August 5

History lesson for republican of the year

 Lord Casey“I’m one of many who’d happily contribute to a fund to help him (John Howard) and Janette enjoy a comfortable retirement in exile, preferably on Saint Helena. Or, if it means he’d retire earlier, let him become GG at Yarralumla. He is, after all, already filling that role, totally eclipsing whoever it is who actually has the job, whose name no one can remember. Well, we didn’t want another Bill Dean, did we? ” writes last year’s Republican of  The Year Phillip Adams,  in his weekly column in the Magazine which came in the Weekend Australian 22-23 July, 2006. The column appeared under the heading “Be happy, John”.  (These days Mr. Adams only has one column on Saturday and one on Wednesday.  A few years ago The Australian curiously gave him two columns on Saturday, which must have been a record.)

“Men wanting to be PM have often been shoved into Government House. That’s what Menzies did with Casey, and Hawke with Hayden – to get them out of the way. So why not do it with someone who actually made it to the Lodge? That’s my suggestion for the week. JH for GG. Right now! Every second counts.” Mr. Adams, as with so many in the media, turns his back on the Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery, with his distinguished record of service to the nation as a soldier and as Governor of Western Australia and now as Governor-General. The reasons are as obvious as the decision to remove or hide the vice-regal notices in the press. It is part of an open republican agenda.

But if Mr Adams is going to make allegations about what has happened in the past, he should check his facts.

Repeating an error we pointed out in this column on 2 February, 2006, he says Mr. Howard, to head off any challenge from Mr. Costello, should follow the example of Sir Robert Menzies when he recommended Richard Casey be appointed Governor- General. This is obviously wrong.  This is not only because Casey was never a serious challenger of Menzies either in the Liberal Party or its predecessor, the UAP. Indeed, in 1956, he was defeated by Harold Holt in the first ballot for the deputy leadership of the Liberal Party.

In any event, Casey was not Menzies’ first choice. That was war hero Admiral Sir John Collins, who declined the appointment. Moreover he had been ennobled as Lord Casey. To have an Australian Prime Minister based in the House of Lords, rather than the House of Representatives would have been constitutionally possible for a short period, but politically impossible.  Finally, Casey had been out of politics for five years. So how could he have been seen by Menzies as a potential challenger?


I sent this letter to The Weekend Australian Magazine, which was published on 5-6 August, 2006, with the words in brackets deleted:


“Dear  Editor,


[To support his interminable attacks on the Prime Minister and Governor-General,] Phillip Adams (23/7 and 31/1), says Sir Robert Menzies chose Richard Casey as Governor-General because he saw him as a rival. This is pure invention.  Not so much because Casey, defeated by Holt in the first ballot for the deputy leadership in 1956, was never a serious challenger, nor because he wasn’t Menzies first choice. (That was war hero Admiral Sir John Collins, who declined.) The reason was Casey had been out of politics for five years. To have an Australian Prime Minister based in the British House of Lords, while constitutionally permissible for a short period until he found a seat here, was politically impossible.

Yours etc”

Now I suspect that Mr Adams put up a fight with the editor to stop the publication of my letter, which was delayed but not consigned to the wastepaper basket. He has been successful in removing my suggestion that his attacks on the Prime Minister and the Governor-General have been interminable.   So to express his chagrin he has separately written to me, accusing me of reacting with “characteristic pomposity” to a piece of satire. This misses the point. My critique was not about his satire, it was that he had twice seriously misrepresented the facts. He says that most Governors –General are his friends. Then, saying there is “nothing sillier than a pedant” who himself makes mistakes, Mr. Adams  points out that in my letter I had left out one of the letters ‘l’ from his Christian name.  I had, and I apologise for that.

Mr. Adams then comes to what he no doubt believes was my error of substance. He had me trapped. He delivers the coup de grâce when he announces that as Prime Minister Menzies had not been knighted when Lord Casey was appointed Governor-General, it was wrong to refer to him, as I did, as “Sir Robert.”  But if that were true, it would be as erroneous as saying that “President Bush was born in 1946.”

 But unfortunately, the facts have once again eluded Mr. Adams. Lord Casey was appointed Governor-General in 1965; Sir Robert was knighted in 1963, two years earlier.  He was indeed Sir Robert when he made his recommendation to Her Majesty.



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