The Governor-General and the media
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Saturday, 26 August 2006



When it comes to surveys, it all depends on the question, who asks it and how it is asked.  The Daily Telegraph recently bailed up one hundred people in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. They were shown a photo of the Governor-General and asked if they knew who was. Ian Mc Phedran in the The Daily Telegraph on 24 August 2006 then declared this a ‘national survey’ and concluded that Major-General Jeffery was virtually unknown to almost four out of five Australians. The expert in such matters would point out that this conclusion is untenable, both because the sample was inadequate, and whether not recognizing a photograph means that the subject is unknown. If this were so, many radio personalities, writers, journalists and editors would be unknown-which is untrue.  


Prominent people are recognized today because they are seen on television. This can cause some confusion. Not long after the 2004 referendum in a new Indian restaurant the owner and head waiter said they knew me, and insisted that they indicate who I was. My name was on the tip of their tongues. The head waiter was extremely embarrassed by the laughter from my table when he said that my name was…. Malcolm Turnbull. ( The restaurant is in Mr. Turnbull’s electorate.)


Being newsworthy requires excellence in popular sports or entertainment, political leadership or, more often than not, notoriety. The commentariat decided that as Governor-General, Sir William Dean was  campaigning against the Howard government on certain issues, and decided to canonize him. Unable to bring down the prime minister, they decided that undermining  Dr Hollingworth would weaken the Prime Minister, so they manufactured attacks on him.  So both became well known.  The fact is that the media takes the view that good news is not news.  If the media don’t report, or minimally report,  the work of the Governor-General then they can hardly say he is unknown. There is a spectacular and unusual photograph from his major outback visit this year. it tells an important story (It is on our site. )Why hasn’t it been widely seen in our media?




There was one additional aspect of the report which is worth noting, which appeared in the Melbourne Herald Sun on 24 August, 2006 :” Despite Maj-Gen Jeffery's lack of profile, monarchist sentiment appears to be strong with 56 per cent of those surveyed in Melbourne supporting the office and 51 per cent of Sydney residents saying that Australia needed a governor-general”