Having squandered vast sums of money-yours not theirs on the pointless inquiry into an Australian republic, the Senate estimates committee has, as we have seen, descended into farce with some of the questions they put to the Official secretary of the Governor -General.
Readers were interested, and many were outraged, by the Senate Estimates strange interrogation of the Official Secretary of the Governor-General on Monday 23 May 2005.
Here are some more extracts in which the Senators demonstrate a strange interest in whether or not the Governor-General is a Freemason.
Having established that the altar used by Dr Hollingworth was no longer there, they returned to the Chapel. Then they asked questions about the fence , or lack of a fence with the neighbours in Kirribilli House! Then they wanted to know why the Rolls Royce –which was there in the garage-was being used, although you would have thought it was not there as a museum piece.
Senator FAULKNER—Is the Governor-General still a Freemason?
Mr Hazell—I do not know.
Senator FAULKNER—I thought you would know.
Mr Hazell—That is a personal thing.
Senator FAULKNER—Sorry, but what is the distinction?
Mr Hazell—There are certain personal things that he may or may not be a member of that do not impact on his public office. I do not know. I saw reports that he was a Freemason.
Senator FAULKNER—I have raised it at this committee before.
Mr Hazell—With respect, the only thing I can recall is that you asked me a question in relation to one of his speech writers, and I answered that question. I honestly do not know whether the Governor-General remains a Freemason.
Senator FAULKNER—If you go to the web site of the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of South Australia and Northern Territory, you will find a statement saying: Australia’s current Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery, MC is a Freemason, as were his predecessors Lord Stonehaven … and Lord Gowrie … Lord Stonehaven was Governor-General in the 1920s, and I think Gowrie was Governor-General during the Second World War. Anyway, I still fail to understand how the vetting mechanism works. Why does it work for new organisations but not old organisations?
Mr Hazell—To the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of any involvement that the Governor-General may have had with elements of freemasonry since he has become Governor-General. If he were a Freemason in his earlier days, I expect that that would continue, but I do not know that; it has not been raised with me. I do not know, and I think that is a private matter as far as he is concerned.
Senator FAULKNER—I do not understand the distinction. In the last estimates round I raised with you— and I hope some consideration might have been given to it—the article by Worshipful Brother David Hudleston, ‘Meet the new Governor-General’. In that article, Worshipful Brother Hudleston says: When he was Governor of WA, Major General Jeffery rose to Senior Warden in St George’s Lodge No 6. He was initiated in St George’s on 23 November 1994, passed in Hale Lodge 308 on 21 December 1994 and raised in St George’s Lodge on 17 March 1995. He was also a member of Baden Powell Lodge. And on and on it goes. That is fine. I do not understand the distinction—and this comes from Mr Melham’s very good questions on notice—between an organisation that the Governor-General might be a member of prior to his becoming Governor-General and one he might be asked to join after he is appointed Governor- General. I would have thought that the principles that you apply—and I think fairly; you are saying that these things are not to be taken lightly—would apply to ongoing memberships.
Mr Hazell—All I can say to you—and I am doing my best to try to be helpful—is that the issue has not arisen, either on his part or on the part of others.
Senator FAULKNER—I have raised it previously at a Senate estimates committee, so with respect it actually has arisen. I do not consider myself a very important link in the chain. I acknowledge that.
Mr Hazell—I am sorry, but I recall that I answered your question at the time. You asked me a question, as you just said, about David Hudleston, who was one of the people who in those days used to write speeches for the Governor of Western Australia, as the Governor-General then was. I answered that question as truthfully as I could at that time. I have no more information.
Senator FAULKNER—I am not suggesting that you are not answering truthfully. But let us say, for example, that there is a private club membership or private involvement prior to a Governor-General becoming Governor-General. If a Governor-General attended a function for that club or organisation, would that appear in the Vice Regal Notices? Mr Hazell—If it is a private element, generally not.
Senator FAULKNER—If the Governor-General attends a function for an organisation that he has become associated with either as patron or honorary member or under one of the other categories that you have spoken of, would that appear in the Vice Regal Notices? Mr Hazell—Yes, because that involves his official role as Governor-General. If he is invited to accept patronage of an organisation as Governor-General of Australia then it would—it becomes official.
Senator FAULKNER—You cannot see a possible circumstance where a Governor-General’s membership of a particular organisation prior to becoming Governor-General would be significant? Why don’t the same considerations apply to those organisations as to the ones which wish to have an association with the Governor-General post becoming Governor-General? I really do not understand that.
Mr Hazell—I think the only thing I can say to you is that I think that comes down to the good sense and good judgment of the Governor-General. If he felt there was any conflict or whatever, I have no doubt he would discuss the matter with me. As to whether he is actively involved in it, how he wants to pursue it and whether he wants it to be a link with him as Governor-General, I do not know. That is about as helpful an answer as I can give.
Senator FAULKNER—Were any costs involved in the removal of the chapel?
Mr Studdert—Not that I am aware of. Mr Hazell—I keep trying to tell you that there was no chapel. There was a room that was used for private devotional purposes.
Senator FAULKNER—It had to be restored to its original state, didn’t it? I was asking if there were any costs involved in restoring it to its original state. Mr Hazell—No.
Senator FAULKNER—What is the situation now with access between Kirribilli House and Admiralty House?
Mr Hazell—The same as it always was.
Senator FAULKNER—What is that?
Mr Hazell—There is no restriction, in that there is an external property barrier, but there is no sort of restriction in movement as between the two—if I understand your question.
Senator FAULKNER—Is there a dividing fence?
Mr Hazell—No, not between the two. There is not a fence for the total property, no.
Senator FAULKNER—So is there a borderline or something like that? Has there ever been?
Mr Hazell—I am advised that there is a boundary but, as I say, there is no fence that goes there.
Senator FAULKNER—What marks the boundary?
Mr Hazell—I must stand corrected. At part of the property there is some fencing, but there is then a pathway that leads from the top of the building down towards the water’s edge.
Senator FAULKNER—And the pathway represents the dividing line between the two properties, does it?
Mr Hazell—Notionally, I expect.
Senator FAULKNER—Is that an old pathway or a new pathway?
Mr Hazell—I do not know how old it is, but it is certainly not new.
THE ROLLS ROYCE
Senator FAULKNER—What about the fleet of cars out there? Whatever happened to the Rolls-Royce? Is that still out there at Yarralumla?
Mr Hazell—Yes, it still exists.
Senator FAULKNER—What sort of condition is it in?
Mr Hazell—Quite good condition.
Senator FAULKNER—Is it ever used?
Senator FAULKNER—How often?
Mr Hazell—It is used, in the main, for most credentials ceremonies, which are at least once a month. It is used for official occasions, ceremonial occasions, for the Governor-General.
Senator FAULKNER—I thought it had been in mothballs. That is not right?
Senator FAULKNER—Has it received any recent overhaul at all, apart from the regular maintenance?
Mr Hazell—Maintenance, yes.
Senator FAULKNER—That is all?
Mr Hazell—No, I think there have been one or two things that have needed to be replaced, and that has been—
Senator FAULKNER—What would they be?
Mr Hazell—We had an expert look at it, and he recommended some things to be overhauled to keep it in pristine mechanical condition.
Senator FAULKNER—When did the expert look at it?
Mr Hazell—About 12 months ago, I am advised.
Senator FAULKNER—Was that some sort of consultancy?
Mr Hazell—No. Senator FAULKNER—Just an expert?
Mr Hazell—We paid him for the work. Perhaps I had better take that question on notice to give you further details of the costs involved.
Senator FAULKNER—Has there been any increased use of the Rolls-Royce?
Mr Hazell—I think the important thing was to make sure that it stayed in a condition that was safe and reliable.
Senator FAULKNER—Yes, but my question was whether there has been increased use of the Rolls- Royce.
Mr Hazell—I think the answer to that is yes.
Senator FAULKNER—I think it is too. Why is it being used more?
Mr Hazell—There were occasions in the past where it was not considered reliable; therefore it was not used. It has been overhauled, and it is now used, for instance, in those examples that I gave you in relation to new ambassadors and high commissioners presenting credentials and for ceremonial occasions involving the Governor-General.
Senator FAULKNER—But hasn’t the current Governor-General said he wants to use the Rolls-Royce more?
Mr Hazell—I am not aware of that.
Senator FAULKNER—So it is just being used more by a fluke?
Mr Hazell—The Governor-General undertakes more ceremonial activities than perhaps some of his predecessors did and it is being used in that context—for example, Anzac Day, not so long ago, comes to mind.
Senator FAULKNER—It is being used more. Why is it being used more?
Mr Hazell—Because it has been repaired and is more reliable for use.
Senator FAULKNER—How much do the repairs to the Rolls-Royce cost? Mr Hazell—I will have to take that on notice. I do not have that figure.
Senator FAULKNER—What about the fact that there is a new fleet of bomb-proofed cars with a substantial security upgrade? Isn’t that important?
Mr Hazell—We do not use those cars.
Senator FAULKNER—So the Governor-General has not requested or not indicated that he wishes to use the Rolls-Royce more?
Mr Hazell—Certainly not to my knowledge.
Senator FAULKNER—It is just being used more; it is just the way it is?
Senator FAULKNER—That is funny.
Mr Hazell—What is funny? I do not see anything funny. I think it is quite normal.
Senator FAULKNER—.Why is it happening? It is not clear to me why it is happening. If you can explain to me why it is happening, that is fine
Mr Hazell—I just tried to explain it. The fact is that the car is now a more reliable vehicle to travel in, so therefore it gets more use. The use to which it is being put remains the use to which it was always put, because it is more reliable.
Senator FAULKNER—When you say it is more reliable, has it broken down previously?
Mr Hazell—Yes, it has.
Senator FAULKNER—While undertaking some sort of official role?
Mr Hazell—I do not know whether it broke down while undertaking an official role, but certainly there were stages when it was unreliable.
Senator FAULKNER—When were those stages?
Mr Hazell—I cannot give you an answer off the top of my head. If there is a risk of not getting either a Governor-General or another VIP from A to B safely and reliably, I do not think we would have used the thing.
Senator FAULKNER—I cannot see the problem with telling me that the Governor-General likes using the Rolls-Royce more than his predecessors did. Why doesn’t someone just say it and be done with it?
Mr Hazell—Because I do not think that is a fact.
Senator FAULKNER—He is just using it more than his predecessors did?
Mr Hazell—Because he undertakes more ceremonial activities and the vehicle itself is able to be used more. That is the fact of the matter. …….
Of course it is, Senators.
So that is how the Senators spend their time -and your money!
Until next time,