The innuendo campaign against the Governor-General Michael Jeffery is hotting up. A string of largely negative stories about the G-G and his role have popped up over the past week for no apparent reason – stories like these:

  • Only one in seven Australians can correctly name the Governor-General, Michael Jeffery, and most people have no idea who he is. The man dubbed “Mr Nobody” for his subterranean profile after he took on the vice-regal post in June 2003 is frustrated that his conscientious, yet cautious, style has failed to punch through the haze of public ignorance. – The Weekend Australian, Saturday
  • Governor-General Michael Jeffery has been dragged into another controversy, with claims he is pushing for an old military mate to become the next governor of South Australia.- Sunday Telegraph, yesterday
  • To borrow a phrase from outgoing United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Governor-General Michael Jeffery is fast gaining a reputation among Canberra insiders as a “known unknown”. That is, a person known for being famously unknown. – Sunday Age editorial, yesterday
  • Governor-General Michael Jeffery and his wife, Marlene, have become the victims of a vicious whispering campaign in Canberra, driven by claims that Government House has become pompous and self-important during their tenure. “He’s an absolute stickler for protocol,” a former employee at Government House told The Sunday Telegraph. “And she’s more pompous than he is.” – Sunday Telegraph, one week ago

Major-General Jeffery hit back with military precision in The Weekend Australian, claiming he finds it “amazing, quite frankly” that his efforts on the vice-regal circuit have generated so little media coverage. “I think it’s a media problem, not me or my personality. I’ve thought about it a lot, believe you me. I don’t want to be up there competing with the Prime Minister. The intention is not for self-aggrandisement, the intention is to show the Australian people that their G-G is out there doing a job of worth.”

So what’s going on? Are we being softened up for something? Is Jeffery being sent a message? And why isn’t the government bringing out the big guns to defend their man at Yarralumla?

Or are we simply seeing the inevitable process of downgrading an office that all but a few intelligent people believe is, at best, superfluous to Australia’s needs?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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