He’s got a frighteningly similar name to a Gilbert and Sullivan character. Is that why we’re confused about the role of the Governor-General?

The Australian reported on the weekend that only one in seven Australians knows Michael Jeffery has the top job.

And today the Oz tells us that around three quarters of Year 10 students and more than 90% of Year 6 students across the nation cannot nominate the G-G’s official responsibilities.

The Oz doesn’t tell us what the correct answer is. Presumably it’s something along the lines of Chapter I of the Constitution: “A Governor-General appointed by the Queen shall be Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth”.

“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.”

I don’t think it’s anything to do with his personality, either. Jeffrey is an entirely personable character. I have no doubt he works hard. But perhaps he should examine what he works at.

Have a look at the Vice-Regal column of your daily newspaper – if, indeed, it still has one. And if it lists the G-G’s, not just your state governor’s, activities. Do you see much newsworthy in there?

Monarchists told us back in 1999 that we didn’t need to become a republic as we were virtually one already. That was a clever claim – and a not entirely disingenuous one, either.

Crikey helped start off the debate about the Prime Minister taking over the role of the Governor-General. There’s no doubt the PM cherry picks the G-G’s diary. But is that necessarily undesirable?

The Prime Minister is theoretically much more accountable than the Governor-General. They’ve got to stand by their actions, for better or worse. The Governor-General might be Commander-in-Chief – but if the Prime Minister hijacks the troop deployment, for example, it reminds us who’s really behind the decision making.

And if the Governor-General is reduced to being just a Constitutional odd-jobs man with the odd scout jamboree or tea party to attend?

Well, even the monarchists agree. We’re virtually a republic already. So let’s just go the whole hog.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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