May 16

The Governor-General speaks


While the republican movement  can’t be bothered telling the Australian people what they want,  they are demanding that even more of the taxpayers' hard earned money be taken out of, say, the hospital and education budgets  to do their job for them.

In the meantime they have joined a completely unjustified campaign against the Governor-General.

ANU Professor John Warhurst’s attack on the Governor-General was very well answered in that newspaper by Sir David Smith.

…letter from Government House on republican attack…

We published the unedited version of Sir David’s letter on 9 May, 2008, (“Republicans behaving disgracefully.”)

The following is a letter dated 2 May 2008 to the Canberra Times from Brien Hallett, the

Acting Official Secretary to the Governor-General.   

“John Warhurst (“G-G should not comment” (Canberra Times 1/5/08, p19) has missed the point when he criticises Governor-General Michael Jeffery’s views on our democratic system.


“In the original Anzac Day Canberra Times story (“GG urges republicans to avoid ‘a big mistake’”, Canberra Times, 25/4/08, p6) General Jeffery made it clear that he was not commenting on whether there would be a change to a republic. And it is drawing a very long bow indeed to try to suggest that his remarks are critical of the current Government or the outcomes of the 2020 Summit.


“In fact, the Governor-General repeated what he has said numerous times in various forums across the country, namely that Australians should not shirk from considering better ways of governing ourselves, that we should be better informed about our existing governance arrangements so that if we make any changes, we do so for the better and in a more informed way. Most importantly, he has stated that any change is a matter for the government of the day and the Australian people.


“Brien Hallett

Acting Official Secretary to the Governor-General”

…interview with Governor-General…  


In “Governor-General Major General Michael Jeffery hits back,” ( Sunday Times, 30 April, 2008) Doug Conway  reported that the Governor-General Major General Michael Jeffery had hit back at critics, saying some comments are ill-informed and others "absolute rubbish".


Maj Gen Jeffery will “bow out as a proud old soldier in September, ending not only a five-year term as viceroy but a 54-year relationship with the military,” the report continued.


Mr. Conway reported that the Governor-General likes to think he has served his country well, from his days as a 16-year-old cadet at Canberra's Duntroon military college through a decorated career in soldiering to his term as Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of the Australian armed forces.

Mr. Conway reported that Maj Gen Jeffery had dispelled any suggestion that John Howard, gave him any instructions to keep the office “low key.”


"In no way was I ever given any direction, and in no way was I given any direction in terms of what I would say on the media or anything else,” he said.


"So that's a total fallacy.


"But you do have to be careful what you say so you don't get this friction between a prime minister and a Governor-General, which I think would be disastrous to the running of the country.''


He had a "totally free hand'', he said, describing his relationship with Mr Howard as “good and positive, a normal, sensible relationship''.


"And I have that sort of relationship with the present Prime Minister.''


As to the Prime Minister taking his place on great occasions , the Governor-General said:

"I farewelled and welcomed as many troops as the prime minister, I have represented Australia on 21 overseas visits, I've presented all the gallantry awards.''

 "But most are not reported on the national level; they're reported locally so people don't get to see me doing it.


"Therefore the inference is perhaps the prime minister is taking over. That's not true.''

"But I think some of the comment has been ill-informed.


"Our activity rate has been greater than any other incumbent by quite a long way.


"You can't have some elements of the media refusing to publish anything and then saying 'he's low profile'.


"Because how do you get a profile? It comes through the media.


"It's upsetting. Those making the comment tend to be people you've never met and who have never been with us on any activity.


"I think it's a little unfair. Sometimes I think they get the balance a little out of kilter.''

…republic must be an improvement…

As to Germaine Greer's assertion that a robot could perform his job, Maj Gen Jeffery replied: "She has lived for 40 years in England, she doesn't know me from a bar of soap, she has never seen a single thing in which I've participated or my wife, she knows nothing of my service or background, she has never seen me in any dialogue with (Chinese leader) Hu Jintao or President (George) Bush or (Indonesian) President Yudhoyono, or local communities and schools across the whole cross-section.


"In a democracy people can write what they write, but it does get a little irritating when you know in your own heart and mind that what they are saying is absolute rubbish.''


He said most people were aware of the viceroy's community and ceremonial roles but did not understand the constitutional role.


"Yet that is by far the most important because it really is the function of the Governor-General to ensure that the prime minister and premiers of the day behave themselves constitutionally.''


Maj Gen Jeffery said he had experienced too many uplifting moments as Governor-General to nominate a favourite.


But he singled out seeing young Australians wrapped in Turkish flags at Gallipoli in 2006, officiating at the reburial of World War I Diggers on the Western Front, gatherings of Australians of the year, gallantry awards and meeting a woman who had fostered 150 babies over 18 years.


"I'm inspired by people doing things for their communities,'' he said.


"I'm inspired by good mums and dads. If someone says, 'I'm just a mum', I say, 'No you're not, you're the most important component of our nation, you're raising children and looking after them'.

If someone says, 'I'm just a soldier', I say, 'No you're not, you're the fundamental guts of the army'.''


He described his successor, Queensland Governor Quentin Bryce, as an articulate and intelligent lady, and agreed it was time a woman was appointed to Yarralumla.


"Women make up 50 per cent of the population, at least 50 per cent of the intelligence and probably 70 per cent of the compassion,'' he said.


"So women should be right up there in every facet of our life, and bit by bit it's happening.


"It's absolutely right and proper that a woman should be Governor-General of the country.


"But I don't see things in the sense of male and female, I see people being picked because they're great for the job.''


Maj Gen Jeffery said Australia should never shirk from looking at better ways of governing itself, but warned republicans to make sure any new system was an improvement.


"If they're going to take a plunge out there simply because they think it's a good thing to do, without understanding the subtleties, nuances and the ramifications, then we have the potential to make a big mistake,'' he said.


"If there was to be any change I don't think it would logically happen before Her Majesty the Queen is succeeded.


"I can honestly say I haven't in my travels around the country felt that there has been a passionate desire for change, people poking you in the chest and saying let's change.''


Maj Gen Jeffery likes to think the office of Governor-General "in broad is meeting the community expectation''.


"In other words the ship of state is on track, that people generally think the Governor-General is doing a good job.


"I like to think we (he stresses the job is a team effort with his wife Marlena) have fulfilled to the best of our ability our commitment to carry out the role with integrity and dedication to duty.''


The Governor-General believes that Australia is the best country in the world to live in.


"We are an innovative, courageous and decent people.


"We have been successful in linking so many different cultures together.


"We are an example for the rest of the world.''



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