Vice-regal correspondent Barry Everingham writes:


For the first time since Federation, the role of Australia’s
Governor-General has been usurped by a politician – John Howard has
assumed a
joint role of head of government and head of state. Although Government
House has strenuously denied the charge, those close to Michael Jeffery
are
saying the Governor-General is “devastated” by Howard’s actions.
Jeffery has a distinguished military
background and this is being ignored – Howard takes top billing when
servicemen
and women take off for Iraq
and Afghanistan.
Army personnel are furious – they say the men and women serving want
Jeffery.
Said one: he understands soldiers and their families; he’s one of us.
Howard is
there as vote catcher.

This situation is a total break from tradition and seems on
the surface to be at odds with Howard’s stance on his attitude to the
monarchy.
Aides to former Governors-General say there is no precedence for the
current
situation. In the past, the political and ceremonial roles were totally
separate
and the system worked well. A glaring example of Howard’s intrusion
into vice-regal duties was when he attended the welcome home ceremony
in Perth
for the Number 2 SAS Squadron. Jeffery is a former commanding officer
of the WA
SAS regiment. The men wanted him – Howard’s presence was inappropriate.

Jeffery’s job is in Howard’s hands, and the Governor-General
is hardly likely to rock the boat – in any
case, he knows the correct form. ARM chair Ted O’Brien says while
the current head of state is not an Australian and is not loyal primarily to Australia,
it’s no wonder Howard is trying to fill in here and there to compensate.

Peter Fray

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