Daily Telegraph - Australia
Time for G-G to face a few facts
May 30, 2005
LABOR MP Daryl Melham vows that if ever he is appointed governor-general he will resign from Revesby Workers' Club.
His vow is big deal.
He has been federal member for the local electorate of Banks for the past 15 years, is vice-president of the Revesby club and was raised in the area.
Mr Melham would agree that porcine squadrons would need be airborne before he was given the vice-regal nod. He thinks he would be terrific in the job but doubts it will ever come his way.
Nevertheless, his offer of a Revesby Workers' Club sacrifice is not flippant.
Mr Melham wants to define and establish a principle: governors-general must divest themselves of outside allegiances, or at least publicly declare them, on taking office.
Otherwise, the public will not be able to determine whether questionable or politically biased organisations are benefiting by vice-regal association.
For example, Mr Melham says, the public should know whether the official residences of Yarralumla in Canberra and Admiralty House in Sydney are being used for non-public purposes when the governor-general hosts organisations there.
It's in defence and prosecution of that principle that Mr Melham has been asking whether Governor-General Michael Jeffery is a Mason.
The Masonic Lodge is not the secret organisation it was and certainly does not constitute a criminal or dangerous body.
Mr Melham doesn't like it because Masons don't admit women members, and he thinks a governor-general ought not belong to a "sexist" group. For the same reasons, he disapproves of Mr Jeffery's membership of men-only clubs in Sydney and Melbourne.
This campaign for vice-regal transparency might not have gone far had there not been confusion over Mr Jeffery's status as a Mason.
His official secretary Malcolm Hazell last week told a Senate committee he didn't know if the Governor-General was a member as it was "a personal thing".
Later, The Age quoted Mr Jeffery's spokesman: "The Governor-General says he has not attended a Freemasons' meeting for five years and on that basis, to say he is not actively involved seems a fair interpretation."
Tell that to former NSW Police Commissioner Tony Lauer, or, as Freemason magazine calls him, "MW Bro Anthony Lauer Grand Master UGL of NSW and ACT".
In the December edition of the magazine, Mr Lauer announced Mr Jeffery would open the VIII World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges in Sydney in November 2005.
The article comes with a photograph of Mr Lauer and Mr Jeffery.
It wasn't his first appearance in the pages of Lodge publications. Mr Jeffery was sworn in as Governor-General in August 2003, and the August edition of Freemasonry Victoria hailed the elevation of a brother"committed Freemason" who had been initiated in St George's Lodge in Western Australia in N.ovember 1994, later a Senior Warden.
"Freemasonry fundamentally teaches morality, self-knowledge and an approach to life to make a brother a better man within himself," Mr Jeffrey said in an exclusive interview.
The accompanying text said the new Governor-General "sees the battle being for the future of our youth in an area in which Freemasons should become involved".
None of this is in any way sinister. In fact, it is part of a governor-general's job to get community groups involved in good works.
But it makes it hard to assert that Mr Jeffery has no contact with the Freemasons. Mr Melham has now put a series of related questions on notice to the PM.
He wants to know where Mr Jeffery and Mr Lauer met to discuss the conference opening; when Mr Jeffery agreed to be patron of the conference; and why this wasn't mentioned in previous inquiries about Mr Jeffery's clubs and associations.
There have been whispers that the Governor-General is unpopular for being a bit of a snob, and pushy with ministers.
All I know for a fact is that people who have witnessed investitures have admired how Mr Jeffery has carefully prepared for each recipient of an award and been able to knowledgably and sympathetically discuss their work with them.
He gives good gong.
Unfortunately for Mr Jeffery, an ex-army Major-General used to having the enlisted jump at his command and not being questioned, the job of governor-general is under question.
Gradually, the shield of royal protection has been taken from the role by monarchists and republicans, and essentially he's seen as a very senior public servant.
Public servants at all levels are accountable through their political masters, and the resident of Yarralumla will find he is no exception.