Jan 29, 2014

Cosgrove a predictable choice with few question marks

Peter Cosgrove is certainly a "safe pair of hands" as Australia's next governor-general. It's also an entirely predictable pick from Tony Abbott.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Peter Cosgrove will likely do a reasonable job as governor-general. The main prerequisites for the position are community respect, an unblemished past and a small-p political sensibility -- the sort Quentin Bryce, who otherwise filled the role admirably, failed to display with her comments about same-sex marriage late last year. Cosgrove certainly is well-regarded -- he was Australian of the Year in 2001 -- and his career suggests he has functioning political antennae. As for an unblemished past, well, we’ll get to that. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he believes former soldiers and judges make the best governors-general. That’s a very Abbott thing to say: it lacks even his mentor John Howard’s daring in appointing a religious figure in Peter Hollingworth (another former Australian of the Year), although perhaps Abbott learnt from that debacle. It also means, based on the cultural composition of our senior judges and military personnel, that there’s little chance Abbott would appoint anyone other than an old white man, which describes every governor-general in history until the current one. But so inured are we to the dominance of that demographic in positions of power that it passes virtually unnoticed in the media. Why exactly Abbott believes former military men make the best governors-general isn’t clear: there’s only been one since the last British governor-general, and that was Michael Jeffrey, who had the unenviable task of replacing Hollingworth. Jeffrey performed satisfactorily, but was a non-entity in the role, certainly compared to the two best governors-general of recent times: Zelman Cowen, who did so much to repair the damage done to the office by his predecessor, and William Deane. Perhaps Abbott is, consciously or otherwise, indicating a preference for the post-war years when Yarralumla was a retirement gig for former British military figures bored with the House of Lords. As for Cosgrove, there are a couple of questions that may, or hopefully may not, turn out to be problems during his tenure. As is well known, Cosgrove is a director of Qantas, and a long-serving one -- he joined that board in 2005, and is the second-longest serving director after Garry Hounsell. He thus wears responsibility for the current dire state of Qantas as much as anyone, and won’t escape criticism if worst-case scenarios start to unfold. Cosgrove was also commandant of Duntroon from 1996-98, an institution notorious for its hazing and bastardisation practices over the course of a century. He's also a graduate himself of that institution. Nothing has so far emerged from the DLA Piper review of allegations of sexual abuse in Defence to suggest anything untoward happened on Cosgrove’s watch. But few knew of the case that eventually brought Peter Hollingworth down until several months after his appointment. A final thing: John Howard spoke eminent good sense on Radio National this morning in saying that former senior politicians were too divisive for the role of governor-general. Both sides have poor form in this regard, particularly in using Yarralumla as a dumping ground for former leadership rivals -- most recently Labor with the appalling appointment of Bill Hayden as final expiation of Bob Hawke's guilt over knifing him. Cosgrove is of course a far safer appointment. Which might be the best thing you can say about him.

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22 thoughts on “Cosgrove a predictable choice with few question marks

  1. beetwo77

    I’m sorry, no mention of the Iraq invasion and still denying that Australia was lied to. In my mind he is totally discredited. Why am I the only person who cares about that?

    He didn’t make the decision to go to war but he was responsible for the DIO who clearly said that the evidence didn’t justify invasion. So he knew, we all knew. Then when interviewed last year, despite saying he had regrets about Iraq, he still denied we were lied to. How does he have any credibility?

  2. zut alors

    Why does Abbott believe former soldiers and judges make the best G-Gs, what’s his logic – or evidence-for that?

    Like other commenters above I rate Quentin Bryce an excellent G-G &, despite the blatant motive for Hayden’s appointment, he was adequate in the role.

  3. Liamj

    You’re right beetwo77, but theres no credibility issue. Cosgrove aided & abetted war crimes, and being a Good German is his main qualification for the job. Abbott could machinegun refugee boats & Cosgrove will see nothing.

  4. bushby jane

    Makes you wonder the relevance and coincidence of George Brandis blocking FOI on who knew what in East Timor in 1999, announced yesterday I think.

  5. zut alors

    bushby jane, it doesn’t make one wonder as much as jump to likely conclusions.

  6. Dogs breakfast

    Given that the title is G-G, what would be the problem with appointing a horse to the role, Caligula-style.

    Sorry, just being mischievous. 🙂

  7. Dan B

    Congratulations General, a well deserved and fitting appointment. Give the guy a chance – he has earned it.

  8. Rob Manning

    Cosgrove is a safe and totally uninspired choice for GG. We can all go back to sleep. Why not give Paul Keating the gig. Just imagine what his intelligence, wit and vision would bring to our lives.

  9. rubbersoul1991

    So freakin’ boring and conservative is how I’d describe this bloke. Not as bad as Jeffrey mind you who still talked of the natives out west. Current GG has been good but Bill Deane stands head and shoulders over the pack.

  10. Gabi

    Bastardisation and rape has been a part of Duntroon for generations. Maybe nothing did happened on Peter Cosgrove’s watch. But the fact that he did nothing to root out this behaviour when he had the power to do so says a lot about the man.

    As a long standing director of Qantas, Peter Cosgrove has a lion’s share of responsibility for the business and industrial decision including the appointment of Alan Joyce that has led to that company’s dire straits. I wonder what that also says about the man?

    Peter Cosgrove was the ONLY one of four most senior military leaders not to be tainted by the Children Overboard debacle. I can only begin to imagine what that says about the man…

    Maybe we need to have a hard look at what he is not doing and not saying rather than criticise the previous GG for her compassion.

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