A comprehensive guide to the pompous antics of former Tasmanian Governor Richard Bulter and his wife Jennifer:
Sir Guy Green and his wife had been the model of uncontroversial
vice-regal tradition, but Richard Butler set a new record for scandal
in the conservative haven of Tasmania with his pompous antics,
disrespectful demeanour and blasé attitude.

As Andrew Darby
reported, “Tasmanian networks are small and close. A failure of
protocol is noticed and quickly reported, just as it would be if a CWA
branch was slighted by a local mayor. Stories of vice-regal slip-ups
spread across the state.”

The Australian’s Mike Steketee
observed, “Being pompous and arrogant used to be an unwritten part of
the job description of the Queen’s representative in Australia. Now it
is grounds for resignation.”

Adding that it was ironic that Butler, “a republican who did not want
to play by the old stuffy rules, should come to grief in these
circumstances.”

Here are some of the damning examples, which have leaked out:

  • The Butlers took over Government House when they arrived in
    Tasmania, up to and including the space reserved for visiting
    dignitaries, including the Queen’s bedroom.
  • The Butlers apparently had scant regard for the historic
    Government House, 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”.
  • Soon after their wedding, the couple left for a three-week
    honeymoon in Vietnam in October 2003, described by Bacon as “leave in
    advance”.
  • Singapore Airlines staff alleged “appalling” behaviour by Butler
    at Sydney and Singapore airports when Butler “created a scene” after he
    was denied a request for an upgrade from a cheap fare to business class
    on his private honeymoon, because he was the Governor of Tasmania.
  • Butler used his Australia Day speech to claim that social
    services were threatened, comment on global powers’ eavesdropping while
    he was UN chief weapons inspector, and attack the Bush Administration.
  • In April, he reportedly told a businessman’s gathering in Hobart
    that the US administration of President George W. Bush was the most
    “highly nationalistic and self-centred government we have known”.
  • Butler breached protocol requiring guests at Fredensborg Palace
    to wait for the entrance of Queen Margrethe, by tucking into his food
    early, after the wedding of Tasmanian-born Mary Donaldson to Crown
    Prince Frederik in May.
  • Jennifer Butler was apparently heard to complain loudly that
    there was no business class on the relatively short Melbourne-to-Hobart
    flight on her way home from the Danish royal wedding.
  • After returning from Europe, Butler was said to have followed his
    wife into the fitting room of Hobart’s only specialist lingerie
    retailer creating a steamy scene, however, the rumour has been denied
    by staff at the shop.
  • Mourners at former Premier Jim Bacon’s funeral in June were surprised to be asked to stand for the entrance of Governor Butler.
  • Despite previous vice-regal engagements, Butler took a two-week holiday in July.
  • Butler wanted his wife to have a higher role, but Jennifer Butler
    was not formally a representative of the Crown and the powers and
    duties of the office state that Lieutenant-Governor, Justice Cox acts
    for the Governor in an official capacity when he is absent.
  • There were claims that Jennifer Butler had wrongly used an
    honorary title of associate professor, and suggestions she had an
    irritating superiority complex.
  • There was also evidence of a break-down in the professional
    relationship between the Butlers and their staff, including serious
    rows and allegations that the vice-regal couple threw temper tantrums
    and that their demands of household staff became unpredictable and
    excessive, causing three senior aides to quit.

Peter Fray

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