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Michael Pascoe: If it’s not Hurley, it’s the Governor-General

The position of Governor-General could be in strife with the latest revelations, Michael Pascoe writes.

The position of Governor-General could be in strife with the latest revelations, Michael Pascoe writes. Photo: Getty

If David Hurley is in the clear over the secrecy surrounding Scott Morrison’s weird multi-ministry title-athon, then the Governor-General is in trouble.

Not the man, but his office.

There remains a question mark about how and why the secrecy was imposed, but Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been quick to clear General Hurley – the soldier was merely following orders, as a good GG is meant to do.

So why are we wasting many millions of dollars on maintaining a highly paid human with two splendid residences and a retinue of servants and office staff when a simple and cheap rubber stamp would serve as well?

Heavens, we could follow Caligula’s lead and appoint a horse. Australians love a good horse. And opportunity is knocking with Winx retired from the track.

The now-retired Winx would have popular appeal at a fraction of the price of a Governor-General. Photo: Getty

For the cost of a carrot, Winx could swish her tail past any documents she’s been told to swish her tail past, plus she’d pull a bigger and more appreciative crowd than the human GGs we’ve become used to.

“A gee-gee for GG” – it’s meant to be.

The rubber stamp nonetheless would be cheaper and less messy, residing in a desk drawer rather than stables, requiring only a little ink rather than oats and hay and whatnot. Winx’s tail swish might not always leave documents totally clean.

Sir John Kerr was the only Governor-General in living memory to use his initiative to do something he wasn’t advised to do by the government of the day – and we don’t want to go there again.

whitlam letters secret

Sir John Kerr with the Queen on her 1977 trip to Australia. Photo: Getty

Someone conspiring with Buckingham Palace factotums, a conservative lawyer and the Opposition Leader to take down the government makes Winx look very fine indeed.

On the other hand, there is appeal in the concept of having a person with sufficient moral stature to at least insist on transparency being a minimum requirement for their tail swishing or rubber stamping.

Democracy ultimately is not based on laws but on culture assisted by convention. “Following orders” as a culture is not conducive to saying “no” when it might be required or insisting on light always being shone on matters of governance.

Our laws at various times have been and remain quite capable of undermining democracy.

We’ve had our share of shameless gerrymandering to deny democracy; we’ve had more than our share of secret trials and incarceration to weaken faith in our rule of law that democracy was supposed to deliver.

Thus, whatever Scott Morrison thought he was up to with his clandestine ministerial madness, he has made a strong case for either formally replacing the human Governor-General with a stamp, or having a Head of State afforded stature above that of a rubber stamp.

Or horse.

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