Oct 22, 2002

Governor-General – Adjournment

Governor-General – Adjournment

22 October 2002

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10.30 p.m.)—Just two years ago, Australia had a referendum on whether the Queen, through the Governor-General, or an Australian should be our head of state. Today, Australians find that we do not have any head of state; he is missing in action. The Governor-General left the country last Sunday, some 12 hours after the—

Interjection The SPEAKER—Order! I remind the member for Grayndler that, under the standing orders, any reflection on Her Majesty or her representative in Australia is quite outside the standing orders and could not be entertained by the chamber.

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Mr ALBANESE—Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I would find it extraordinary that the standing orders would exclude a discussion of the appropriateness of the Governor-General’s actions at this particular point in time. If I can continue, I would compare the vice-regal performance at the moment with that at the time of the tragedy in 1999 when 13 young Australians lost their lives in the canyon streams of Interlaken. The imagery from Switzerland would sadden any heart: 13 sets of relatives grieving for the loss of their adventurous children. However, these parents were not alone. Standing behind them was a quietly spoken man, a compassionate man, who was reaching out to the parents and giving them support in an extremely personal way. We all felt better because we knew he was there. We all knew him well because he had been there for us before.

That man is, of course, Sir William Deane. He stood with us after some of the saddest events which have occurred in this country. He led the mourners at the site of the Port Arthur massacre, and he was on hand to support the survivors of the Thredbo landslide. Indeed, he was so thoughtful that he took to Interlaken sprigs of wattle from his own garden in Canberra to cast into the canyon streams. He was not there to talk to the media; he was not interested in developing his profile. He simply sought to bring people comfort. Sir William Deane did our great nation proud.

This government has made political appointment after political appointment. Many of these appointments have shown what happens when you place ideology and favouritism above suitability for appointment. It is no coincidence that the destruction of trust in our elected officials and public institutions has occurred at the same time as our public bodies have been taken over by John Howard’s supporters. One of the first steps was the decapitation of the Public Service through the removal of numerous departmental secretaries and their replacement with people he could trust. Twelve of the 14 appointments to the Industrial Relations Commission have been from an employer background. There has been the appointment of Ian Callinan, who prosecuted Lionel Murphy, to the High Court. There has been the appointment of Major Brian Watters from the Salvation Army as Chairman of the Australian National Council on Drugs. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has been thrown into turmoil over the appointment of a former pharmaceutical industry lobbyist.

The ABC board has Donald Macdonald as chairman, as well as Michael Kroger and Judith Sloan. The ABC endured the embarrassing tenure of former Young Liberal activist Jonathan Shier. Carla Zampatti was appointed chair of SBS. At least 14 former Liberal MPs, ex-Premiers and senior Howard government staffers have been appointed to ambassadorial or senior overseas appointments, including to Washington, New York, Los Angeles, London and the IMF. The Board of the National Museum of Australia is chaired by former minister Tony Staley and contains John Howard’s biographer and former Fraser media secretary, David Barnett; Christopher Pearson; and the daughter of BA Santamaria, Catherine Santamaria. Networking the Nation is chaired by former National Party Leader, Doug Anthony. But none of these appointments matters when compared with the appointment of the Queen’s representative, our Governor-General.

Interjection

The SPEAKER—Order! I cannot allow that. I have allowed the member for Grayndler to follow a particular course, but I would remind the member for Grayndler of standing order 74, which says:

No Member may use the name of Her Majesty, her representative in the Commonwealth, or her representative in a State, disrespectfully in debate, nor for the purpose of influencing the House in its deliberations.

That is the standing order, as House of Representatives Practice indicates. I have been very generous in the way I have allowed the member for Grayndler to continue to date.

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Mr ALBANESE—Thank you, Mr Speaker. Can I say, in accepting that ruling, that it is time to restore faith in Australia’s representatives. Let us start at the top. (Time expired)