The atmosphere was convivial at Government House last week when the
Press Gallery gathered for inaugural drinks with Governor General
Michael Jeffrey. The Governor’s secretary Malcolm Hazell held the camera
while hacks posed around the Big Guy’s desk, and the media had the run
of the ground floor.

But the efforts by the GG’s staff to bend over backwards to be nice
didn’t prepare the well-oiled hacks for the ticking off they got from
the modern major general about the slackness of the meeja in vice regal
matters. Those present got more than a mild shock when the Governor
launched into a lengthy dissertation about what the GG actually does
and how much work they do, and the importance of the role in terms of
maintaining constitutional probity (as opposed to the political kind).

Some took it as a not-so-gentle b*llocking about the media’s ignorance
on matters Constitutional and vice-regal. Others expressed surprise at
the depth and scope of the GG’s role. Despite the fine wine and good
food, there was no applause from assembled hacks at the end of his
talk.

Contrast this with the pasting the Washington press pack gave George
Bush’s spokesman Scott McClennan this week over Karl Rove’s role in the
Valerie Plame scandal (here).

And ask yourself: would the current Press Gallery have dared do this to John Howard’s media minder, Tony O’Leary?

Peter Fray

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