The following led the letters page in the nation’s most read newspaper, the Herald Sun, on 21 March, 2007 under the heading “GG’s job no popularity contest.” It related to a story by Ian McPhedran in the Melbourne Herald Sun of 20 March 2007, “John Howard snubs questions.”
The guerilla war by republican politicians against the office of the Governor-General continues (“PM snubs questions”, March 20). So what if 80 per cent of Australians don’t recognise the Governor-General? Most wouldn’t recognise the Chief Justice of the High Court or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, either, but that doesn’t mean their job is not done, is unimportant or irrelevant. The Governor-General’s job is to appoint and dismiss a prime minister and ministers, approve new legislation, ensure politicians obey the law, open and dissolve the Parliament, represent Australia overseas, receive diplomatic visits and give support to various community organisations. That Maj-Gen Jeffery is beavering away at his duties instead of trying to win a popularity contest shows he is doing exactly what he is paid to do. As for the apparent cost of the Governor-General’s total office — a paltry $12 million a year — do you think the president of an Australian republic would come so cheap?
Victorian Convener, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy”
The following may be found in questions – believe it or not, there were eleven of them – can be seen in the House of Representatives Hansard of 21 March,2007: Mr Murphy (Lowe) asked the Prime Minister, in writing, on 4 September 2006:
“(1) Did he see a report in The Daily Telegraph of 24 August 2006 titled “A majorly unknown general”.
(2) In respect of that part of the report that reveals that a Daily Telegraph’s national survey found that “Up to eighty per cent of Australians have no idea who Governor-General Michael Jeffery is”, what is his response to this finding.
(3) What is his response to that part of the report that states: “The result is good news for Mr Howard, who has taken over many of the Governor-General’s traditional tasks – especially as chief mourner at national events such as the Bali bombing memorials”.
(4) What is his response to that part of the report that states: “The Daily Telegraph can also reveal that the Prime Minister’s office reacted angrily when Major-General Jeffrey appeared on Channel 10’s Meet The Press program in May last year”.
(5) Can he confirm that part of the report that states: “The Major-General’s staff were told by Mr Howard’s press secretary Tony O’Leary to keep the viceroy off TV – and he has barely appeared since”; if so, what are those details; if not, why not.
(6) Will he now facilitate the Governor-General being present at as many national and sporting events as possible, particularly over the next 15 months; if not, why not.
(7) Will he ensure that, wherever possible, the Governor-General is the chief mourner at national events like the Bali bombing memorials, particularly over the next 15 months; if not, why not.
(8) Are there any protocols, guidelines or conventions which determine when it is appropriate for a Governor-General to be chief guest at national and sporting events; if so, what are the details of those protocols, guidelines or conventions; if not, why not.
(9) Are there any protocols, guidelines or conventions which determine when it is appropriate for a Prime Minister to be the chief guest at national and sporting events; if so, what are the details of those protocols, guidelines or conventions; if not, why not.
(10) Will he facilitate raising the profile of the Governor-General in the media, particularly over the next 15 months; if not, why not.
(11) What is the role of the Governor-General in respect of high-profile, non-ceremonial events, including sporting events, over the next 15 months.
Mr Howard (Bennelong—Prime Minister)—The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1) to (11) The Governor-General attends a very wide range of events around Australia and overseas consistent with his role, and will continue to do so. The assertion that my office sought to prevent him speaking to the press was corrected in The Age on 30 August 2006.”