Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the London-born monarchist and British Empire loyalist, has brought back knights and dames, another dumbfounding initiative never mentioned in the Coalition’s election manifesto.
This was a step that even uber-royalist John Howard, now the Queen’s Warden of the Cinque Ports, didn’t dare inflict on the Commonwealth, but the “mad monk” has.
It was no surprise at all to learn that the first Abbott dame will be Quentin Bryce who leaves Yarralumla this week. Her departure will bring down the curtain on the most expensive governor-generalship in the nation’s history.
If Federal Parliament had an active Public Accounts Committee it would be calling for an itemised account of expenditure since she became GG in 2008.
The former Queensland governor (2003-2008) was chosen by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a fellow Queenslander. They were close personal friends and the Canberra media swooned over her appointment as the first female at Yarralumla.
Because her daughter is married to Bill Shorten, any examination of the cost of the Bryce vice-regal administration has been strictly off the agenda.
When Rudd unveiled his project to claim a seat for Australia on the UN Security Council, Mrs Bryce was despatched on a tour of Africa to garner votes. I don’t know the total number of frocks, shoes, hats, handbags and pieces of jewellery that were loaded onto the plane but eyewitnesses say it was impressive.
When Prince William married last year, Mrs Bryce headed the Aussie contingent taking a couple of floors at one of London’s five-star hotels, throwing a sumptuous wedding party and presenting a taxpayer-funded gift of undisclosed
value to the royal couple.
Someone should ask the question: what was the price of Mrs Bryce’s wardrobe of clothing? Because she is pencil-thin none of it will fit the new lady at Yarralumla, Mrs Lynne Cosgrove. So what will happen to Mrs Bryce’s vast collection of clothing? Will she take it with her to Brisbane or will it be sold and the money returned to Treasury? I think we should be told by Treasurer Joe Hockey or someone from his “razor gang”.
It is widely reported that Sir William Deane (GG 1996-2001) managed with 10 suits, a few jackets and spare trousers and half a dozen pairs of shoes. His wife, Helen, was equally modest in the wardrobe department.
On May 8, 2013, Prime Minister Julia Gillard gained Cabinet approval for the ceremonial ranking of the governor-general to be upgraded. The gazetted announcement, completely ignored by the Canberra media, read:
“The title ‘the Honourable’ for Governors-General
“Her Majesty The Queen has given approval for the title of ‘the Honourable’ to be granted to Australian Governors-General.
“Governors-General will now be styled ‘Her/His Excellency the Honourable’ while in office and ‘the Honourable’ in retirement.
“This entitlement applies retrospectively, as well as to the current and future holders of the office.”
It was signed – The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Who cooked up this titular nonsense – Gillard, Rudd or Bryce, or all three? She was already AD, CVO and had been awarded a string of other honours. Now she becomes a dame due to Abbott’s bizarre announcement on Tuesday that the new
Governor-General Peter Cosgrove will receive a knighthood and Mrs Bryce will become a dame.
Mrs Bryce, who gave a studied performance as a closet republican, could have shown dignity and common sense and rejected Abbott’s bizarre bauble, but she hasn’t. She began public life as a trailblazing feminist but has ended her distinguished career in the chorus line of Abbott-scripted period comedy.
Abbott is determined cement the British monarchy into Australian life and restore the absurd paraphernalia of the UK’s outdated and sclerotic class system. As widely predicted, it’s back to the fifties with the Abbott gang.