PROFILE: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Other side of Australia's next Governor-General
, April 26, 2008
Quentin Bryce's appointment has won bipartisan acclaim. However, questions have been raised about her past support of many left-wing causes. Peter Westmore reports.The appointment of Queensland Governor, Quentin Bryce, as Australia's next Governor-General has been widely acclaimed as the first female Governor-General of Australia. However, media reporting of her appointment has been superficial, ignoring the complexity of Ms Bryce's character and the left-wing causes she has espoused over many years.
The appointment of a Governor-General is a political appointment. Undoubtedly, Kevin Rudd's appointment of Quentin Bryce, a fellow Queenslander, reflects Mr Rudd's own preference.
Ms Bryce's background was that of a feminist lawyer, but she was appointed by the Liberal Government of Malcolm Fraser as convener of the National Women's Advisory Council (NATWAC) in 1982.
An annual report of NATWAC at the time stated that she was a member of the Women's Electoral Lobby, the radical feminist lobby group; the Union of Australian Women, a body aligned with the pro-Soviet Socialist Party of Australia; the pro-abortion Family Planning Association (Queensland); and the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties.Choices
Her biography on the Governor of Queensland's web-site states: "She has made choices throughout her professional and community life that reflect her strong sense of responsibility to the community; her commitment to advancing human rights and equality, the rights of women and children, and the welfare of the family; and her willingness to share her skills and experiences to improve the lives of many.
"As a mother of five children, and now as a grandmother, these things rest close and dear to her heart...
"Her former roles include: inaugural director of the Queensland Women's Information Service, Office of the Status of Women; Queensland director of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission; federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner; founding chair and chief executive of the National Childcare Accreditation Council; principal and chief executive Officer of the Women's College, University of Sydney; member of the Australian delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission; and lecturer in law school, University of Queensland."
In 1989, she was appointed Sex Discrimination Commissioner, at times attracting criticism for recommending the amendment of the Sex Discrimination Act which exempted religious schools and voluntary organisations from the provisions of the act.
She also campaigned publicly, while a government employee, against legislation to restrict abortion in the Australian Capital Territory.
Ms Bryce was also subject to an inquiry by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission into a complaint that she had discriminated against men, after a Canberra doctor, Alex Proudfoot, obtained under Freedom of Information a file in which Ms Bryce described his complaint as "another example of a male wasting our time with trivia" (Melbourne Herald Sun
, November 20, 1993). The new chauvinism is as bad as the old.
In her public statements, Ms Bryce reflects a genuine concern for the poor and marginalised. For example, at the launch of Foodbank Christmas Appeal last December, in commending the appeal, she acknowledged "the intolerable prevalence of hunger in our society".
She has travelled extensively throughout Queensland, particularly in rural areas, showing deep empathy with country people, reflecting her own background. The Government House web site lists an extraordinary range of speeches to schools, community organisations, ethnic groups, rural communities, hospitals and more.
She is clearly admired, on all sides of politics in Queensland, for the way in which she has performed her role. Last January, the Bligh Labor Government announced a two-year extension on her term as state governor, which the Opposition endorsed.
In 1964, she married an architect, Michael Bryce, and they have five children. Her husband has had a distinguished career. After graduating in architecture from the University of Queensland, he established his own architectural practice in Queensland and achieved national prominence through work on a number of distinctive Australian institutions, including the National Trust, the Australian War Memorial and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
In addition to community activity, he has also had a long association with the Royal Australian Air Force, dating back to his service in the Air Training Corps, and is patron of the Royal Australian Air Force Association in Queensland.
Quentin Bryce's appointment as Governor-General follows the extremely successful five-year term of Major-General Michael Jeffrey. After a distinguished military career, Major-General Jeffrey served as Governor of Western Australia before being appointed Governor-General by John Howard in 2003, after the resignation of Dr Peter Hollingsworth.
One can only hope that Quentin Bryce follows Major-General Jeffrey's example and, as Australia's head of state, brings people together rather than divides them.— Peter Westmore