There should be an award for the rudest, most uninformed piece of journalism in Australia. We now have a nomination. It is for an opinion piece, “Sun should set on colonial excess,” published in the Courier Mail on 13 March, 2007. It was by Paul Syvret, who describes himself on the newspaper web site as the paper’s “News editor and columnist.” He says his job includes taking some “sacred cow” and attacking it “with a blunt axe.” Mr. Syvret is entitled to enjoy himself, but as a senior journalist, he has a professional obligation to check that his assertions are justified, and surely, in a journal of record, he should resist pouring gratuitous insults on the objects of his scorn.
Mr. Syvret’s argument is that to save money, Queensland should follow former NSW Premier Bob Carr’s example and “turf” the Governor out of Government House, opening it up for public and state functions –as if they are not already held there. Under the Syvret plan, the Governor would be part time and work from a downtown office.
The eviction of the NSW Governors from Government House has actually cost the NSW taxpayer millions of dollars. It is more expensive to have the Governor live in her own home. The fact that it costs more money is on the public record – so much so that the NSW government no longer tries to justify the eviction on the ground of saving money. Why didn’t Mr. Syvret concede this? We must assume he did not hide this, so it seems he did not check this. Nor does he seem to understand that evicting the Governor means he or she has to have a home in Brisbane – which excludes the appointment of many eminent Queenslanders. What an insult to regional and rural Queensland.
And while he demonstrates that he knows that the Crown’s reserve powers are an important check on the abuse of power, Mr. Syvret still wants the position of Governor abolished. Is he aware that Bob Carr has actually admitted that he evicted the Governor precisely because of those reserve powers?
The worst thing about this piece is the appalling way he insults our Royal Family. The worst he can say about The Queen is that she is “octogenarian”, as if that were a criticism. The venom –so venomous I will not repeat it – he pours on the other members of the family is an egregious example of Baldwin’s dictum on the exercise of "power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages."
Fortunately the Courier Mail allows readers to comment online on the piece. Mine follows, and you can comment too. (Incidentally, to his credit, the Queensland Premier, Mr. Peter Beattie, rejected earlier calls from within his party to evict the Governor.):
“Paul Syvret ( Opinion 13/3) calls for a part time Governor with an office downtown, citing Bob Carr’s eviction of the NSW Governor. He is apparently unaware of what actually happened here. The Governor was soon restored to a full time position when it was realized his continuing headship of the Law Reform Commission would have been unconstitutional. Then the Auditor General reported that evicting the Governor was far more expensive than in his living at Government House. Over the decade this has amounted to several million dollars. The public has had no more access than before, but the NSW Governor spends an inordinate amount of time in Sydney’s worsening traffic, moving between her office, her home, and Government House. In addition, nobody who lives in the country, however eminent, can be appointed unless they also have a home in Sydney.
When he retired, Mr. Carr’s admitted that the reason for the eviction was the reserve powers. This was a bombshell, for the best known of these is the power to deal with a premier acting illegally and constitutionally. It is most important that the Governor have her own domain where she is in charge and independent, and not in some downtown government office.
Mr. Syvret uses his column to throw some appalling and unjustified insults at the Royal Family. Perhaps he should read some of the reaction in the US (noted on the ACM website) when Prince Harry took the honourable decision to remain with his regiment when it was sent to Iraq. The contrast was made with the attitude of their ruling republican class.
Australians for Constitutional Monarchy etc”