Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday confirmed the former defence force chief would take over as the Queen’s representative in Australia when the term of Quentin Bryce ended in March.
The general’s appointment had been rumoured for months.
But while the 66-year-old Vietnam veteran once didn’t see himself taking on the job, others had different ideas and duty called.
“If you foresee that there’s a call to arms, so to speak, as an old soldier you just get on with it,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
As the nation this year marks 100 years since Australia’s involvement in the First World War, the appointment of a military man with such a long and distinguished career seems timely and appropriate.
Peter Cosgrove in 2012. (AAP)
But General Cosgrove – who now also assumes the title of commander in chief of the Australian Defence Force – insists he will play a prominent role outside the Anzac centenary events.
He wanted to travel widely with wife Lynne on a “voyage of discovery” to learn about the Australian people, and visit indigenous communities with Australian of the Year Adam Goodes.
“The military is a very small proportion – albeit a precious one – of our community,” he said.
The decorated soldier became a household name as head of Interfet, the multinational peacekeeping force in East Timor during its transition to independence.
He later served as chief of the defence force, and was named Australian of the Year in 2001.
Former prime minister John Howard said there was no reason the general should “just cut ribbons” or be involved exclusively in military events.
“He has the common touch, but he’s got strength and dignity and that’s just the right combination for such a position,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.
Acting Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek praised the appointment, and paid special tribute to Ms Bryce, Australia’s first female governor-general.
Ms Bryce had brought a renewed sense of respect and appreciation to Australia’s highest office, serving as a role model and mentor to Australian women, Ms Plibersek said.
General Cosgrove, who also thanked his “eminent predecessor”, is not likely to follow Ms Bryce’s example in every aspect of her tenure.
Ms Bryce courted controversy late last year when she publicly supported gay marriage and a push for Australia to become a republic.
General Cosgrove wouldn’t offer his views on the monarchy, only saying he would obey the will of the Australian people.
“I think your responsibility is to shine light but not to generate heat,” he said.
“I think you’ve got to listen a lot and take in everything you see, but you’re not a participant in the political process.”