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Butler resigns as Tas Governor -

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Broadcast: 10/08/2004

Butler resigns as Tas Governor

Reporter: Jocelyn Nettlefold

KERRY O'BRIEN: Welcome to the program.

It was a long and private session between Tasmania's Premier Paul Lennon and his governor at
Hobart's Government House that went late into the night last night.

But even after a press conference by the Premier today, we were still little the wiser about what
precisely drove the departure of the former chief UN weapons inspector and senior diplomat.

What we do know is that the Premier believes Mr Butler's resignation was in the best interests of
the state, even though he described him as a victim rather than villain.

Just 10 months into his five year term, Mr Butler is to receive a $650,000 payout.

Jocelyn Nettlefold reports.

MAN: Did I hear the sound of a pack of hyenas laughing their heads off in the background there?

MAN NUMBER 2: The Premier's got a clear responsibility now to explain what has happened.

WOMAN: And the appointment was a disaster from the time it was announced.

RADIO ANNOUNCER: Can you imagine Tasmania attracting a high-profile vice-regal appointment again?

PAUL LENNON, TASMANIAN PREMIER: Richard and I discussed last night what was necessary to ensure
that the good name of Tasmania could be protected and that's when he decided that all that could be
done was for him to offer his resignation.

From my point of view, that was a courageous, a selfless act and one which should be commended.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon may have been willing to negotiate a $650,000 ex
gratia payment to Richard Butler for quitting his vice-regal post, but he still won't reveal why
the governor had to go.

PAUL LENNON: Both of us agreed that the controversy surrounding the office of governor was unlikely
to subside.

REPORTER: What was the controversy?

PAUL LENNON: Well, you know what the controversy was.

REPORTER: What did he do that you found so unacceptable?

PAUL LENNON: You people don't seem to get it.

We acted to protect the good name of Tasmania.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Since the former diplomat was appointed 10 months ago, what Richard Butler did
or didn't do has become the talk of Tasmania.

The governor and his supporters accuse the Hobart Mercury, a News Limited paper, of mounting a
political smear campaign against the ardent Republican and his wife Jennifer.

The Mercury's editor declined to be interviewed by the 7:30 Report.

Now Mr Butler's no longer in the vice-regal role, prominent citizens are prepared to say that the
appointment of the career diplomat was always an awkward fit.

DR MARGARET LINDLEY, UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA: I think he had gifts that are best suited to another
context.

I think the prime gift for the job in Tasmania is one of being charming to a wide range of to a
wide range of people, being patient.

IAN KENNETT, RETURNED SERVICES LEAGUE: They didn't realise Tasmania was so closely knit.

I think they might have put themselves a little bit aloof from the people of Tasmania and only
wanted to go with a certain percentage of Tasmanians, which are probably the higher echelon, and
they forgot the people - the grassroots people who make Tasmania what it is.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: The RSL used to have former governor Sir Guy Green as patron.

While it didn't offer the job to Richard Butler, war veterans say they were disappointed by the
level of support from Government House.

IAN KENNETT: On Anzac Day he gave a good speech, but Remembrance Day sort of brought him undone
with our senior veterans and war widows when he turned up without the poppy on.

Now a veteran did hand a poppy to one of his aides.

But it didn't seem to make the lapel of the governor and, as I stated, it brought a lot of the war
widows, in particular, a lot of angst.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Historian Margaret Lindley says the so far unexplained exit of three key
executive and experienced staff from Government House last week really set tongues wagging.

DR MARGARET LINDLEY; Again, being a small state, people know the people who quit.

And they know, if they don't know them personally, they know the calibre.

So a lot of people start looking at each other and thinking, "My God, something is wrong there."

REPORTER: Premier, did you office have anything to do with the exit of John Chilcott from
Government House?

PAUL LENNON: Look, I didn't discuss the matters last night surrounding staff at Government House, I
didn't discuss with Richard Butler last night any of the gossip that found its way on the front
page some of the mainland newspapers over the weekend.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: The departures have prompted the Opposition to threaten to withdraw support
from Mr Butler and bring on a constitutional crisis.

PAUL LENNON: I think he's been a victim here.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Premier, you say there's a lot of rubbish in the newspapers.

Can you define what you perceive to be the controversy?

PAUL LENNON: Well, if you can't understand what the controversy is, I'm sorry, I can't help you.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Opposition Leader Rene Hidding says the Government should reveal why it sought
Mr Butler's resignation.

RENE HIDDING, TASMANIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: He should not have accepted his resignation or even
discussed resignation if he believed this was a media beat-up.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Constitutional lawyer George Williams says there's no clear legal reason why Mr
Butler had to quit.

PROFESSOR GEORGE WILLIAMS, UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES: Well, you can't identify him as having
done anything wrong constitutionally and that's because the Constitution is actually silent on what
the job is meant to do.

It doesn't contain a job description.

It doesn't set down the role.

It doesn't set down how someone should be dismissed.

And it means when you're looking at the current situation, we're really dealing with conventions
and almost making it up as you go along.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Margaret Lindley, who moved to Tasmania from WA eight years ago, thinks the
Butlers underestimated the level of involvement expected by such a close knit community.

DR MARGARET LINDLEY: I think they perceive them as people who really look down on Tasmanians.

That's the perception - that they can't be bothered.

That very unfortunate clip of the Governor dismissing the young ladies' achievements on sports
awards night.

RICHARD BUTLER: Etc, etc...Kristen, heartiest congratulations.

DR MARGARET LINDLEY: Not good, not good.

That's somebody's daughter, lots of people's friends.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Richard and Jennifer Butler won't be presiding over any more prize nights, but
they won't be leaving their adopted state just yet.

They will remain at Government House for a few more weeks while they pack their bags.

Tasmania's Chief Justice has been installed as a caretaker Governor, as the hunt for a suitable
replacement begins.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Jocelyn Nettlefold with that report.

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