Criminal Union Filth: Dragging Cosgrove Into #TURC Will Backfire

MILITANT, LAWLESS unions are calling in debts from their ALP stooges today, with the mad rush to nobble Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon and/or trash his inquiry into union criminality ramping up with wilful disregard for the laws of the land. Now, miscreant Labor has hatched a plot for Governor-General Peter Cosgrove to dissolve the Commission. The move will backfire spectacularly, and in ways it has clearly not foreseen or would choose.

Those who follow me on Twitter (@theredandblue) will know that over the past week — ever since the revelation of unbelievable stupidity involving NSW Liberals inviting trade union Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon to address a function they were organising became public — I have repeatedly made the point that if all the Heydon Commission really was is a politically motivated witch hunt, there would be no need to clamour to have it closed down: there would be nothing to find. Or to hide.

And those readers who have been with me over the journey in this column will have heard me say, many times, that Labor cares about power, not people: although in the present circumstances the obvious exception is people who happen to be lawless union thugs on the run from justice.

It hardly befits a party masquerading as fit to govern Australia, irrespective of what you think of the Abbott government.

I stand by the article published in this column on Monday, and apologise once again for the dearth of comment I’ve provided of late: the event that occurred in the skies over Sydney last Tuesday night continues to leave me drained and a bit rattled, and combined with a nevertheless unrelenting schedule the time for writing content has been scant.

But the central point — to use the vernacular and, to be blunt if crude — that whoever the fucking idiot at the NSW Liberals was who saw fit to invite Heydon to a Liberal Party function (irrespective of the semantic declamations that have since emerged) ought to be run out of the party remains valid, and the fact such an invitation would inevitably result in the mother of all shitfights with a Labor/unions opponent prepared to fight to the death using virtually any conceivable tactic was foreseeable makes it inexplicable the invitation was ever issued.

Any doubt around this can be dispelled by a simple viewing of most Twitter feeds (even the ones not ostensibly selected to provide political news) and/or the most cursory reading of any newspaper in the country: Labor and the unions have gone on the warpath over the Royal Commission in a way they have rarely — if ever — done previously, and even the possible exception of the events of November 1975 struggles to match the raw fury and self-obsessed, terrified, base survival instincts they are exhibiting now.

Yet speaking of 1975 and the inescapable allusion to vice-regal power, it seems the ALP might have finally overreached in its response to its manufactured debacle over Heydon’s agreement to give the Garfield Barwick Lecture; its newly-minted attack plans are likely to explode spectacularly in its collective face, and backfire on both the Labor Party and the unions in ways they obviously have failed to consider.

I read last night with some amusement a piece in the Herald Sun from Andrew Bolt, which detailed a Labor plot — led by arch-socialist and left wing Senate leader Penny Wong — to use a long-abandoned mechanism, avoided by convention in modern times lest the office of Governor-General be politicised, to empower present viceroy Sir Peter Cosgrove to dissolve the Royal Commission into the trade union movement on the grounds Dyson Heydon had “failed to uphold the standards of impartiality” expected of him.

I was amused by this because I didn’t think even a desperate ALP obliged by its puppeteers and paymasters at the unions to do something, anything to get the arses of the crooks in their midst out of the sling would be so stupid as to try to revive an obsolete legal mechanism on such a dubious pretext, and at such obvious risk to its own reputation as a political outfit purporting to readiness to win the trust of the Australian public at an election — the damage to that end already having been done by the confessed liar, self-evident grub and sleazy shyster in Bill Shorten as its “leader” notwithstanding.

It seems, however, that the Wong threat was no laughing matter; Bolt himself provided a link to a companion article from The Australian which elaborated on just that theme: and once people have read the explanation in that piece, I’m sure they will agree with me that the precedent Labor now seeks to cite, based on the circumstances in which the Senate last “addressed” the Governor-General in 1931, is a very flimsy rationale indeed, although I don’t doubt for a moment it is legal: the Constitution is filled with arcane powers that enable the monarch or his/her representative to act, sometimes independently with regard to prevailing circumstances (as in 1975), and sometimes in concert with Parliament.

But that doesn’t make it right: and not to put too fine a point on it, so brazen are Labor and the unions in trying to destroy the Royal Commission and its Commissioner in any way possible and so desperate are the vested interests who stand to be prosecuted (and presumably heavily fined and/or imprisoned for lengthy periods) that they are now prepared to hack away at the very pillars of ordered government in Australia to try to achieve those ends.

As the piece from The Australian notes, it would also constitute a grave and timeless hypocrisy on the ALP’s part, for it has long argued (and did, in 1975) that the “proper” function of the Governor-General is to accept advice from his/her Prime Minister and from no-one else.

This arrogant and presumptive interpretation of vice-regal power underpins Labor rage over the decision by Sir John Kerr to dismiss the Whitlam government in 1975 to this day; its apparent preparedness to itself seek to engineer a departure from that formula now — in the name of lawless thugs in its own ranks whose most useful community service would be rendered behind bars — starkly illustrates just how intellectually bankrupt, and how utterly amoral, the Labor Party today really is.

Were the Senate to vote to “address” Cosgrove, the Governor-General would be under no obligation whatsoever to accede to its demands; indeed, the likeliest response would be to tell Wong and her cohorts — e’er diplomatically — to get stuffed, although it is to be hoped such a riposte would be delivered with the bluntness Cosgrove was revered for as a soldier.

It may be that this has occurred to Wong, who yesterday indicated the opposition would defer its motion in the Senate until early September to allow Prime Minister Tony Abbott to “show some leadership,” which is code for sacking Heydon. Again, Abbott can and should refuse to budge. It is a bit rich for someone like Penny Wong to be talking about leadership at the best of times, let alone when she is party to an attempt to trash decades-old conventions of governance and to undermine the very system of government in Australia.

Yet even so, the fact this is playing out at all reeks of the stench of an artifice that is rotten to the core, and the fact Labor and the unions — irrespective of the validity or otherwise of the “smoking gun” they think Heydon’s (withdrawn) agreement to give the Sir Garfield Barwick Lecture offers — are, at root, fighting to stop criminals in their ranks being identified, comprehensively outed, and prosecuted.

There is no “principle” underpinning the actions of the unions and the ALP. It is just that simple.

Former Howard government staffer Chris Kenny — now a columnist at The Australian, and certainly no friend to Labor — nonetheless published one of the most sober and rational perspectives yesterday; I would go so far as to distil the ridiculous nature of the ALP’s behaviour even further: what Labor and the unions are trying to sell people on is the contention that Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon giving a law lecture at a Liberal Party function shows bias and disqualifies him from impartially presiding over any official forum in public life.

What is fails to explain is how Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner (and acknowledged socialist activist) Gillian Triggs similarly appearing at ALP fundraisers is any different.

But then again, the ALP has never had any compunction over shameless hypocrisy when it suits its own grubby ends.

In the end, Labor doesn’t care about the laws of the land; it doesn’t care about ethics and accountability and probity, be it in government or in institutions like the unions; it couldn’t care less how much damage it does to the fabric of democracy in this country or the offence it gives to decency and integrity: if the filth that is the criminal union thuggery from whose collective teat it suckles are at risk of being brought to justice for their lawless outrages, Labor will trash anything — anything — in its grimy quest to conspire in their evasion of prosecution.

As Bolt noted, if Cosgrove does tell the ALP — under the guise of the Senate “addressing” him — to bugger off, the assault that will be launched against Cosgrove and his office will make it appear that Dyson Heydon has merely been trifled with in jest: anyone who thinks Labor and the unions have reached full flight just yet are kidding themselves.

Really, Labor doesn’t care about Dyson Heydon either: he’s just the unfortunate patsy who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and under the harsh glare of a media frenzy that was only possible for the ALP to whip up because of some dickhead in the NSW Division of the Liberal Party. But such a patsy is all the ALP needs to justify its own slimy actions to itself.

Ironically, the greater threat to Labor and union self-interest lies in what many regard as the lesser of two evils.

And that, simply stated, is that the ACTU succeeds in its bid tomorrow to have Heydon recuse himself from proceedings, and the Royal Commission continues under a new Commissioner; as one observer has already noted, the Abbott government would be free to appoint whoever it liked: and whilst Heydon might not exactly be a poster boy for the circles of the Left, someone like retired High Court judge Ian Callinan QC would be the last thing they would want.

Such an appointment, should it come to pass, would be no less reward than the unions deserved for their trouble.

But there’s something else Labor seems to have failed to foresee in embarking on its field trip toward Yarralumla in an attempt to co-opt the Governor-General to do its dirty work — getting a lynch mob of criminal union thugs off the hook — and it is this.

Should the Wong move succeed, it will have been possible to realise such an anti-democratic injury to due process and the rule of law under the very system Labor wants replaced by a popularly elected republican model of government under a popularly elected (and, by its very nature, inescapably political) President as Head of State.

If such an obscenity can be perpetrated under arguably the best system of constitutional government in the world, what vile outrages might be possible in an Australian republic?

I’m no republican — staunchly monarchist to my bootstraps, in fact — but it does rather seem that Wong, by her actions for and on behalf of her party and union thugs, is writing a goodly portion of a slam-dunk, lay down misere case for a “No” vote should the question of a republic ever be put again at a referendum to the Australian people.

Yes, Liberals in Sydney have provided Abbott with an additional crisis he needs like a hole in the head on top of all the self-inflicted nonsense his government is reeling beneath, and the ALP is understandably running hard with it.

But Labor should consider very carefully just how extensive the consequences of what it is doing might prove. Its thuggy mates are still likely to be prosecuted. The electorate may — should — awaken to the disgusting apology for institutionalised criminality and corruption it is making, killing off the cretin Shorten’s prospects for winning an election, and the ALP with them.

But by dragging the office of the Governor-General into this, the stakes are raised; history, precedent and the Constitution itself dictate that in the end, Labor is set to lose more than any other party to these distasteful events.

The price of protecting criminal union filth will be a high one for Labor to pay. Its repercussions may take years to be fully felt, and in ways it would not choose; and which it either cannot, itself, have foreseen or considered, or about which it simply couldn’t care.

After all, Labor cares about power, not people. It may rue these disordered priorities to its detriment.


Vice-Regal: Bryce To Depart A Dame Unlamented

THE IMMINENT replacement of Quentin Bryce as Governor-General by Sir Peter Cosgrove warrants national pride, with the ascent of the distinguished General coinciding with the overdue restoration of knighthoods and damehoods to Australia’s honours system. It’s a reminder that reputations can be easily shredded: Bryce departs as just another Labor hack, a grub, and does not deserve the damehood bestowed upon her by the Prime Minister.

First things first: I think the re-introduction today of knighthoods and damehoods to Australia’s honours roll is overdue, highly appropriate, and something that all Australians should support; it is important to be able to single out individuals in our midst of the highest standing and achievement for recognition, and the elite category Prime Minister Tony Abbott has restored to the Order of Australia today fills a gap in that Order that has been missing since the Hawke government abolished it in 1986.

It is important to note that contrary to popular misconception, these awards are neither British nor Imperial in nature; these are Australian awards, made under the Order of Australia, and as such very different to, say, being called “Sir” on account of being made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) which is, ultimately, a British award.

Republicans, therefore, can have no complaint against it on anti-monarchical grounds.

And I contend some of the noisier and outraged members of the lobby of the downtrodden can have no gripe with it, either: just as I have no problem with their advocacy for and on behalf of the poorest and most disaffected members of society, they in turn should have no problem with individuals having something like this to strive for: a recognition of excellence and achievement.

Just as the poorest should be lifted from their circumstances, so too should the best and brightest be encouraged and rewarded and spurred on to greater heights, and it is an indecent view of society that would have one to the total exclusion of the other.

These awards have been reintroduced to coincide with the completion of the present Governor-General’s term in office, and her replacement by a true Australian hero and living national treasure in the retired General, now Sir Peter Cosgrove.

To me, the timing is exquisite; the departure of Bryce doesn’t completely close the door on what has more or less been a dominant Labor generation* in terms of its prominence in Australian politics — that can only happen once the balance of power in the Senate changes in July — but I have to say that the arrival of Gen Cosgrove at Yarralumla will signal a break with Australia’s recent Labor past, and restore some much-needed dignity to the highest office in the land after the disgraceful precedent set by Bryce.

The fact Bryce was a woman in vice-regal office is no precedent; after all, she wasn’t even the first female governor of her home state of Queensland.

I actually think her gender makes no difference at all; in my view, the only considerations are a) can she do the job? and, b) how well, with hindsight, she did the job.

Only a fool would argue Bryce wasn’t up to being Governor-General; she is no idiot, and in fact, that was part of the problem.

Readers will recall that in November last year — when she foolishly waded into domestic politics, advocating in favour of gay marriage and a republic — this column slammed her interventions, pointing out (very correctly) that it was entirely improper for the holder of the office of Governor-General to be intervening in the political issues of the day. For those who didn’t see my article at the time, it is here.

Until that outburst, I had previously opined (the few times the Governor-Generalship even surfaced as a topical subject) that Bryce, by and large, had rather surprisingly made an excellent Governor-General, serving with distinction and aplomb.

What had been so “surprising” about these observations had nothing to do with Bryce’s gender and everything to do with her background, based as it is in the radical activism of the social Left. It surprised me she had been able to keep a lid on these prejudices in her official capacity. I had spoken too soon. My observations had been premature.

And in direct answer to those who might refer to Abbott’s comments at the time — that he had been “comfortable” with what Bryce had said — I would simply point out that those comments are words from a man with a vested interest, as Prime Minister, in offending as few people as possible.

No true interpretation of responsible government in Australia and the role the office of Governor-General plays in it could ever excuse such a divisive foray into rank partisanship by its occupant.

Conventions around roles such as the Governor-Generalship exist for good reason; in this case, the political impartiality and strict neutrality of the role are essential if the office is to remain uncompromised as an instrument of the system of constitutional monarchy, or to enable its holder to act properly and fearlessly if a situation similar to the events of October-November 1975 should ever again arise.

The higher the office, the higher the expectation; and in this vein, what might have been regarded as the rendering of meritorious vice-regal service was ripped apart by a few cheap cracks Bryce simply lacked the self-restraint or discipline to keep quiet about.

She leaves the office of Governor-General ready for her successor to restore it to the propriety and dignity it deserves; whilst not perhaps a complete failure, the kindest judgement of her term at Yarralumla is that is was unremarkable — save for the offensive partisan statements she made in a speech that quite literally should never have been uttered by somebody in her position.

Nobody should mark down the period spent by Quentin Bryce as Governor-General as a time to be remembered with any affection. She was not a great holder of the office. Her tenure was not remarkable or distinguished. In contexts such as these, reputations are hard-earned over long years and may be destroyed in an instant. Her time in the role has left a great stain of partisanship on a great office of state. She does not deserve the damehood the Prime Minister has bestowed upon her.


*To clarify, whilst the Liberal Party governed for 12 years under John Howard, federally, from March 1996 to November 2007, it must be remembered that his election took place at a time when Coalition state governments were early in an overall process of falling from office across the country; Labor has had the better of Australian politics over the past 20 years or so when the states are included for consideration, and it is this dominant Labor generation to which I refer.

Finally! Peter Cosgrove Named Australia’s 26th Governor-General

PRIME MINISTER Tony Abbott has confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in Australian politics of recent times, announcing that retired General and Defence Force chief Peter Cosgrove is to become Australia’s 26th Governor-General; Cosgrove is a standout candidate for the role, and his appointment is to be heartily applauded. The restoration of decency to the office, and respect for the institution it represents, is long overdue.

Confirmation today of the appointment of Peter Cosgrove as Australia’s 26th Governor-General since Federation is to be welcomed, applauded, and even celebrated; this is the highest office in the land, and Cosgrove will take up the role in March with the best wishes and support of millions of Australians.

It is difficult to think of a better — or more suited — candidate as Governor-General at this time than General Cosgrove, who will replace Quentin Bryce when her (extended) tenure comes to an end in March; with a fine record in Australia’s military, business and charitable sectors, Cosgrove brings a broad depth of experience to this role backed by a reputation for competence and a tradition of integrity and probity of service.

Significantly, Cosgrove — a committed constitutional monarchist — is unlikely to rock the boat as his erstwhile predecessor ultimately chose to do; whilst the nature of Australia’s institutions of governance may or may not evolve and change over time as dictated by the will of the people, in accordance with the Constitution, those institutions demand the respect and impartiality of those who serve them and this is especially true of the office of the Governor-General.

It is regrettable that Quentin Bryce — a prominent Labor figure and social activist of many years’ standing prior to her first vice-regal appointment as Governor of Queensland by the government of Peter Beattie — opted, in the end, to sully her tenure as Governor-General by making direct interventions into the realm of partisan political politics.

I have opined in this column previously that political appointees to this office over the decades — Liberal and Labor alike — have forged a surprisingly distinguished tradition of service in the role, however questionable their suitability may have been regarded at the time or however dubious the motives of their Prime Ministers in appointing them.

In seeming to seek to provide vice-regal imprimatur to the causes of gay marriage, affirmative action and the republican movement, Bryce lowered her colours and trashed any value her time as Governor-General may have represented; I have said in the past — and prior to her regrettable foray into active politics — that despite her background her tenure in the office was one of distinction.

That cannot be said of it now; regardless of the elegance with which Bryce conducts herself publicly, or the crisp, polished communication style she deploys, she has shown herself to be just another political grub devoid of timing, sense of occasion, or indeed any comprehension of what constitutes acceptable standards of conduct required of the office she has held — or, it seems, what does not.

Gen Cosgrove comes to the office of Governor-General at what is likely to prove a time of great change for the institution he will now represent; already, it is well known publicly that Prince Charles is taking on the bulk of the public commitments of Her Majesty the Queen, and will continue to assume more of her workload behind the scenes as he prepares to become King. Her Majesty is now 88 years old, and whilst the subject was once regarded as unspeakable, it’s an open secret that government and Palace officials are preparing for a succession in the monarchy, and perhaps sooner rather than later.

In this regard, it is critical that the representative of the monarch is an individual of unimpeachable character at a time when stability and continuity is likely to be required. Gen Cosgrove satisfies those criteria.

And in fact, at 66 years of age, Cosgrove embodies the very youngest end of a generation that might have any direct memory at all of living under a monarch other than Elizabeth II, who ascension to the throne in 1952 ushered in a reign currently standing second in duration only to the 64-year rule of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901; it may be the historic nature of this appointment today will run far deeper in retrospect, in years to come, than might be apparent now.

Cosgrove’s appointment is for five years, running from March this year until early in 2019, and is believed to have received the Queen’s assent at the weekend.

Some monarchists will be bitterly disappointed today that former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard isn’t the man at the centre of this announcement.

As a conservative and a monarchist I understand their views and to some extent sympathise, but I cannot stress strongly enough that as much as Mr Howard may be qualified to serve as Governor-General — indeed, the role could have been tailored to him, such is the fit at face value — he is too deeply political and polarising a figure to represent an appropriate selection to the office, and I encourage those who may have hoped for his appointment to get behind Gen Cosgrove. He is a fine candidate for the role.

To those readers of republican bent, I appeal to you to embrace Gen Cosgrove in his new vocation; if there is one thing Bryce has shown, it is that the office of the viceroy can be warmly accepted (even if, admittedly, largely by fellow travellers of her social agenda), and for long as there is a role for a Governor-General in this country it will continue to be filled by a fine Australian. Cosgrove is certainly that, and deserves the support and affection of his peers.

And to those warriors and spivs of the ALP, operating in the unscrupulous and ethics-free spirit of smugly attacking anything and everything even indirectly associated with Tony Abbott — just because they think they can — get a grip and wake up to yourselves for once, and leave Cosgrove alone: it’s one thing to try to force-feed the voting public a steady diet of lies where domestic politics is concerned, but another altogether to take aim at the structural edifices of the system itself. Quite simply: Don’t. The only people impressed by your antics, at the very best of times, is yourselves.

It’s a shame to even dignify such people with a mention on what is a great day for Australia. But the tactics they used to destroy Peter Hollingworth were never deployed against William Deane or Quentin Bryce, and they should under no circumstances be revisited now, just because Cosgrove is Abbott’s appointment.

I am delighted that — finally, after years of speculation — Cosgrove has been appointed to that office which sits at the apex of Australia’s system of governance. I am sure he will discharge the role with distinction, and I congratulate him heartily on his appointment as Governor-General today.

God Save The Queen!


Our Call: Peter Cosgrove Should Be Australia’s Next Governor-General

THE MURDOCH PRESS is reporting the Abbott government has all but finalised the appointment of former Defence chief and war veteran Peter Cosgrove as Australia’s next Governor General; we believe General Cosgrove is — quite simply — the standout candidate for this appointment by a wide margin, who will restore some much-needed dignity to the office of Australia’s Head of State.

I trust readers have had an enjoyable and safe Christmas with their families, loved ones and friends; as ever, life goes on, and to that extent I will be posting during the so-called silly season: at times on less time-specific subjects of interest to me that I am sure readers will also find engaging, but also on issues that arise on the way through — like this one.

Most readers will know I have long been an advocate for General Cosgrove’s appointment as Governor-General even if, admittedly, that view has been expressed through the prism of whom I do not support for the role: namely, the Right Honourable John Winston Howard.

(For those who are new to our discussion, however, you can view here and here to see what I have been on about).

The Murdoch press — whose journalists, let’s be honest, would know — is reporting today that Cosgrove’s appointment is more or less a done deal: yet to be formally recommended to Buckingham Palace for approval, it appears Cosgrove is nonetheless ordering his affairs in preparation to assume vice-regal office on the recommendation of Tony Abbott.

This column gives its wholehearted, enthusiastic and unqualified support to the appointment of General Cosgrove to the post; a fine career in the military, public service, business and the not-for-profit sectors uniquely qualifies him to serve at the apex of Australia’s system of governance.

Importantly, it is said the appointment carries Howard’s imprimatur which should, in equal measure, mollify those who believed Howard himself should have been called upon to serve as well as silencing those political critics who have argued a deal existed with Abbott for Howard to be appointed — a suggestion that, frankly, defies reality.

I am particularly pleased — as the son of a veteran of the Vietnam War — that one of his number is set to be recognised in this manner; some will find it a small point, but I believe veterans of that conflict have never been properly acknowledged for their service, and in this regard I think the consideration is a significant one.

But to be brutal, General Cosgrove’s arrival at Yarralumla should also trigger the restoration of some decency and dignity to the office.

It is ironic that someone like Quentin Bryce — a highly partisan and often controversial Labor lawyer and social activist prior to her time in vice-regal life — should have mostly served in the post with some distinction.

Unlike some of my conservative cousins elsewhere, I have never believed she faced a conflict of interest on the basis her son-in-law — ALP “leader” Bill Shorten — was firstly a government minister under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, and now opposition leader; if anything, that conflict (if it really existed) fell to Shorten to resolve, on the simple basis Bryce was in place in her role first.

But Bryce’s outburst, in one of the Boyer lectures she delivered for the ABC, that Australia should become a republic was an outrage, and completely destroyed any claim she may have had to legitimate respect for either her tenure as Governor-General or for the manner in which she has discharged her duties, which is rendered derelict by her remarks.

(Should he be prepared to accept the honour, I have no problem with the call by Australians for Constitutional Monarchy for Cosgrove to be knighted upon confirmation of his appointment, either).

Her remarks on the fraught political issue of gay marriage in the same lecture series, openly advocating legislative sanction of the measure, were reprehensible.

The post — despite a history of being filled with political appointees — is traditionally apolitical, and that tradition has surprisingly been upheld even by some of the most controversial political appointees to the post.

And someone like Bryce would have fully understood the inappropriate nature of her remarks on that occasion, and should have exercised the self-control to desist.

There are also lingering questions surrounding the Heiner Affair in Queensland from the early 1990s that Bryce may be called upon to address that place a question mark over whether she should ever have been elevated to such a prestigious position of governance in the first place.

Indeed, we believe she shouldn’t have been — be that to the Governor-Generalship or to the governorship of Queensland prior to that.

I know many of my readers — whether they sit on the Left or the Right — will probably see me pushing an agenda I have pursued in this column for some time, and for that I make no apology.

I simply think General Cosgrove is — to put it stereotypically — the only choice for the post of all the names that are under consideration, and if the news is correct that his appointment is a virtual formality, then so much the better.


Cosgrove Could Be Governor-General Under Abbott Government

RESPECTED former Fairfax journalist Michelle Grattan has posted an article this evening, reporting that retired General Peter Cosgrove would be the most likely nominee as Governor-General if the Coalition wins the approaching election; of all candidates, I think he is the best to be appointed to the post.

Obviously we have discussed this subject in the past, and especially in the context of former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard as a replacement for incumbent Governor-General Quentin Bryce; readers may have been surprised to learn of my opposition to such an appointment, but the rationale for this is hardly out of character.

My articles on John Howard and the Governor-Generalship may be viewed here and here.

I’m not going to talk at great length on the matter tonight, but it becomes topical again in the context of reports across the mainstream press today regarding Labor figures — and especially a raft of defeated state Labor MPs — being appointed to plum roles in government departments, the diplomatic corps, and on the boards of various QANGOs.

Addressing the concern in an interview today on Sky News, opposition leader Tony Abbott said that “the Coalition reserves the right to reconsider appointments that are made by this government well in advance of those appointments being taken up…what we can’t have is a situation where an outgoing government attempts to reach out from the political grave to make decisions far after its political death.”

Abbott said he was making the point generally. But there are also fears in Coalition ranks that having extended Bryce’s term by six months until March 2014, the government could attempt to either renege on the extension or — more likely — to appoint her replacement well in advance of the expiry of her term and prior to leaving office.

One point I should like to make on the issue of Labor appointments at this late stage in the political cycle is a very simple one indeed.


The merits of any appointees Labor may or may not be elevating to some of the prime roles being talked about isn’t the point here; what is more important is that executive positions are not a retirement scheme for the Labor Party, and should not be used to stack the ongoing executive arm of government with ALP stooges prior to a hefty election loss.

In this regard Abbott, in my view, should emulate former Queensland National Party Rob Borbidge, who — prior to the 1995 state election, and campaigning against a toll road between Brisbane and the Gold Coast — made it publicly known that any contract entered into by the then Goss government for the construction of the road or related services would be invalidated if the Coalition won the election and deemed to be void.

That should, today, apply to Labor appointees generally.

But in the case of the Governor-General, it would be improper for the ALP to do anything of the sort; should Bryce’s term indeed end in March, there is likely to have been a change of government ahead of the announcement of her successor.

And even if it doesn’t end in March, the original term was scheduled to end in September; which means that with Gillard entering caretaker mode in early August, the decision should at the minimum be made jointly should an announcement be made before polling day.

Even so, assuming Bryce runs her full term, it seems there are now two serious names under consideration in the event of a conservative win at this year’s election.

Howard, for reasons we have covered in this column at length, is not a suitable candidate.

The emergence of Cosgrove’s name, however, in discussion of the matter would seem to be the logical choice.

As Grattan points out, the “very well-regarded former military man” would be an uncontroversial pick.

There have of course been other respected names touted as potential Governors-General; most notable among these has been Cosgrove’s military colleague and former Defence Force head Angus Houston.

Interestingly, however, none of the names that have been publicly discussed so far have been put forward by the Labor Party, which makes me wonder for a moment — but no more — whether it is pursuing Paul Keating for the post, given his vehement anti-monarchism, the potent symbolism to the republican Left of such an appointment, and in light of his recent re-emergence in comment on national and international affairs concerning Australia.

(I should add that someone as politically outspoken as Keating is as unsuitable for the role as John Howard for the exact same reasons — although in Keating’s case, the appointment of an arch-republican would be as untenable as it would be absurd).

Grattan’s sources within the Coalition put General Cosgrove, rather than Howard, as the likely choice.

And on that note, I would simply say that I am delighted: and if others think the same way, would encourage them to say so in whatever forum they can.

The Grattan article, in full, can be accessed here.

A little democracy in such matters might well do more good than harm; I believe very strongly in the system of constitutional monarchy, but it doesn’t hurt to examine candidates for vice-regal office that are popular as well as eminently suited to the role.

It could even enable modernisation to occur in this aspect of our system as well; republicans might not accept they can’t destroy the system, but one way they could reconcile to it would be to combine the office with a well-vetted candidate who has broad, and popular, appeal.

And to forget the dangerous nonsense about “minimalism,” or electing a President.

John Howard As Governor-General? I Don’t Think So

Nowadays, anything Godwin Grech says shouldn’t warrant mention. However, the Fairfax press and The Spectator Australia magazine have seen fit to publish an article in which Grech expatiates upon the glorious idea of G-G John Howard. This is a bad idea, on every conceivable level.

It comes as some surprise that reputable instruments of the press would give oxygen and airtime to a character like Grech, the disgraced former Treasury bureaucrat and past informer to the Liberal Party, who went several steps too far in 2009 by producing a fabricated email which “proved” that former PM Kevin Rudd was corrupt.

In what became known as the “Utegate” affair, Grech’s missive destroyed his own career, and guaranteed Malcolm Turnbull’s days as Liberal leader were numbered after Turnbull foolishly acted on the email without adequately checking its veracity.

And so, to find The Spectator Australia gifting column space to Grech for an opinion piece is grotesque; The Spectator proper — the original, UK version — is an excellent publication, and one which in view of this event might be better served abandoning its “focus” on Australia and sticking to events in Britain.

Why The Age saw fit to reprint the piece is unfathomable.

Even so, Grech’s article (the version of which The Age published can be viewed here) does contain some material I don’t necessarily disagree with, although much of it is petulant hot air from a man whose time never really was; his piece essentially boils down to a partisan rant underpinned by the thesis that the Howard government was brilliant, and that the Rudd-Gillard government is terrible.

Beyond that basic premise, there is little to substantiate or validate some of Grech’s more outlandish statements; this brings me to his claim that John Howard should become Governor-General when the term of incumbent Quentin Bryce expires in September next year.

Make no mistake: this is a very bad idea, and one whose momentum — if any — must be stopped in its tracks; of all the potential candidates to replace Bryce when her term expires, Howard is far from the top of the list of the most credible, feasible or sensible.

As a staunch political conservative, I realise that I might be expected to show some sympathy for this suggestion — not least as Howard led what on any objective measure was the best government, at the federal level, this country has seen in the past 50 years. As it turns out, I have no truck with the idea whatsoever.

Grech talks of Howard as potentially “a first-class head of state who would be warmly embraced by Buckingham Palace” and goes on to declare that he “would perfectly complement Tony Abbott, providing Australians with a world-class leadership team.”

It’s clear Grech has no comprehension of how a constitutional monarchy works, if he really thinks that.

The role of the Governor-General is largely ceremonial, although its holder is the Head of State; and with the exception of certain circumstances in which specific constitutional provisions provide otherwise (such as in 1975, when Sir John Kerr acted in accordance with S64 of the Constitution to dismiss the Whitlam government), the Governor-General usually acts on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The Governor-General does not act as some type of political advisor to the Prime Minister of the day, as Grech explicitly proposes.

And the Governor-General does not form part of some tag-team “leadership” team, operating in cahoots and in cohort with elected parliamentarians.

In John Howard, we see a figure who is overtly (and, in this context, overwhelmingly) political; the man was Prime Minister for nearly 12 years until fairly recently, and prior to that spent more than 30 years as a Liberal Party operative, elected member of Parliament, and political spear-thrower for the Right.

Irrespective of whether you’re on the side of the spear-thrower or not, such an openly political figure would politicise the office of Governor-General and polarise public opinion and confidence in it as a legitimate instrument of governance.

It is true that political figures have held the role in the past, and that they also discharged their duties with some distinction; Sir Paul Hasluck was a very distinguished Governor-General. Bill Hayden, more recently, was unremarkable and uncontroversial.

But Hasluck was made Governor-General in 1968 by then-PM John Gorton to get rid of a dangerous enemy from the ranks of the parliamentary Liberal Party and to remove the most serious rival he faced for the party’s leadership; Hayden’s appointment — irrespective of how it may have subsequently been presented — was payback for resigning in favour of Bob Hawke’s leadership of the ALP in early 1983.

It doesn’t matter, as Grech states, whether Howard would be “warmly embraced” at Buckingham Palace; he is simply too polarising a figure, and too overtly political, for that particular role.

Laurie Oakes also responded to Grech’s absurd arguments in the Herald-Sun today; Oakes pointed out — correctly — that Howard’s appointment to the role would be “divisive and provocative,” noting that “after several years of political turbulence and non-stop nastiness, that is the last thing Australia will need.”

As it happens, Oakes’ misgivings of the merits or otherwise of John Howard as Governor-General largely mirror my own.

But something that does niggle in the back of my mind as I write this (and we may well revisit the thought at some point) is the timing of the expiry of present Governor-General Quentin Bryce’s term, in September next year.

It suddenly occurs to me that an election is due in August; for this to occur, it would need to be called by the Prime Minister no later than about mid-July.

It also occurs to me that every Labor Party figure who has spoken publicly in the past 12-18 months on the issue of the timing of the next election has referenced “late 2013” or “toward the end of 2013” as the time such an election is “due.”

Even Julia Gillard implicitly announced the date as the last Saturday in September, until she realised it would be Grand Final day, and went on to make a fool of herself with wild predictions about the prospects of the Footscray Football Club.

Constitutionally, they are all correct; an election may well be held as late as the November/December period.

But more usually, and by loose convention, elections are held three years apart, unless they are for some reason called early, and on that basis the next one should be in August next year.

I just wonder whether the ALP plan is to go to an election later in 2013 to ensure its own nominee is appointed to the Governor-Generalship, rather than go to an election it is likely to lose in a landslide, only to gift the incoming Liberal government the right to fill the vice-regal role with its own appointee for a five-year term.

Then again, I might just be a terrible cynic…

But in terms of precisely who the next Governor-General should be, it sure as hell shouldn’t be John Howard, or any other political figure from either side of the political spectrum for that matter.

Oakes suggests the Head of the Defence Force, Angus Houston; a fine man to be sure, and somebody I think would perform the role of Governor-General admirably.

My thoughts, however, are that the best candidate is another military man: Houston’s predecessor, Peter Cosgrove, who would not only make an excellent fist of the role, but would also be the sort of unifying figure to which Oakes alludes.

Godwin Grech and his undebunked theories of the world are best left undisturbed (and unpublished) in whatever cave to which they retreated following Utegate; as for John Howard, I trust he is enjoying his retirement, and I hope he finds satisfaction in the summer of cricket — his great passion — that will soon commence.

Beyond that, the occupancy of vice-regal office will be determined in due course; a Cosgrove would be ideal, and a Houston just as good; but a Howard is, and should rightly be, completely out of the question.

What do you think?