As the Governor-General’s term comes to a close, the miserable and relentless campaign against him continues.

As there is nothing at all in it, it is a wonder those running this just don’t give up.

They keep running into a brick wall : the truth.

The latest is the Daily Telegraph’s opinion page on 25 June 2008. It is is headed, insultingly, “Queen’s man a relic of the past.”

This is a piece by Steve Lewis and Ian McPhedran, which is on the web under the sinister headline  “Whiff of scandal haunts G-G.”

 

This story is syndicated in at least one other News Limited newspaper, The Advertiser.

Mr. John Howard today denied a story that is repeated so much by journalists they may be beginning to believe it.

This is that the former Prime Minister put some sort of restrictions on the Governor-General.

 He said the allegation was “false” and  “offensive” to the Governor-General who has who has done his job “with great commitment and a proper degree of independence.”

To the other tired and ultimate criticism when nothing else sticks, that he is unknown, the Governor-General is absolutely correct when he points out the media can't have it both ways.

Newspapers like The Daily Telegraph cannot largely ignore his views and then criticise what they claim is his low profile.

Not so low when you consider the immense interest in his site. If the site  took advertising, there would be, if not a river, a stream of gold going to Yarralumla. 

Many a reader would think that beating up a tired old story that the Governor- General is unknown and out of touch, indicates that this sort of media reporting is the relic.

The fall in the proportion of the population reading newspapers, particularly among the young, may well be testament to this.

 

The worst feature of the story is a new allegation – some sort of  "leak" in 1991.

No source is named, and no suggestion that anything was ever found.

The Governor-General, then a serving officer is unaware of any allegation of a leak.

This means, surely, there was no investigation. The first thing the police do about leaks is interview those in charge of the materials.

They did none. Some"leak."

The fact is there is no story here, no story at all.

Interestingly, the paper now concedes that the Governor-General has been working very hard.

Contrast  that with the reports mentioned in this column, “G-G stories: two newspapers flout press code,” 12 February 2008.

Readers will begin to wonder whether some newspapers have any shame.


So what are the facts?

…the facts..

 

The Governor-General’s indefatigable Official Secretary, Malcolm Hazell has responded to this attack.

This is in  letters to the editors of the Daily Telegraph and The Advertiser which have been posted to the Governor-General’s site.

 

He writes:

“I take issue with a number of false claims in the article by Steve Lewis and Ian McPhedran (Queen’s man a relic of the past – 25 June). “The dinner hosted by the Governor-General for the federal ministry to thank Ministers for their support, which I attended, was anything but a “stuffy affair”. Rather than an “awkward silence” the evening was characterised by a warm and friendly atmosphere and a lively buzz of conversation. 

“The claim that the Governor-General prefers to do “soft” interviews would come as a surprise to other members of the press gallery who have interviewed the Governor-General in recent weeks and a number of radio presenters who have a reputation for being anything but “soft” – one Walkley Award winner amongst them. 

“We did not say that we “prefer to use the Internet” rather we try and communicate direct to the community via radio and our Internet site that is now averaging around 700,000 hits per month. 

“And in the five years I have been at Government House I can’t recall the Governor-General attending a single fete. 

“Please get the facts right, just once.  

 “Malcolm Hazell

Official Secretary to the Governor-General”

…John Howard denies he placed any restrictions on the Governor-General…

In a statement released on 25 June, 2008, Mr Howard said:

“The suggestion in today’s News Limited article by Steve Lewis and Ian McPhedran that during my time as Prime Minister, I and my office placed restrictions on what the Governor General could properly do in discharging the duties of his office is completely false.

    “Predictably no examples of the suggested restrictions were provided in the article. 

  “Not only is the suggestion false but is offensive to the Governor General who has done his job with great commitment and a proper degree of independence. 

  

“The News Limited story makes reference to the belief of some members of a former Labor government that General Jeffery had leaked confidential information in the early 1990’s.  Naturally, I have no knowledge of these matters.  I can however say that such behaviour would have been totally alien to the character of the man who has been our Governor General for almost 5 years.”

    “Major General Jeffery has served Australia with enormous energy and dedication as a soldier, as Governor of Western Australia and as Governor General.  He has been an exemplary servant of the Australian people throughout his long public career. 

…why?…

Whyis  this relentless campaign continuing. Every aspect of it is based on a lie. Is it to advance republicanism? Is it part of a political campaign against John Howard?

Those engaging in this miserable campaign should come clean. What are they trying to achieve?

…the interview… 


This is the text of the interview as posted to the Governor-General’s site:

NEWS LTD ARTICLES 25 JUNE 2008 

A series of articles were published today in NEWS Ltd papers. Government House declined a request for a formal interview but agreed to respond to written questions.

The following are the questions submitted by journalists Steve Lewis and Ian McPhedran and the responses from Government House. 

Question: As your term as the Governor General draws to a close, can you outline for us what you count as your major achievements? 

Response

When I was sworn in as Governor-General, I undertook, together with my wife Marlena, to do my best to fulfil the constitutional and public obligations of this high office, with dedication, dignity and integrity.  I also indicated that my wife and I would move across the length and breadth of this vast country and to commit ourselves to upholding those values that continue to make for a happy, cohesive and tolerant society. While it will be for others to judge, I would hope that we will have been seen to have met the goals I outlined 5 years ago.  The details can be found on our website www.gg.gov.au. 

 Question: Are you frustrated at not being able to lift your public profile to a higher level? Why do you think you remain a virtual unknown? 

Response

Well, for a start, there is no objective measure of a Governor-General’s public profile.  NEWS Ltd reported on a survey it did a couple of years ago early on in our term, but that survey, based on questionable methodology, did not include, as far as I am aware, people from Western Australia, the ACT, or rural areas. Further, if you base an assessment about profile on the news pages of the metro dailies you see only part of the picture. I suggest you get a different view if you monitor the regional press where we get a pretty good run, and radio to which we give a lot of emphasis. Rather than rely on journalists to carry a message, and I accept that many of the things a Governor-General does has low news value, in their view, we try and communicate direct to the community via radio and our Internet site that is now averaging around 700,000 hits per month. At the end of the day the media can’t have it both ways: if newspapers choose not to report what the Governor-General is doing it is disingenuous to then claim the person is unknown because they do not have a presence in these same papers. 

Question: Can you answer for us, whether you were frustrated by the Howard Government and its `attempts' to keep you under wraps, in terms of media appearances?

 Response

This is a nonsense. I run my own program and have done so since the day I was appointed. I have been involved in some 150 military events, from the welcoming home of soldiers, to the awarding of battle honours, and speaking at significant anniversaries at the Australian War memorial, In Turkey and in Egypt. Very few of these have been reported publicly so there may be an impression “kept under wraps” but it is a false one. The reality is that the Prime Minister of the day rightly travels with a large media contingent and therefore the things that he does tend to get reported. I have no problem with that – it is the reality of public life. 

Question: Is it appropriate for the Governor General, as the head of state, to be publicly commentating on weighty matters of state? 

Response

There is a fine balance to be drawn here. In my view it is not appropriate for a Governor-General to be actively involved in public debates about what are essentially political matters. The Prime Minister is answerable to the people through the ballot box whereas a Governor-General is not. However, this office provides the occupant with a unique insight into public life and affords a rich array of experiences. From earliest days a Governor-General is seen as having the right to encourage public debate and I have tried to do this through a very heavy speech program – nearly 900 over the last five years. These speeches have touched on the key issues of the day including climate change, family breakdown, indigenous affairs, security, terrorism and renewable energy. These speeches are on our website and are available to anyone who cares to read them.  You will see they are not prescriptive in policy content.  

Question: Should the head of state be leading national mourning? 

Response

It is not always practical for the Governor-General to lead national mourning but I have done so on a number of occasions. Question: Wasn't it the case that John Howard essentially usurped this role? ResponseNo. It is often a question of who is available – you can’t be in two places at once.  And to suggest that Mr Howard set out to do this would be grossly inaccurate. 

 Question: Labor figures tell us they suspected you of leaking confidential material to the then Coalition Opposition when you were the Assistant Chief of the General Staff for Materiel.Can you answer whether this was the case? Were you ever investigated? Do you believe that these concerns held back your career advancement in Defence? 

Response

I have never leaked confidential information to the then Coalition or anybody else and I knew very well that my posting as Chief of Materiel would be my last as a serving Army Officer. The suggestions are both repugnant and defamatory. The allegation has never been raised with me – the first I was aware of these claims was the email from NEWS Ltd. A check with senior figures in the Department of Defence, that were serving at the time of these allegations, found no confirmation that such allegations were made. The people we spoke to indicated if such allegations had been raised in the Department they would have been aware of them – they weren’t. It is noteworthy that the allegations are being made now, some 18 years after the matters were alleged to have taken place. At no time, in the many Senate Estimates Hearings that I attended or any other forum, were these allegations raised or suggested. 

Question: The dinner last Tuesday night at Yarralumla. Was this the first time the Governor-General had dined with the Rudd Ministry? What was the purpose of the dinner? ResponseThis was the first time the Governor-General had invited the members of the Rudd “Ministry” to dinner at Government House. Their Excellencies have also invited members of the Howard Ministry and the then ALP Shadow Ministry (before last year’s election). It has been common practice for Governors-General to host such functions during their term of office.  Last Tuesday’s dinner was just such an occasion. 

The speech made by the Governor-General at the dinner was mentioned in some of the articles. To read the speech click here http://www.gg.gov.au/governorgeneral/speech.php?id=433

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