It is interesting to see what happens at the Senate Estimates Committee, an expensive process designed to examine the forward estimates in the recent budget.In other words, it is there to see our money is properly spent, and even to save the taxpayer money.
Some of the questions put to the Official Secretary to the Governor –General included the media beat-up about the Governor-General and Prince Charles at Rome Airport, the chapel at Government House, how much the Rolls Royce is used, whether the Governor –General is a Freemason, and which organizations were refused patronage, something one would think those organizations would not want to be made public. This is an extract about two of the issues from the Hansard proof (the full text can be found at:www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/committee/S58317.pdf from page 74)
Senator FAULKNER—Iwill start by asking you whether the chapel that was built at Yarralumla by the previous Governor-General, Dr Hollingworth, has been removed. I wondered what had happened to it.
Mr Hazell—My recollection of that, because it was my before my time, was that there was not a chapel, as such, built but a room used for private devotion. Clearly, that no longer applies.
Senator FAULKNER—What is that room used for now?
Mr Hazell—That is just one of the rooms in the house itself.
Senator FAULKNER—What happened to the fittings and so forth for the chapel?
Mr Hazell—I do not believe there were any special fittings.
Senator FAULKNER—Was there not an altar?
Senator FAULKNER—What was in the room? Mr Bullivant, can you help us?
Mr Bullivant—I remember there being a desk. I think Dr Hollingworth brought with him an altar that he could use, but it was not the property of the house.
Senator FAULKNER—So there was an altar, but it was not—
Mr Bullivant—It was not our property.
Senator FAULKNER—The chapel does not exist anymore—fair enough. What is the room used for?
Mr Hazell—It is just one of the rooms in the house that still has a desk in it. Maybe the Governor-General uses it from time to time.
Senator FAULKNER—You do not know?
Mr Hazell—I do not know.
Senator FAULKNER—I noticed some press speculation about Prince Charles, who had made some sort of attempt to open the Commonwealth games in Melbourne next March. Did you see that coverage in a couple of prominent broadsheet newspapers?
Mr Hazell—Yes, I did.
Senator FAULKNER—The thrust of the story was that the Queen has intervened to stop Prince Charles opening the Commonwealth Games. I just wondered whether the Office of the Governor-General had had any involvement in that issue at all.
Mr Hazell—Absolutely none.
Senator FAULKNER—You are not aware of it, apart from the press speculation?
Mr Hazell—I am not aware of it at all.
Senator FAULKNER—Fair enough. If you cannot help us I will ask some of those elsewhere who might be able to. No doubt you can help us with the fact that Prince Charles had left the Governor-General stranded. This was at Rome airport in late April. Are you aware of the press commentary on that issue?
Mr Hazell—I am aware of some speculation in the press about that. My understanding of that—I was not there at the time, so again I will repeat my understanding of it—was that the Prince of Wales had kindly offered the Governor-General and Mrs Jeffery a lift on his plane to London. There were considerable logistical difficulties after they had left the funeral and in the end, because there was very limited time available for his aircraft to take off, the Governor-General and Mrs Jeffery were unable to take up that offer. But to describe it as leaving the Governor-General stranded is stretching the truth a bit. Certainly our party was informed. Alternative arrangements were made and it was an opportunity that unfortunately the Governor-General was unable to take up at the time and the Prince of Wales acknowledged it as such.
Senator FAULKNER—So what happened? Prince Charles offered the Governor-General a lift at Rome airport?
Mr Hazell—Yes. He had offered to take them to London.
Senator FAULKNER—From Rome to London.
Mr Hazell—From Rome.
Senator FAULKNER—So when was that offer made?
Mr Hazell—I cannot remember the exact date but it was certainly after the Governor-General had left Australia and clearly before the party had left Rome. I cannot remember the exact dates but there was only a short window of opportunity for that to happen.
Senator FAULKNER—So how was the offer made? Was it made directly to the Governor-General or—
Mr Hazell—Certainly I was advised by the Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales that the Prince of Wales had made the offer, and that was passed on, I believe. The travelling party had heard about it when they were in Rome and the Governor-General was made aware of it then.
Senator FAULKNER—So the offer was made by Clarence House, effectively?
Senator FAULKNER—Was the offer accepted by the Governor-General?
Mr Hazell—Yes, it was.
Senator FAULKNER—How big was the Governor-General’s party at this stage?
Mr Hazell—There were the Governor-General and Mrs Jeffery and there were, from memory, two personal staff plus some security people.
Senator FAULKNER—And they were in Rome for the Pope’s funeral?
Senator FAULKNER—So the offer was made; the offer was accepted—and what happened? Did the Governor-General get caught in the traffic in Rome or something or other?
Mr Hazell—I think that, as you could expect, there were a considerable number of people moving away from the Vatican. All I know is that there was a very short window of opportunity, and the circumstances were such that the Governor-General was not able to take up the offer. It was no more and no less than that.
Senator FAULKNER—Didn’t Prince Charles yell, ‘I’ve got a wedding to get to’?
Mr Hazell—I was not there. I must say that I find it very hard to imagine that happening, but I was not aware. I have no idea.
Senator FAULKNER—I assume the wedding Prince Charles had to get to was the wedding to Mrs Parker Bowles. That would be right, wouldn’t it?
Senator CARR—His own wedding.
Senator FAULKNER—His own wedding, yes. So you do not know whether he yelled, ‘I’ve got a wedding to get to’?
Mr Hazell—I do not.
Senator FAULKNER—Where was the Governor-General when he learnt that the Prince had got sick of waiting for him and had decided to take off?
Mr Hazell—I cannot answer that. As I say, all I know is that a considerable number of the VIPs in motorcades were leaving the Vatican, but I cannot answer you specifically because I just do not know.
Senator FAULKNER—Is it true that Australia’s Governor-General was delayed in the traffic getting to the Rome airport? Someone should at least know that. You have to deal with his scheduling, so somebody, one assumes, should know. We know he did not go on the flight with Prince Charles, who had a wedding—his own—to get to. So the Governor-General got back to London some other way, did he?
Mr Hazell—Yes, he flew back.
Senator FAULKNER—We do not think he swam, so we assume alternative arrangements were made.
Mr Hazell—They were.
Senator FAULKNER—When did he learn that he was not going to make the flight? Did he see Prince Charles’s jet flying overhead and realise he had not made it, or what?
Mr Hazell—A phone call was made, I am told—I presume from the Prince’s party to our party—to advise them.
Senator FAULKNER—Where was the Governor-General when that phone call was received by the Governor-General’s party?
Mr Hazell—I honestly do not know, and I have no way of knowing that. I presume that he was in his way, endeavouring to get himself to the airport, but I do not know; I am speculating.
Senator FAULKNER—So we do not know when he found out that the plane had gone?
Mr Hazell—He found out shortly after he had himself left the Vatican.
Senator FAULKNER—He found out on the way to the airport—is that right? Mr Hazell—I do not know whether they were on their way to the airport or—in fact, there are number of airports around Rome—whether it was the same airport that the Prince of Wales’s aeroplane was taking off from or whether he was already on his way to connect with the commercial flight.
Senator FAULKNER—Did you see the press coverage that seemed to suggest that some people thought the Prince was pretty rude for leaving the Governor-General stranded?
Mr Hazell—That is one interpretation of it. I think that is out of character, given that the Prince himself had made the offer—I think reasonably generously—to accommodate the Governor-General and Mrs Jeffery and take them to London.
Senator FAULKNER—No, I was just wondering whether you had seen the press coverage that basically claimed—
Mr Hazell—Yes, I saw the press coverage, but, as I say, it was at the Prince of Wales’s initiative that the offer was made, so it seems slightly out of character.
Senator FAULKNER—He made the offer and then took off without the Governor-General.
Mr Hazell—Because other circumstances intervened, as I explained before.
Senator FAULKNER—Anyway, were there any hard feelings about this? Mr Hazell—Certainly not.
Senator FAULKNER—They are all still good friends?
Mr Hazell—It was perfectly understood.
Senator FAULKNER—Were there any repercussions of the negative press coverage of this? Was there any attempt by Yarralumla—by the office of the Governor-General—to correct the record, for example, when there was this negative press coverage about the Governor-General being stranded?
Mr Hazell—I believe that some members of the press asked our office for comment and I told our press liaison person to advise them in roughly the terms that I have advised you: that the suggestion that the Governor-General was snubbed was rubbish ,
It is interesting for the electors to know what their elected representatives are interested in, and how their questions relate to their expensive time-consuming task, which is examing the forward estimates in the budget.
Until next time,