tip off

Cosgrove a predictable choice with few question marks

Peter Cosgrove is certainly a “safe pair of hands” as Australia’s next governor-general. It’s also an entirely predictable pick from Tony Abbott.

Peter Cosgrove will likely do a reasonable job as governor-general. The main prerequisites for the position are community respect, an unblemished past and a small-p political sensibility — the sort Quentin Bryce, who otherwise filled the role admirably, failed to display with her comments about same-sex marriage late last year. Cosgrove certainly is well-regarded — he was Australian of the Year in 2001 — and his career suggests he has functioning political antennae.

As for an unblemished past, well, we’ll get to that.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he believes former soldiers and judges make the best governors-general. That’s a very Abbott thing to say: it lacks even his mentor John Howard’s daring in appointing a religious figure in Peter Hollingworth (another former Australian of the Year), although perhaps Abbott learnt from that debacle. It also means, based on the cultural composition of our senior judges and military personnel, that there’s little chance Abbott would appoint anyone other than an old white man, which describes every governor-general in history until the current one. But so inured are we to the dominance of that demographic in positions of power that it passes virtually unnoticed in the media.

Why exactly Abbott believes former military men make the best governors-general isn’t clear: there’s only been one since the last British governor-general, and that was Michael Jeffrey, who had the unenviable task of replacing Hollingworth. Jeffrey performed satisfactorily, but was a non-entity in the role, certainly compared to the two best governors-general of recent times: Zelman Cowen, who did so much to repair the damage done to the office by his predecessor, and William Deane.

Perhaps Abbott is, consciously or otherwise, indicating a preference for the post-war years when Yarralumla was a retirement gig for former British military figures bored with the House of Lords.

As for Cosgrove, there are a couple of questions that may, or hopefully may not, turn out to be problems during his tenure. As is well known, Cosgrove is a director of Qantas, and a long-serving one — he joined that board in 2005, and is the second-longest serving director after Garry Hounsell. He thus wears responsibility for the current dire state of Qantas as much as anyone, and won’t escape criticism if worst-case scenarios start to unfold.

Cosgrove was also commandant of Duntroon from 1996-98, an institution notorious for its hazing and bastardisation practices over the course of a century. He’s also a graduate himself of that institution. Nothing has so far emerged from the DLA Piper review of allegations of sexual abuse in Defence to suggest anything untoward happened on Cosgrove’s watch. But few knew of the case that eventually brought Peter Hollingworth down until several months after his appointment.

A final thing: John Howard spoke eminent good sense on Radio National this morning in saying that former senior politicians were too divisive for the role of governor-general. Both sides have poor form in this regard, particularly in using Yarralumla as a dumping ground for former leadership rivals — most recently Labor with the appalling appointment of Bill Hayden as final expiation of Bob Hawke’s guilt over knifing him.

Cosgrove is of course a far safer appointment. Which might be the best thing you can say about him.

22
  • 1
    Matt
    Posted Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    To describe Haydens appointment as GG as “appalling” is a bit over the top. Did he disgrace himself in the role? Not as I recall.

    He certainly wasn’t as bad as the that tiresome buffoon Michael Jeffry or that odious Anglican prelate Hollingworth.

    I imagine that the Lion of Timor will do the job to and acceptable standard. Shoes properly buffed and laced, not track corgi shit across the carpets when he visits Buck House and so on.

  • 2
    SusieQ
    Posted Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    It is very much a typical Liberal appointment and whilst considered to be ‘safe’ it hardly shows any creativity….

  • 3
    Frank Birchall
    Posted Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I would not consider Zelman Cowen a “recent” GG (1977-1982). Moreover, I would rate Quentin Bryce ahead of him and the equal of William Deane.

  • 4
    SusieQ
    Posted Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Frank, its not that long ago for some of us!!! And its true, he did seem to work hard to restore credibility to the role after the previous incumbent.

  • 5
    Dogs breakfast
    Posted Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    … small p political sensibility — the sort Quentin Bryce, who otherwise filled the role admirably, failed to display with her comments about same-sex marriage late last year.”

    God forbid that we would have a functioning human being, with a heart and a workable understanding of basic ethics, and the courage to say it, as mildly as she did.

    The faux walls around what the G-G should and shouldn’t say need to be broken down, regardless of tradition or opinion. Peter Cosgrove is a fine choice, but I doubt he will have the impact of William Deane, or Quentin Bryce, both who showed that they can speak without bringing down a government.

    God forbid that one might suggest that the Aboriginals suffered terribly, historically and now, for our landing here. Heaven help us if one uttered anything remotely pointing out that climate change is the great moral challenge of our time. Our society would surely go into meltdown if one actually suggested that denial of marriage rights to gays was a dogma from another time that should be cast off.

    Imagine a G-G with the gall so state the bleeding obvious! How frightening that would be.

    Some traditions need to be dispensed with.

    Also, Hayden wasn’t that bad, and really, all Zelman Cowen did was to stay in the lodge and not sack an elected government. A good start, but hardly praiseworthy.

  • 6
    MJPC
    Posted Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    He will be handy in the role when the Hague comes out with its finding’s of the Downer/Woodside bugging fiasco, and this Government needs some friends in higher places.

    Like any good ex-military man he can say “I know nothing, nooothiing”.

  • 7
    Matt Hardin
    Posted Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    If Abbott was truly serious about being the Prime Minister for reconciliation (or whatever he class it), then appointing an Indigenous person as GG might have been a good idea. I am sure that there are plenty of suitable candidates.

  • 8
    Steven Grant Haby
    Posted Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Cosgrove is perfect for this incompetent and frightening government. He ignored the numerous allegations of abuse when he was in charge at ADF Duntroon and he was a mediocre leader when head of the armed services. As a board member of Qantas total incompetence springs to mind. Abbott wants someone who will shut up and do as they are told. Military minds do NOT transfer well to the community/private sector.

  • 9
    AR
    Posted Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    a military or judicial person” - no more (im)perfect example of the status quo could be imagined.

  • 10
    Iskandar
    Posted Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    What about no Governor-General at all. The post is still that of Imperial nanny over this unruly kindergarten called the Commonwealth of Australia. But if we have to have one, then agree with Dogs Breakfast, let’s have one with a broad vision and the courage to comment on the bleeding obvious.

  • 11
    beetwo77
    Posted Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry, no mention of the Iraq invasion and still denying that Australia was lied to. In my mind he is totally discredited. Why am I the only person who cares about that?

    He didn’t make the decision to go to war but he was responsible for the DIO who clearly said that the evidence didn’t justify invasion. So he knew, we all knew. Then when interviewed last year, despite saying he had regrets about Iraq, he still denied we were lied to. How does he have any credibility?

  • 12
    zut alors
    Posted Thursday, 30 January 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Why does Abbott believe former soldiers and judges make the best G-Gs, what’s his logic - or evidence-for that?

    Like other commenters above I rate Quentin Bryce an excellent G-G &, despite the blatant motive for Hayden’s appointment, he was adequate in the role.

  • 13
    Liamj
    Posted Thursday, 30 January 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    You’re right beetwo77, but theres no credibility issue. Cosgrove aided & abetted war crimes, and being a Good German is his main qualification for the job. Abbott could machinegun refugee boats & Cosgrove will see nothing.

  • 14
    bushby jane
    Posted Thursday, 30 January 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Makes you wonder the relevance and coincidence of George Brandis blocking FOI on who knew what in East Timor in 1999, announced yesterday I think.

  • 15
    zut alors
    Posted Thursday, 30 January 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    bushby jane, it doesn’t make one wonder as much as jump to likely conclusions.

  • 16
    Dogs breakfast
    Posted Thursday, 30 January 2014 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Given that the title is G-G, what would be the problem with appointing a horse to the role, Caligula-style.

    Sorry, just being mischievous. :-)

  • 17
    Dan B
    Posted Thursday, 30 January 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations General, a well deserved and fitting appointment. Give the guy a chance - he has earned it.

  • 18
    Rob Manning
    Posted Friday, 31 January 2014 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Cosgrove is a safe and totally uninspired choice for GG. We can all go back to sleep. Why not give Paul Keating the gig. Just imagine what his intelligence, wit and vision would bring to our lives.

  • 19
    rubbersoul1991
    Posted Sunday, 2 February 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    So freakin’ boring and conservative is how I’d describe this bloke. Not as bad as Jeffrey mind you who still talked of the natives out west. Current GG has been good but Bill Deane stands head and shoulders over the pack.

  • 20
    Gabi
    Posted Sunday, 2 February 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Bastardisation and rape has been a part of Duntroon for generations. Maybe nothing did happened on Peter Cosgrove’s watch. But the fact that he did nothing to root out this behaviour when he had the power to do so says a lot about the man.

    As a long standing director of Qantas, Peter Cosgrove has a lion’s share of responsibility for the business and industrial decision including the appointment of Alan Joyce that has led to that company’s dire straits. I wonder what that also says about the man?

    Peter Cosgrove was the ONLY one of four most senior military leaders not to be tainted by the Children Overboard debacle. I can only begin to imagine what that says about the man…

    Maybe we need to have a hard look at what he is not doing and not saying rather than criticise the previous GG for her compassion.

  • 21
    Nonda Pass
    Posted Sunday, 2 February 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I agree with rubbbersoul1991 - William Deane was indeed our best GG with Quentin Bryce a close second. I don’t get Abbott’s logic that military men make the best governors general but then again, I don’t get too much of Abbott’s logic in any case.

  • 22
    Chappy
    Posted Friday, 28 February 2014 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    This story by Bernard Keane last month could now come back to bite Peter Cosgrove.

    As for Cosgrove, there are a couple of questions that may, or hopefully may not, turn out to be problems during his tenure. As is well known, Cosgrove is a director of Qantas, and a long-serving one — he joined that board in 2005, and is the second-longest serving director after Garry Hounsell. He thus wears responsibility for the current dire state of Qantas as much as anyone, and won’t escape criticism if worst-case scenarios start to unfold.

    Cosgrove was also commandant of Duntroon from 1996-98, an institution notorious for its hazing and bastardisation practices over the course of a century. He’s also a graduate himself of that institution. Nothing has so far emerged from the DLA Piper review of allegations of sexual abuse in Defence to suggest anything untoward happened on Cosgrove’s watch. But few knew of the case that eventually brought Peter Hollingworth down until several months after his appointment.

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