Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 23:08 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 23:08 | SYDNEY

The bizarre contortions of Quentin Bryce critics


Bill Bowtell

10 March 2009 16:52

The head of state should protect and advance the national interest as defined by the national government.

From Albania to Zambia, from North Korea to North Dakota and from Palau to Panama, no patriotic politician, party or pundit could possibly disagree with such an unexceptional statement.

In a world of nation-states, heads of state are, well, heads of states. They represent their people to themselves and to the wider world and generally perform their state duties with dignity, warmth and style. At home, they should be gracious hosts to other heads of state and government, and courteous visitors when they themselves travel abroad.

Could there possibly be a country where the politics of a major party, or gaggle of pundits, could become so bizarrely contorted as to attack their head of state for representing the national interest when s/he travels abroad? Not for nothing is Australia sometimes referred to as Oz.

In its wisdom, the Government of Australia determined that our country needs new friends, as well as old ones, if we are to play our fair  part in shaping and defining the new world order being built on the rubble of the old global system.

The Government therefore asked our de facto head of state, the Governor-General, to visit several African countries, in the hope that she might do something worthwhile for our country, for Africa and for the general cause of progress and peaceful development.

This is the diplomatic equivalent of turning on a tap – about as humdrum but inherently valuable a thing as a head of state could do. But it has roused the Liberal Party and its blowhard media acolytes to apoplectic fury.

Julie Bishop, the alternative Foreign Minister, went as far as to claim that the Governor-General should not presume to act as an 'agent' of the Australian Government’s long-announced intention to be elected to the UN Security Council.

Aroused by Ms Bishop’s deeply misguided comments, the remnant monarchical and neo-con commentators of the Australian media uncorked their pop-guns as well. Never ones to under-egg an omelette, the pundits – led by the Australian’s Greg Sheridan and the Daily Telegraph’s Piers Akerman – painted the Governor-General’s perfectly sensible African visit as a product of the usual coalition of the myriad dark and sinister forces we came to know so well in the long years of the late, unlamented administrations of John Howard and George Bush.

Like the rabid neo-con wing of the US Republican Party, the brains of the more reactionary Liberals have apparently been curdled by their recent expulsion from power. And like the poor old mainstream Republicans, more moderate Liberals seem to have mortgaged their political common sense to a Rush Limbaugh-inspired coterie of arch-conservative commentators, whose grasp of constitutional reality and the national interest is at best highly tenuous.

Deranged by defeat and bereft of new ideas, they are reduced to yapping and barking at those who cannot, for reasons of convention and good manners, respond in kind.

Unfortunately for Ms Bishop and her neo-con poodles, the caravan upon which the Governor-General, the Australian Government and the great majority of the Australian public are all perched, is moving rapidly on. Next stop, Africa!