THANK YOU, MR BUTLER!
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 06 April 2004

Australians all should thank Mr. Richard Butler. He has united Australians across the political spectrum. Whether they are Liberal, National, Labor, Democrat, One Nation, Green or Christian Democrat-they are all saying the same thing. As Greens leader, Senator Bob Brown says-governors and governors-general do not take part in political discourse in Australia. All of the politicians, and all of the commentators are unanimous. They all support a central theme of the Westminster system, as we have received it and adapted it to our needs. This is that at its core, there must be an office providing leadership beyond politics. This office must provide a check and balance in the political structure, without the incumbent playing any political role.

 

We all know that this can be achieved, and has long been achieved, under the Crown. And it is now for republicans to devise a model, one which ensures that the office of governor –general and of governor can provide this essential check and balance. In this they have failed. To date not one of their many models has measured up to the present constitutional arrangements and to the expectations Australians have of this high office. As for Mr. Butler, it seems that he has had his last chance. He has lost the sympathy of many of those who may have initially welcomed his appointment Labor MHR Harry Quick says his appointment was a mistake. Mr. Latham's office pointedly would not deny the story that Mr. Butler had asked for the governorgeneralship. Gerard Henderson in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday reminded readers of other political interventions and a glaring inconsistency in one. He said that Mr. Butler had been photographed in Sydney at a rally against the war in Iraq wearing a purple ribbon for peace. But on 20 September, 2003, in the American newspaper, The Press of Atlantic City, he was reported as supporting the invasion and declaring the overthrow of Saddam, whom he likened to Hitler, was justified. He had also seemed to change his stance on weapons of mass destruction. His latest intervention was obviously the last straw for those willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He had said in a speech that Americans reserve the right to go anywhere, any time and beat the living daylights out of anyone who threatens them. The US had, he claimed, torn up international law. So the new Premier, Mr Paul Lennon, obtained yet another commitment from the Governor that he would not comment on foreign or domestic policy. He had already given one to Mr Bacon, the Premier who had recommended his appointment to The Queen. In the most public rebuke ever given to a governor, the Premier said he expects this undertaking to be strictly adhered to. As we have said there is one good thing in this sad story-everyone agrees that our system requires that at its heart, there be an institution offering leadership beyond politics and acting as a key check and balance in the structure. Once again, Your Excellency, thank you for unintentionally achieving this.