Our
fine band of professional diplomats posted to Australian missions
overseas do a wonderful job, sometimes under very difficult
circumstances. The hardest of these is selling our country at the
United Nations in New York, where former Gosford NSW boy John Dauth is
ambassador.

John Howard is regarded by most countries as George W. Bush’s
satrap and Alexander Downer is hardly taken seriously, although Dauth
and Downer go back a long way from the days when they were working
together in the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra. Senior
diplomats claim that, had Downer remained a foreign service officer, he
would never have gone far – so politics obviously saved him from a life
of relative obscurity. Downer and his wife Nicky often stay at Dauth’s
ambassadorial residence, the multi-million-dollar Beekman Place
apartment on the East River.

Dauth’s
career has been stellar and it’s apogee was the years in the late 1970s
when he was seconded to Buckingham Palace as an assistant press
secretary. He looked after media enquiries for our next king and the
current monarch’s husband – and by all accounts he did a good job.
After all handling media relations for the Duke of Edinburgh – a bully,
racist and bore of the most odious kind – couldn’t have been easy.

The
doyen of royal biographers, Anthony Holden, recounted to the arch enemy
of the royal family, Kitty Kelley, his only encounter with Dauth.
Holden had written a biography of Prince Charles – then a young man –
and submitted the manuscript to the palace for corrections. He says
Dauth read it and then called him in near hysteria. The sentence about
breast feeding must be deleted – absolutely, he told Holden. Why? asked
Holden. Dauth: one never mentions the royal breasts. Looking for a
compromise Holden suggested saying: The Princess (as Elizabeth then
was) fed Charles herself. Dauth was not for turning. He told Holden:
That still implies royal breasts, and royal breasts must never be
exposed. Holden then deleted the reference. Professor Flint couldn’t
have done it better.

Peter Fray

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