unnecessarily.

In December, some branches of Co-Op tried to tackle the problem by selling off food past its ‘best before’ date at a nominal price of 10p, with store bosses estimating this could save 50,000-plus items every year from the bin. But is frugality really safe? FEMAIL gathered ageing foodstuffs found gathering dust at the back of various people’s cupboards (including a 17-year-old, opened jar of chilli powder, and a bottle of beer that can remember Tony Blair in Number 10) and sent them off to a laboratory for microbiological testing.

Microbiologist Richard Page, of Alliance Technical Laboratories, looked for a host of nasties, including the potentially deadly bacteria E.coli, salmonella, listeria and Clostridium perfringens, as well as for yeasts and moulds, which affect food quality but aren’t necessarily unsafe to eat.

Then food technologist Brian Smith, of Booth Smith Food Technology, analysed the results — and reached a very surprising conclusion . . .


Fiddes Payne Bicarbonate of Soda

Best before: June 2009. Given that bicarb is, in essence, a chemical compound, it is perhaps not surprising that no nasties were found lurking in here. ‘The shelf life of bicarbonate of soda will be almost indefinite,’ says Brian Smith.

It will, however, slowly lose its ‘gassing power’, which is what makes it useful as a raising agent in baking.

You could always put it to another use — bicarb is renowned for its usefulness as a household cleaner.

GOOD TO EAT? Perfectly safe, but your scones might come out a bit flat.

Old El Paso Refried Beans

There’s a reason canning has been a popular way of preserving food for the best part of two centuriesThere’s a reason canning has been a popular way of preserving food for the best part of two centuries

There’s a reason canning has been a popular way of preserving food for the best part of two centuries

Best before: March 2009. There’s a reason canning has been a popular way of preserving food for the best part of two centuries. Canned food is subjected to a very high heat process to kill bacteria, and once sealed the contents are effectively sterile.

‘These beans will have been sterilised, which is like putting them in a pressure cooker at over 100c,’ says Brian. Not surprisingly, no microbes, mould or yeast were found.

Sterilisation means heating to very high temperatures, killing all microbes. In 1974, tins of food from the wreck of a U.S. steamboat that sank in 1865 were tested. There had been a deterioration in appearance and vitamin content, but scientists found they were safe to eat.


First State pineapple pieces in syrup

Rather than being sterilised, tinned fruit is usually pasteurised at a temperature of at least 95CRather than being sterilised, tinned fruit is usually pasteurised at a temperature of at least 95C

Rather than being sterilised, tinned fruit is usually pasteurised at a temperature of at least 95C

Best before: December 2006. Rather than being sterilised, tinned fruit is usually pasteurised at a temperature of at least 95C. The acidity of the fruit combined with the heat renders the tinned product sterile. ‘Pineapple in a tin should last for a good many years,’ says Brian. ‘It’s well known to be very stable.’


Waitrose Biryani Cooking Sauce

Best before: February 2008. As with tins, food in a jar is usually either sterilised or pasteurised. After nine years, this smelled OK, and didn’t have a trace of hazardous microbes. In time, though, it would start to become unpalatable.

‘You would expect it to slowly deteriorate and develop slightly off flavours,’ says Brian Smith. ‘A sauce like this probably has about 10 per cent fats and oils in it, and these can give it a rancid taste — it doesn’t necessarily mean food is harmful, just that it tastes horrid.’

GOOD TO EAT? Probably — after a good long sniff.

Princes Tuna In Lime & Black Pepper Dressing

Best before: November 2006. While you might baulk at the idea, there is no reason to be any more concerned with fish than other tinned products. Again, the canning process kept the fish entirely bug-free.

Tuna, a naturally oily fish, prepared in oil is, says Brian, very stable. But the fat content could cause it to develop a funny smell or taste, in which case it’s best avoided.

GOOD TO EAT? Safe, but it wouldn’t get past the tastebuds of your more discerning dinner guests. Best ditch.

Kingfisher Shredded Crab Meat

Best before: December 2014. Fishy it may be, but with very little fat, it’s absolutely fine.

GOOD TO EAT? Yes. As fresh as the day it was canned.

Sainsbury’s Spanish Paella Rice

One issue that can affect the shelf life of rice is the natural crystallisation of the starch within each grainOne issue that can affect the shelf life of rice is the natural crystallisation of the starch within each grain

One issue that can affect the shelf life of rice is the natural crystallisation of the starch within each grain

Best before: October 2009. This sealed packet was none the worse for nine years in the larder. No bacteria or mould whatsoever.

One issue that can affect the shelf life of rice, says Brian, is the natural crystallisation of the starch within each grain, which can give a stale taste.

Rice can also be preyed on by tiny bugs called rice weevils. If you spot any movement, throw rice away and give your cupboard a good clean.

Expired brown rice is easier to spot. It may become oily and give off a rancid odour because its essential fatty acids go bad as they react with the air.


Foie Gras

Best before: December 2015. The contents of this tin may sound less than appealing, but it was still in perfect condition microbiologically.

Even so, an ageing tin like this gives off a bit of a whiff due to the natural deterioration of the fats within — especially as foie gras is very fatty.

GOOD TO EAT? Safe but unsavoury so best not. Trust your senses — if something smells bad or tastes bad, don’t eat it.

Bisto Roast Chicken Gravy

A dried food like gravy powder is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water from the atmosphereA dried food like gravy powder is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water from the atmosphere

A dried food like gravy powder is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water from the atmosphere

Best before: March 2010. The issue with a dried product like this, especially an open jar like this one, is less likely to be a microbiological hazard than something immediately obvious.

A dried food like gravy powder is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water from the atmosphere.

The result? That irritating clumping often associated with jars of instant coffee.

Gravy powder, says Brian, is typically high in salt, which is a natural preservative and will protect from microbiological or organic growth. However, consumers do need to be aware that there is a danger of cross-contamination if you dip dirty spoons into any opened product.

GOOD TO EAT? Perfectly — you will just need a firm hand to chip it out of the jar!

Sainsbury’s Mild Chilli Powder

Best before: July 2000. Unlike gravy powder, chilli powder is not hygroscopic and doesn’t clump. It could support microbial growth, but chilli has antimicrobial qualities that render this less likely. This one was as good as the day it was bought. Indeed, its owner used it to make a vegetable chilli a week before, with no ill-effects.


Fraoch Heather Ale

Tasting notes on the bottle promise ‘light toasty flavours of heather, herbs, spice and perhaps peat’ a ‘herbal finish’ and a ‘pleasantly sweet after-taste’Tasting notes on the bottle promise ‘light toasty flavours of heather, herbs, spice and perhaps peat’ a ‘herbal finish’ and a ‘pleasantly sweet after-taste’

Tasting notes on the bottle promise ‘light toasty flavours of heather, herbs, spice and perhaps peat’ a ‘herbal finish’ and a ‘pleasantly sweet after-taste’

Best before: October 2002. Tasting notes on the bottle promise ‘light toasty flavours of heather, herbs, spice and perhaps peat’ a ‘herbal finish’ and a ‘pleasantly sweet after-taste.’

However, as any seasoned beer drinker will know, yeast continues to ferment even after a drink has been bottled. This secondary fermentation can produce delicious tastes in the case of prosecco or Champagne. However, in an ale it is less than desirable.

As a result, our laboratory team knew what to expect when they tested our ale. The smell on opening was overpowering, while one who was brave enough to venture a sip noted an immediate ‘unpleasant after-taste’.

GOOD TO DRINK? Definitely not.

Waitrose Braising Beef

According to food technologist Brian, all meat deteriorates when frozenAccording to food technologist Brian, all meat deteriorates when frozen

According to food technologist Brian, all meat deteriorates when frozen

Use by: Frozen in April 2016, use within one month of freezing. Buried at the back of the freezer, the meat in this packet was invisible under a blanket of ice.

Scientists cooked it in boiling water — to replicate the suggested cooking method for braising beef — to assess what it was like after it had been cooked. The layer of ‘freezer burn’, the pale rind that frozen food develops when water seeps out and turns to ice, disappeared and the beef, says microbiologist Richard Page, was ‘tender’ and ‘normal’ to taste.

‘If you had it side by side with a fresh piece of beef cooked in the same way, and you were being really critical, you could probably detect some differences,’ he says. ‘But was it edible? Yes, it was absolutely edible.’

According to food technologist Brian, all meat deteriorates when frozen. He adds: ‘The worst enemy of frozen food is temperature fluctuation, if the conditions go from minus 20 to minus 10, up and down, it will deteriorate organoleptically — which means across all aspects of taste, flavour and colour.’

GOOD TO EAT? Yes, and very nice it was too.

So what do the experts have to say?

With the exception of aged ale, the consumer might well ask why we bother with a best before date at all? All the foodstuffs we tested were perfectly safe to eat.

‘All of the best before dates you are looking at would absolutely not be for bacterial risk. The reasoning behind them would be due to quality,’ says Richard Page.

‘It may be the manufacturer knows that after a certain period of time there is a certain degradation in the taste or the flavour, colour or smell.’

Or it might just be because they want to sell more pine-apple chunks.

Meanwhile, Brian Smith says food manufacturers do give ‘quite a margin of error’ when setting best before dates — in some cases as much as 50 per cent.

So while ‘use by’ dates should always be adhered to, ‘best before’ is more an indicator of quality than a health alarm bell.

Under European Union law, it is illegal for shops to sell produce that is beyond its ‘use-by’ date, but they can sell produce past its ‘best-before’ date.

Andrew Parry, special adviser on food and drink at waste charity WRAP, says: ‘While we suggest eating foods within their “Best Before” date to ensure the highest quality, it’s important to remember that it is merely is a quality indicator, and products with this label can be safely consumed after this date.

‘However, for cans and jars of food that may have been in your cupboard for a long time, you should make sure the packaging is undamaged and seals intact before using them.’

So would our scientists eat groceries past their best before dates from their own cupboards?

Food technologist Brian says: ‘I would open it, smell it, and if it smells reasonable have a taste. If it tastes OK, I would eat it.’

Microbiologist Richard Page insists he would always follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. ‘However, it is a shame to waste food that can be eaten. If you are happy to risk it, it’s not going to hurt you.’

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Ben Roberts-Smith: Top soldier won’t apologise for alleged war crimes



Ben Roberts-Smith is proud of his actions in Afghanistan, the former Australian soldier said in his first comments since a judge ruled claims he committed war crimes were true.

A landmark defamation case this month found Mr Roberts-Smith was responsible for the murders of four Afghans.

The Victoria Cross recipient says he is innocent and will consider an appeal.

“I’m devastated… It’s a terrible outcome and it’s the incorrect outcome,” he said on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters from Nine as he returned to Australia for the first time since the judgement was delivered, Mr Roberts-Smith also said he would not apologise to those affected by his alleged crimes.

“We haven’t done anything wrong, so we won’t be making any apologies,” he said.

Mr Roberts-Smith sued three Australian newspapers over a series of articles alleging he had carried out unlawful killings and bullied fellow soldiers while deployed in Afghanistan between 2009-2012.

But Federal Court Judge Anthony Besanko threw out the former special forces corporal’s case against The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Canberra Times, ruling it was “substantially true” that Mr Roberts-Smith had murdered unarmed Afghan prisoners and civilians, and bullied peers.

The 44-year-old, who remains Australia’s most-decorated living soldier, was not present for the civil court ruling, having spent the days leading up to it on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.


Mr Roberts-Smith, who left the defence force in 2013, has not been charged over any of the claims in a criminal court, where there is a higher burden of proof.

None of the evidence presented in the civil defamation case against Mr Roberts-Smith can be used in any criminal proceedings, meaning investigators must gather their own independently.

This week it was confirmed that the Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) – which is responsible for addressing criminal matters related to the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan – would work alongside Australian Federal Police (AFP) to examine three alleged murders local media say involve the former soldier.

The killings allegedly took place at a compound codenamed Whiskey 108 and in the southern Afghan village of Darwan.

The OSI was set up following a landmark inquiry in 2020, known as the Brereton Inquiry, which found “credible evidence” that Australia’s special forces unlawfully killed 39 people in Afghanistan.

There are currently 40 matters that are being jointly investigated by the OSI and the AFP.

Earlier this year former SAS soldier Oliver Schulz became the first Australian defence force member to ever be charged by police with the war crime of murder.


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Why Australia decided to quit its vaping habit



He’s talking about students in his class, teenagers, who can’t stop vaping.

He sees the effect of the candy-flavoured, nicotine-packed e-cigarettes on young minds every day, with children even vaping in class.

“The ones who are deepest into it will just get up out of their seat, or they’ll be fidgeting or nervous. The worst offenders will just walk out because they’re literally in withdrawal.”

Those who are most addicted need nicotine patches or rehabilitation, he says, talking about 13 and 14-year-olds.

is enough and introduced a range of new restrictions. Despite vapes already being illegal for many, under new legislation they will become available by prescription only.

The number of vaping teenagers in Australia has soared in recent years and authorities say it is the “number one behavioural issue” in schools across the country.

And they blame disposable vapes – which some experts say could be more addictive than heroin and cocaine – but for now are available in Australia in every convenience store, next to the chocolate bars at the counter.

For concerned teachers like Chris, their hands have been tied.

“If we suspect they have a vape, all we can really do is tell them to go to the principal’s office.

“At my old school, my head teacher told me he wanted to install vape detector alarms in the toilet, but apparently we weren’t allowed to because that would be an invasion of privacy.”

E-cigarettes have been sold as a safer alternative to tobacco, as they do not produce tar – the primary cause of lung cancer.

Some countries continue to promote them with public health initiatives to help cigarette smokers switch to a less deadly habit.

Last month, the UK government announced plans to hand out free vaping starter kits to one million smokers in England to get smoking rates below 5% by 2030.

But Australia’s government says that evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers quit is insufficient for now. Instead, research shows it may push young vapers into taking up smoking later in life.

‘Generation Vape’

Vapes, or e-cigarettes, are lithium battery-powered devices that have cartridges filled with liquids containing nicotine, artificial flavourings, and other chemicals.

The liquid is heated and turned into a vapour and inhaled into the user’s lungs.

Vaping took off from the mid-2000s and there were some 81 million vapers worldwide in 2021, according to the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction group.

Fuelling the rise is the mushrooming popularity of flavoured vapes designed to appeal to the young.

These products can contain far higher volumes of nicotine than regular cigarettes, while some devices sold as ‘nicotine-free’ can actually hold large amounts.

The chemical cocktail also contains formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde – which have been linked to lung disease, heart disease, and cancer.

There’s also a suggestion of an increased risk of stroke, respiratory infection, and impaired lung function.

Experts warn not enough is known about the long-term health effects. But some alarming data has already been drawn out.

In 2020, US health authorities identified more than 2,800 cases of e-cigarette or vaping-related lung injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 68 deaths attributed to that injury.

In Australia, a major study by leading charity The Cancer Council found more than half of all children who had ever vaped had used an e-cigarette they knew contained nicotine and thought that vaping was a socially acceptable behaviour.

School-age children were being supplied with e-cigarettes through friends or “dealers” inside and outside school, or from convenience stores and tobacconists, the report said.

Teens also reported purchasing vapes through social media, websites and at pop-up vape stores, the Generation Vape project found.

“Whichever way teenagers obtain e-cigarettes, they are all illegal, yet it’s happening under the noses of federal and state authorities”, report author and Cancer Council chair Anita Dessaix said.

“All Australian governments say they’re committed to ensuring e-cigarettes are only accessed by smokers with a prescription trying to quit – yet a crisis in youth e-cigarette use is unfolding in plain view.”

In addition to the government’s move to ban the import of all non-pharmaceutical vaping products – meaning they can now only be bought with a prescription – all single-use disposable vapes will be made illegal.

The volume and concentration of nicotine in e-cigarettes will also be restricted, and both flavours and packaging must be plain and carrying warning labels.

But these new measures are not actually all that drastic, says public health physician Professor Emily Banks from the Australian National University.

“Australia is not an outlier. It is unique to have a prescription-only model, but other places actually ban them completely, and that includes almost all of Latin America, India, Thailand and Japan.”

‘We have been duped’

Health Minister Mark Butler said the new vaping regulations will close the “biggest loophole in Australian healthcare history”.

“Just like they did with smoking… ‘Big Tobacco’ has taken another addictive product, wrapped it in shiny packaging and added sweet flavours to create a new generation of nicotine addicts.”

“We have been duped”, he said.

Medical experts agree. Prof Banks argues that the promotion of e-cigarettes as a “healthier” alternative was a classic “sleight-of-hand” from the tobacco industry.

As such vaping has become “normalised” in Australia, and in the UK too.

“There’s over 17,000 flavours, and the majority of use is not for smoking cessation”, she tells the BBC.

“They’re being heavily marketed towards children and adolescents. People who are smoking and using e-cigarettes – that’s the most common pattern of use, dual use.”

Professor Banks says authorities need to “de-normalise” vaping among teenagers and make vapes much harder to get hold of.

“Kids are interpreting the fact that they can very easily get hold of [vapes] as evidence [they’re safe], and they’re actually saying, ‘well, if they were that unsafe, I wouldn’t be able to buy one at the coffee shop’.

But could stricter controls make it harder for people who do turn to vapes hoping to quit or cut down on tobacco?

“It is important to bear in mind that for some people, e-cigarettes have really helped. But we shouldn’t say ‘this is great for smokers to quit’, says Prof Banks.

“We know from

Australia, from the US, from Europe, that two-thirds to three-quarters of people who quit smoking successfully, do so unaided.”

“You’re trying to bring these [vapes] in saying they’re a great way to quit smoking, but actually we’ve got bubble gum flavoured vapes being used by 13-year-olds in the school toilets. That is not what the community signed up for.”


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Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative



In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.

The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.

But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.

So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?

‘Just paperwork’

Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.

Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.

The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.

Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.

Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.

Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.

Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.

It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.

“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”

But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.

Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.

But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.

It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.

Critics push for investigation

Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.

But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.

And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.

Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.

Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.

“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.

“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”

The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.

Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.

And she says the same transparency is needed here.

The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them

The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.

“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.

“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”

PM defends governor-general

Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.

“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”

Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.

“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.

“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”

A role fit for purpose?

Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.

She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.

“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”

Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.

“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.

“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”

But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.

“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”


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