Gauging the mood on the other side of Bass Strait:
Richard Butler – pompous git
Australians have always prided themselves on bringing the pompous down
a peg or two. From uppity Pommy cricketers to our own dingbat expats,
such as Germaine Greer and John Pilger, to the likes of Lee Kuan Yew,
whose vaguely racist and misogynistic musings in relation to Australia
have been largely ignored.
How then, do pompous gits such as David Flint and Richard Butler, ever get appointed to important public positions in Australia?
Does Tassie even need a Governor?
Poor old Richard Butler, you go down to hicksville you get done over by hicks. No surprises there.
More pertinent questions are: how bad is the media situation down there
that a pathetic little campaign about “rudeness” could have such an
On the other hand how come a guy being rude in hicksville can get given
his marching orders while a guy who makes deceit an institutionalised
still get treated with respect in the media and by the
populace at a national level? The hicks have taken
over the asylum?
Then there is the question of why Tasmania has a governor? More to the
point why the hell is it still a state? A population just under that of
Newcastle, almost entirely dependent on federal handouts, and getting
given 12 Senators. (Shame about Bob Brown but he’s bright enough to win
a seat on the mainland.)The place should be closed immediately and
handed over to Victoria’s National Parks service, or better still
donated to the Wilderness Society. The inhabitants who remain can make
do with large municipal councils. It should suit the level of their
political culture quite well.
The cost of pomp and ceremony
The non-stop preoccupation of Tasmanian media and politicians,
surrounding their Governor and his resignation, is significant. It
indicates a parochial need for an iconic ersatz monarch, possibly from
a sense of insecurity, if not inferiority.
The furore about what is a ceremonial and wasteful office Tasmanians
can ill afford, apart from being a political appointment, is
astounding. The costs for the ten-month tenure are likely to
exceed $2million, including junkets and severance. As part of the
proverbial “40% extra” costs of getting governed (Ray Groom), the total
bill is absolutely staggering. In terms of size and population,
another Tasmanian world record.
It is regrettable, we appear to be unable to channel this kind of money
where it is needed most. Certainly not on empty pomp, ceremony
and food for the tabloids.
Payouts all round?
Now that Paul Lennon is obviously in an extremely benevolent frame of
mind does this mean a massive pay rise for the Tassie workforce?
Raymond C Schumann, SA
Wrong man for the job gets $650,000 payout
The media would have you believe that Butler resigned and was given a
massive payout. Face value – for shame. How can this be? The reality
is, he didn’t resign, as so many Company executives don’t ‘resign’. As
happens in boardrooms across the company, he was fired – coerced into
‘resigning’ to save face all around.
Where company executives (and in this case, the Tasmanian Premier)
shoot themselves in the foot is that by calling it a resignation, there
is no feasible explanation to the public for the payout. The reality is
that the Governor had a contract, with a termination clause. He can
only get that payout by being terminated – not by resigning. Same goes
for anyone with a fixed term employment agreement with a payout on
termination clause. The Premier began his press conference by saying
that the meeting was ‘successful’ and that Butler had ‘resigned’. So it
was clearly his intent on firing him, and he did so knowing that the
contract provided a payout to Butler in the event of termination.
I have no idea whether he deserved to go, although it appears he did.
However, the real fault with the payout lies in the initial appointment
– it’s clear he was the wrong man for the job, and in signing a 5 year
agreement with a payout clause for termination, the Premier had made a
huge mistake. The fact that this payout now takes place is not news –
it was preordained when the contract was signed. So don’t blame Butler
– blame the dills who put the wrong man into the job in the first
place, signing a contract that leaves the Government so exposed – after
all, other Crikey correspondents have attested to his ‘legendary’
faults, so his foibles shouldn’t have been difficult to discover. Who
did the reference checks?
No diplomacy from former diplomat
Ego can be a dangerous thing. If Butler was a former diplomat, he
certainly has shown a lack of diplomacy in his short stint as Tasmanian
Allan Francis, Perth, WA
A Republican and a buffoon
Richard Butler, as an avowed republican, has obviously had a win by
showing up the monarchy for what it is. The monarchy is obviously a
shambles when a vice-regal appointee acts like a self-important, over
bearing, blame everyone else buffoon….oh dear…
Bultler’s winning ways
I worked for Richard Butler for three years when he was Ambassador to
Thailand. His reputation preceded him. At his former posting as
Disarmament Ambassador in Geneva, staff nicknamed him the Black Prince,
or the Prince of Darkness.
Butler is a gifted political analyst and speaker, but his faults are
legendary. In a time when the vice regal offices in Australia have been
under sustained scrutiny, I cannot see how anyone, even the Labour
party machinery, could appoint this man to such a sensitive post.
The misbehaviour, breaches of protocol, allegations of womanising,
demands for freebies all round, etc etc etc have been this man’s modus
operandi for many years. Lack of accountability has featured much
of the time. Butler seems to believe that he is so important he
doesn’t have to pay his bills; behave appropriately, etc. He has
a charisma that can have his audience eating out of his hand, yet he
can also intimidate lower ranking officials so they dare not pursue him
to keep his paperwork in order. It is no surprise to hear rumours
that he has financial hassles – it’s par for the course, especially
when he has to acquit travel allowances going back several years – or
pay his Commissary accounts which, given his essential representational
entertaining, were usually enormous.
I suppose, when dealing with someone with so many obvious skills in the
international realm, his talents outweigh his foibles. Yes, we
can understand how he managed to be appointed to so many prestigious
jobs, including the Council for Foreign Relations. Unfortunately,
as a State Governor, he didn’t have an opportunity to demonstrate his
intellectual gifts, as the post was largely ceremonial. We cannot
afford to have buffons – even colourful, brilliant, entertaining
buffoons – messing up our national symbols. Butler should not have been
appointed Governor of Tasmania. Heaven help us if they make the
mistake of giving him the top job.
Maybe we should take a vote on whether he replaces Melissa Doyle at Sunrise.
He’d certainly be up for that task. Erudite, well informed, never
boring, great at fixing his quarry with a piercing gaze until they
cave. A new career as floating international expert for Aussie
and American TV would probably fit him really well.
I only hope the Labour Party don’t nominate him for a safe Senate seat in the coming election.
Who has the power – Premier or Governor?
I think that it is wrong to sack the Governor in this way. It is
bowing to the popular press and sets a poor precedent. Just as I
disagreed when the Governor General sacked the Prime Minister in 1975,
this sacking of a Governor by a Premier is bad government.
I mean, just who has the most power? Is it the Queen through her
representatives in Australia (the GGs and Governors) or is it the
democratically elected politicians? I think people will become
more confused as time goes by.
Now, Premiers will be able to sack Governors over almost any issue and may use the position to their own advantage.
Butler’s lack of respect
Now that their Excellencies are on the fast track out of Government
House in Hobart the staff is beginning to discuss details of their
nightmare occupancy. Apparently the Butlers had scant regard for their
historic Gothic pile, moving in their own Balinese furniture and
dispensing with what they saw as stuffy rituals. Staff would go to set
the table only to be told not to bother with ‘all that rigmarole’. Most
of the GH employees are ordinary decent folk who take pride in their
jobs and in the tradition of maintaining the historic pile, and were
encouraged to do so by the previous Governor, Sir Guy Green. But they
were far from pleased with the Butlers’ treatment of them and the
house. Early warning signals of their radical notions of vice-regal
responsibilities came when His Excellency cancelled the picnic
held annually at Government House for mentally handicapped children,
claiming such sights upset him. Hobart is a small place and word gets
round quickly. Small wonder there was little support for the couple and
few tears will be shed over their departure, especially by the staff at
A below-stairs tweenie
The campaign to evict Butler
The Mercury newspaper’s campaign against Richard Butler has had
a successful conclusion with Mr Butler resigning. The local politicians
are tending to claim some sort of victory here although one can
literally hear the cursing from Rene Hidding’s office over the fact
that the Premier forestalled any prolonged quasi-political posturing on
the Liberal Parties behalf.
The campaign has been a constant over the last 10 months with The Mercury
devoting inordinate amounts of type to even the most pithy opportunity
to denigrate the Governor. The media driven storm reached its pathetic
crescendo on the weekend with a Princess Di style “chase” of the
Governors car from the airport by those local idiots masquerading as
journalists. This was regrettably given immense TV coverage with
appropriately reactionary commentary. Apparently, the media informed
us, Tasmania faced a constitutional crisis. No doubt everyone at The Mercury is walking around slapping each other on the back and desperately trying to convince themselves of a job well done.
Regardless of whether or not Richard Butler was a suitable Governor the
fact remains that there has been an organised and motivated program to
remove him from office and that he will be replaced by some one else
who will continue to ride the gravy train that is the role of the
Governorship of Tasmania. Personally I think that the role should be
abolished and Government House turned into a crèche thus bringing some
real benefit to the people of the state.
Butler missunderstood Tasmania
Obviously Richard Butler has a problem with coming to terms with what
being a Governor is all about. It’s not about causing scene’s
internationally, it’s not about pissing off to Sydney to have a jolly
with an orchestra, or breaking the speed limit on Tasmanian roads (I
don’t believe that you qualify as an emergency service).
It’s about representing the Queen, and it doesn’t matter whether you
are a monarchist or a republican, because that is the system that we
have at the moment. But I believe most importantly, that it is
about representing the people of Tasmania. After all, they are
Tasmania. The people are what make the place.
That is why, the Governor of Tasmania, should be a Tasmanian. A person
from this place, representing this place, so that the world gets a true
an accurate picture of what Tasmania and it’s people are all about.
Not some rude, ignorant, person who appears to have no respect for
either his office or the people of Tasmania, and flouts our laws as if
he is someone who is immune to them. Good bye and good luck
Richard, you’ll bloody need it.
Why do we need Governor’s anyhow?
Ah well they got him in the end! The question I would like
answered is whether Mr Butler’s reputation on the world stage
representing Australia, is worse than Mr John Howard’s? Mr
Butler’s presence has been felt for a mere 10 months, Mr Howard’s is
eight years. Mr Butler never got Australia involved in a
war! He was always going to step on toes because Mr Butler was
not a diplomat by nature. But perhaps we need a bit more of the
“down to earth Aussie” man than the artificial “royality” mentality of
a “Governor”. Why do we need any Governors anyhow? We have
a Parliament that “Rules” the Australian people. Roll on a
Three cheers for the media
The media’s role in exposing Richard Butler’s unfortunate
behaviour and upstart arrogance has been highly commendable. Richard
Butler has been his own worst WMD.
Butler, “Et tu Brute?”
Fear not good people of Tasmania! The staccato pop, pop, pop emanating
from offices in and around 93 Macquarie Street, Hobart, is not gunfire
from a disgruntled former weapons guru, but champagne corks and the
screams you cringe from are of delight, not horror. Lead by
Hatchet Harry the press gangs of News Ltd hacks have circumcised Dick
from The Big House and are gleefully dancing on the corpse.
Death by innuendo and falsehood has never been so precise and words are
indeed mightier than a sword. The funeral pyre will burn bright,
fuelled by pulp of Murdoch and venomous spittle of Hatchet Harry, as
the pagans of print spin to the left and then pirouette to the
right. Dance on macabre pixies of pollution, as your words will
haunt you when the ghost of Dick comes a wielding the Excalibur so
callously plunged into his back. Exorcised heads will bleed tears
of black as empires crumble in hideous decay. The knight of
malicious pandering will not forget his destiny!
Who has the power – Lennon or Murdoch?
Listening to Paul Lennon’s weak announcements as to why he paid out
Richard Butler for the benefit of Tasmania immediately brought to mind
Malcolm Downer’s naming those Premiers of countries capitulating to
hostage takers as “Marshmallows”.
Well, Paul Lennon is a marshmallow. He has succumbed to the terrorist
radical right in Australia by paying the ransom and withdrawing from
the war. As John Howard oft repeated, once having capitulated, the
terrorists will become strengthened and progress to firmer targets.
Never again will an Australian Premier contemplate appointing a
progressive free thinker to the role of Governor. The establishment has
won this round convincingly and will forever hold the position of
Governor in Tasmania and probably elsewhere. The Murdoch press has also
been strengthened. With a few well-chosen words, such as “Gold”
Mercedes (it is really bronze) and references to Richard Butler’s
salary, which by the way was the same as his “much loved” predecessor,
and a bit of scuttlebutt thrown in, has effectively removed the
Governor of Tasmania from office. Something I thought only Her Majesty
could do. Rupert Murdoch’s Hobart Mercury must feel strengthened. The
five Federal Labor seats in Tasmania must be next on their hit list.
Thanks Paul, you didn’t even draw your sword from its scabbard.