Michael Jeffery

Michael Jeffery

Major-General (retired) Philip Michael Jeffery (born 1937), became the 24th Governor-General of Australia when he was sworn in in August 2003. He was born in Wiluna, Western Australia and was educated at state schools in Perth. At 16 he left Perth to attend the Royal Military College (Duntroon), in Canberra.

After graduation in 1958, Jeffery served in a number of junior positions before being posted to Malaya in 1962 for operational service. From 1966 to 1969 he served in Papua New Guinea. During this posting he married Marlena Kerr of Sydney. This was followed by a tour of duty in Vietnam during which he was awarded the Military Cross. Jeffrey remained convinced that Australia's participation in the Vietnam War was right. "I believe passionately that Vietnam was a just cause in the circumstances of the time," he said in an interview.

In 1972 Jeffery was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel to command the 2nd Battalion of the Pacific Islands Regiment. In 1975, he assumed command of the SAS in Perth, and was then promoted to Colonel as the first Director of the Army's Special Action Forces. From 1981 to 1983 he headed Australia's national counter-terrorist co-ordination authority. In 1985 he was promoted to Major-General and appointed to command the Army's 1st Division. In 1990 he became Deputy Chief of the General Staff and in 1991 he was appointed Assistant Chief of the General Staff for Materiel.

In November 1993 Jeffery was appointed Governor of Western Australia, and in June 1996 he became a Companion of the Order of Australia. He was also appointed Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. During his seven years in the post Jeffrey made a number of public statements of his conservative views on marriage, sex and education, and received some criticism from the Labor opposition and sections of the media for appearing to take positions on political issues.

On the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, for example, Jeffery said: "Baser instincts are titillated in the television displays of events like the Mardi Gras, where the colour and spectacle of fancy dress camouflages a public display of simulated homosexual activity and the degradation of traditional religions in the name of humour."

He also said: "A British study found a direct statistical link between single parenthood and virtually every type of major crime, including mugging, violence against strangers, car theft and burglary. And the same is true... in Western Australia."

Jeffery was named as Governor-General Designate by Prime Minister John Howard on June 22 2003, following the resignation of Dr Peter Hollingworth. He was sworn in on 11 August. He became the first Australian soldier to be appointed Governor-General.

His appointment was generally welcomed, although there was some critical comment about the appointment of another Anglo-Australian male to the post, and also some comment about Jeffery's conservative views. A journalist wrote in The Australian: "Jeffery is Howard's perfect Governor-General. The ex-soldier is deeply conservative, steeped in the military and strong on traditional family values."

Jeffery made no apologies for his outspokenness, and commented that: "I think I will be able to talk on issues and principles and values and standards quite comfortably as Governor-General." In the first three months of his tenure, however, he made no public comments on controversial issues.

See also: Politics of Australia

External links and references

Preceded by:
Dr Peter Hollingworth
Governors-General of Australia Followed by:
(still in office)

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