Premier helped by the Butler

Sealed section – 2 April

Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon may have been able to snatch a
victory from the jaws of defeat – or out of the blabbing mouth of the
state’s controversial Governor, former diplomat, weapons inspector and
Labor hack Richard Butler.

Hizzeggzelency’s remarks on US foreign policy and Iraq were a gift to
the Liberal Party – in Canberra and the Apple Isle – but Lennon’s very
public “put a sock in it” has gone down well, too.

Indeed, Butler’s indiscretions may have come at just the right time –
when the new Premier is taking steps to make sure the punters know he
is his own man.

Butler was page one of the Hobart Mercury Wednesday and yesterday, but
a little further in was a full page puff piece on the new premier that
talked about his unfair image as a hard guy – at the same time as
reporting his opinion that a “sleeping giant” has been awoken in
Tasmania over moves to stop forestry – read it here.

The Governor’s comments were embraced by the Libs, but if Butler shuts
up for good – and Lennon’s pretty used to getting things his own way –
the Premier will ultimately come out on top.

Butler is scarcely popular. Lennon will have already picked up points
for slapping him around – and will only benefit more if he stays quiet.

The Mercury’s front pages have helped, too. Butler’s been the naughty one there. Funny about that.

PS ABC Tasmania’s Tim Cox, the most powerful man in the Apple Isle’s
media, this morning reported that Butler has been booked for some time
to deliver a public lecture 20 April at Hobart Town Hall on – wait for
it – weapons of mass destruction. Should be interesting. Or very, very
technical and dull. Or cancelled.

What the Butler said

Sealed section – 1 April

The last thing the Labor Party needs at the moment is an egomaniac
making announcements on the run about Iraq – let alone another one.

Which is why this terse media release from Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon yesterday was pretty amusing:

“Governor’s Commitment To Premier

“Premier Paul Lennon today said he had spoken to Governor Richard
Butler, who had agreed that he would no longer comment on foreign or
domestic policy.

“Mr Lennon said this undertaking was in line with the Governor’s
commitment to former Premier Jim Bacon, as stated to the House of
Assembly on August 20, 2003.

” ‘I expect this undertaking to be strictly adhered to,’ Mr Lennon said.”

Whoops! What upset Lennon so?

Well, the front page of The Hobart Mercury yesterday was dominated by Butler comments on Iraq –

The Queen’s Man, the Mercury reported, had “criticised the US for
reserving the right ‘to beat the living daylights’ out of anyone who
threatened it, regardless of international law” and “warned Australians
to be vigilant against the exploitation of terrorism by politicians to
win votes”.

The Prime Minister’s office supposedly wanted a transcript – PDQ.

Tasmanian Liberal Leader Rene Hidding and Senator Eric Abetz got on the
tellies pretty quick bagging Butler – and Lennon moved pretty quickly,
too.

He was apparently furious with the Governor for giving Labor’s
opponents – in Canberra and the Apple Isle – such a free kick. He took
the highly unusual step of reading the riot act to the Vice Regal
representative.

Jim Bacon gave Lennon quite a gift – a massive lead in the polls, a
booming economy, plenty of money in treasury, a demoralised opposition
– but he has also handed over a couple of lemons too. Like Butler.

If he had been slow to recognise it, Butler by now will have woken up
to the fact that he no longer has a mentor as Premier. One thing Lennon
will not do is suffer fools. He is a pragmatist to the last breath and
would never have indulged a personal folly, like Bacon did, in
appointing a governor.

Lennon has already axed Bacon sycophants in the public service. What
are the odds that there’s one other significant appointment he wishes
he could change?

Have another look at that curt little press release. “I expect this
undertaking to be strictly adhered to…” It’s not often a premier
publicly threatens a governor.

Apparently Butler is suitably chastened – until the next time.

Media problems from Butler

Sealed section – 16 February

Crikey was the uninspiring guest speaker at last year’s Tasmania Media
Awards but they’ve done much better this year, securing none other than
the new Tasmanian Governor himself, Richard Butler.

Hottest tip for the front page newsbreaker of the year is Hobart
Mercury chief reporter Ellen Whinnett for a huge job on Butler who took
off on a taxpayer paid holiday/honeymoon after just two days in his
300,000 dollar job, flying Singapore Airlines to Thailand.

He paid for the air tickets himself, a fact which only came to light
after someone at the airline leaked an internal memo warning
international desks in advance that, in spite of the fact that they
were flying on the most el cheapo tickets available, the honeymooners
were demanding pointy end upgrades on the basis of ranting, desk
thumping and “do you have any idea who I am?” performances.

Butler’s biggest fan, comrade Jim “Crispy” Bacon, has only recently
calmed down about this appalling intrusion into Butler’s right to throw
his weight around like an eastern potentate wherever he feels like it.
Therefore, it is fascinating that The Governor has agreed to speak to
the very group he complains about the most.

Word is that invitees can’t make up their minds on whether to go and
watch the disaster play out or avoid it all and save $88 in the process.

Surely the prospect of the Butler gonging the story that most annoyed
him is an appealing prospect. We might even approach Mrs Crikey for a
leave pass to attend.

Peter Fray

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