I’ve become so inured to the sight of our current Prime Minister arrogating the ceremonial duties of our Governor General that I tend to no longer be outraged. Thankfully, Ken Lovell at Surfdom is not so reticent, and his description of the PM delivering the Remembrance Day Speech and laying the first wreath at the National War Memorial forms the title of this post.
convey a single message to the incoming PM:
Sir, you are the head of a political party. You are not Australia’s head of state.
It’s a message that needs to be made frequently and powerfully until the politicians understand it and act upon it. Because along with all the other damage that John Winston Howard has done to this country with his creeping opportunism, his cynical expediency, his tawdry instinctive lunge for the cheap immediate party-political point-scoring over any thought of the national interest “¦ along with all that must be reckoned Howard’s destruction of the office of Governor-General.
I have no objection to the PM attending Remembrance Day service at the National War Memorial. It is appropriate for him to be there. But it is also appropriate for him to respect our nation’s constitutional head of state by giving the GG the primacy that is his due at a national occasion. He should not speak, especially not during an election campaign, and he should lay his wreath after the Governor General has laid the first.
Crossposted to LP in Exile 15/11/2007
Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy, law & order, Politics, Sociology
Hmm. This is interesting. I lived in Australia for 3 years, and John Howard always acted like, well, how I would expect a prime minister to act. I always understood the GG to be a ceremonial post at best (I paid some attention to politics while there, and never even learned the guy’s name. And though I could point out Mark Latham in a crowd, I sure as hell couldn’t point out the GG). I always understood the PM to have most of the basic powers that say, the US president would have, though of course somewhat limited by the governmental system and the fact that the PM has to take part in parliament.
So . . . I have to ask then, is this wrong? I’m also going to ask my (Australian) husband when he gets home from work tonight, but I sure am befuddled.
The GG is a ceremonial post, and that’s exactly the point. The GG is supposed to lead the national ceremonies as the representative of the British sovereign, and the PM (and all other Ministers and parliamentarians) are supposed to defer to him at these ceremonies. Outside these ceremonies the GG has little role, but at these ceremonies his role is constitutionally as the prime celebrant.
Imagine if, in Britain, Tony Blair had pre-empted the position of the Queen at the national ceremonies, making sure that he was the first in line to shake people’s hands and lay memorial wreaths, and that HM came second in the ceremonies? That is what Howard is doing by arrogating the GG’s leadership role in these national ceremonies.
Ah. Okay, now I get it. Thanks!
What’s especially strange is that Howard professes to be a monarchist, and yet pre-empting and upstaging the GG as he does is totally disrespectful of the GG’s role as the Queen’s viceroy, literally standing in for her. The cognitive dissonance it displays for him to effectively be the most republican Prime Minister we have ever had in how he uses the office ceremonially, while talking up the monarchy all the while, is extraordinary.
You have insulted me and my family, ma’am! I assure you my family and I have nothing, NOTHING to do with that man and his detestable party.
Although I might wreck your cabbages occasionally. Ahem. Sorry about that.