He’s a fine figure of a man, is Major-General Michael Jeffrey – but very few of us seem to know who he is.

Way, way back in the days when Peter Hollingworth was Governor-General, Crikey observed how the Prime Minister was taking over his role. John Howard now seems to be hogging all the oxygen, too.

Up to 80% of Australians have no idea who Michael Jeffrey is, according to stories in the Daily Telegraph and the News Limited metros today:

A Daily Telegraph national survey conducted last week found Major-General Jeffery was virtually unknown to almost four out of five Australians.

The result will suit Prime Minister John Howard who has kept the Queen’s man under wraps and assumed many of his vice-regal duties.

One hundred people in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide were shown a photo of the Governor-General and asked if they knew who the distinguished-looking gentleman was…

According to the survey, Melbourne had the highest recognition factor with 43% able to say the man in the picture was the head of state’s representative in Canberra.

That compared with 22% in Sydney, 20% in Brisbane and a mere 17% in Adelaide…

But even more interesting is the news that the Prime Minister and his staff want to keep the Yarralumla Phantom ectoplasm, rather than letting him assume a corporeal presence:

The Daily Telegraph can also reveal that the Prime Minister’s office reacted angrily when Major-General Jeffery appeared on Channel 10’s Meet The Press program in May last year.

The General’s staff were bluntly told by Mr Howard’s press secretary Tony O’Leary to keep the viceroy off TV – and he has barely appeared since.

So much for the PM’s claim last year: “I am a strong constitutionalist”.