I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The new G-G

Australia has a bit of a recent history of being embarrassed about its Governors-General. The office itself is a bit embarrassing, of course: the incumbent represents the Queen, as our head of state, and tends to make the news only when things go horribly wrong. Kerr dismissing Whitlam's parliament, disgracing himself at the Melbourne Cup; Peter Hollingworth having to resign after the mess left by his handling of church sex scandals. Even my most abiding memory of William Deane, who is widely regarded as the best and most popular G-G in recent times, is a picture of him standing with an expression of utmost compassion next to the parents of some Australian kids who had died in a canyoning disaster somewhere in Europe, having brought branches and sprigs of wattle to throw into the rushing waters.

But overnight the office seems to have been renewed, with Rudd's announcement that Quentin Bryce will take over from Michael Jeffrey in July. I don't know all that much about her, but her CV is impressive, and the appointment has been widely praised. It's as if no one can imagine how Howard could possibly have overlooked her unless he had been an old patriarchal retrograde....

It's also fun to see someone of such extraordinary elegance in the role:

But I'm even more struck by her remarks:

"I grew up in a little bush town in Queensland with 200 people, and what this day says to Australian women and Australian girls is that you can do anything, you can be anything. ... It makes my heart sing to see women in so many diverse roles across our country in Australia."

"It makes my heart sing." Wonderful! I think this is discourse that belongs to the second-wave feminism that Bryce grew up with, and stands for. It's probably still women's language — do men in public office speak like this? — and what a buzz to hear it spoken from this position.

There's a fair bit of speculation around this morning that Bryce might be our last governor-general. The buzz seems to be that Australia might be happy to serve under Elizabeth, but that Charles' accession might push the republican movement along a bit faster. I'm not so sure: I suspect we would be so enthralled by the public mourning and the public celebration of a coronation that we would forget to be republicans. And then I suspect we would fall in love with William. So if we're going to become a republic, we should disconnnect the movement from the question of the personality of the monarch. What about Quentin Bryce for President? Huh?


Anne said...
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Anne said...

I too woke to this wonderful news early this morning. What a way to start the day. It's truly an announcement to make the 'heart sing' (lovely phrase).
Although I've enjoyed watching Rudd and his team fulfil their promises, this is the first time they've gone one better, surprising me with a new way to improve Australia. Wonderful!

highlyeccentric said...

I'd support Quentin for President anyway... I have her principalship of Women's College to thank for the fact that when I came through first year, two years after she moved on, I only had to endure MILD hazing and alchoholism, as opposed to the torture which most other colleges put their ickle firsties through.

On a serious note, though, is it really that great a feminist victory to have a female talking head? Particularly the GG, being a talking head no one hears much from anyway? I respect Quentin very, very much, but if I want evidence that women can pull their weight in running a country, I'll look to Julia Gillard...

Kate said...

It's a victory that a feminist has been rewarded for her life's work, lots of feminist work, in the same way that men are for their achievements.

I read in the Australian that she's a "pre-feminism feminist", I'm still trying to work out what the hell that is. Unless they think she was born in 1625 or something.

David Thornby said...

"Do men in public office speak like this?" Unequivocally no, though to be fair I don't think it's all that common for women in public office either. I have to sit and listen to rather more presentations on the topic of 'how well things are going' in one or another slice of the public sphere than I'd really like to, and there's a real culture of avoiding subjective measurements or responses to 'how well things are going'. If you want to express pleasure (or displeasure) at current developments, you're restricted to showing graphs and tables and figures (of agricultural science funding, infrastructure and services spending, indigenous wellbeing, etc), hoping that the objective measurements are interpreted by the audience the way you wanted them to be. Expressing deep personal pleasure (or displeasure) about how things are, or how they're changing, doesn't seem to have much of a place in the discourse. Even Tim Costello seems happier to talk figures than emotions. And it's been a long time since Bob Hawke's rather challenging tears.

It's good to hear someone with public responsibilities say publically that they feel something.