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Richard Butler (diplomat)

Richard Butler (diplomat)

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Richard William Butler AC (born 13 May 1942) has served as an Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n diplomat, a United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 weapons inspector and the Governor of Tasmania.

Life and career

Butler was born in Coolah
Coolah, New South Wales
Coolah is a town in the central northern part of New South Wales, Australia in Warrumbungle Shire. At the 2006 census, Coolah had a population of 798....

 in rural New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

. He grew up in Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

 and was educated at the University of Sydney
University of Sydney
The University of Sydney is a public university located in Sydney, New South Wales. The main campus spreads across the suburbs of Camperdown and Darlington on the southwestern outskirts of the Sydney CBD. Founded in 1850, it is the oldest university in Australia and Oceania...

 and the Australian National University
Australian National University
The Australian National University is a teaching and research university located in the Australian capital, Canberra.As of 2009, the ANU employs 3,945 administrative staff who teach approximately 10,000 undergraduates, and 7,500 postgraduate students...

, Canberra
Canberra is the capital city of Australia. With a population of over 345,000, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory , south-west of Sydney, and north-east of Melbourne...

. He married Susan Ryan
Susan Ryan
Susan Maree Ryan AO is an Australian educator who served as a Senator for the Australian Capital Territory 1975–87...

 in 1963 and they had a son and a daughter; they divorced in 1972.

He joined the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs in 1965, and served in a number of postings until 1975, when he resigned to become Principal Private Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition, Gough Whitlam
Gough Whitlam
Edward Gough Whitlam, AC, QC , known as Gough Whitlam , served as the 21st Prime Minister of Australia. Whitlam led the Australian Labor Party to power at the 1972 election and retained government at the 1974 election, before being dismissed by Governor-General Sir John Kerr at the climax of the...

, who had recently been dismissed as Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Australia
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia is the highest minister of the Crown, leader of the Cabinet and Head of Her Majesty's Australian Government, holding office on commission from the Governor-General of Australia. The office of Prime Minister is, in practice, the most powerful...


In 1983 the next Australian Labor Party
Australian Labor Party
The Australian Labor Party is an Australian political party. It has been the governing party of the Commonwealth of Australia since the 2007 federal election. Julia Gillard is the party's federal parliamentary leader and Prime Minister of Australia...

 Prime Minister, Bob Hawke
Bob Hawke
Robert James Lee "Bob" Hawke AC GCL was the 23rd Prime Minister of Australia from March 1983 to December 1991 and therefore longest serving Australian Labor Party Prime Minister....

, appointed him as Australia's Permanent Representative on Disarmament to the United Nations in Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

. He was next appointed Australian Ambassador to Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, and played a major part in the Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

n peace settlement, working closely with then Foreign Minister Gareth Evans
Gareth Evans (politician)
Gareth John Evans, AO, QC , is a former Australian politician from 1978 to 1999 representing the Australian Labor Party, serving in a number of ministries including Attorney-General and Foreign Minister from 1983 to 1996 in the Hawke and Keating governments. He was president and chief executive...

. He was Australian Ambassador to the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 from 1992 to 1997.

Butler is currently a Global Diplomat in Residence and Clinical Professor at the Center for Global Affairs at the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies. He is also a professor in the School of International Affairs at Penn State University in State College, PA.http://sia.psu.edu/faculty/butler

Butler at UNSCOM

In 1997 Butler was appointed Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission
United Nations Special Commission
United Nations Special Commission was an inspection regime created by the United Nations to ensure Iraq's compliance with policies concerning Iraqi production and use of weapons of mass destruction after the Gulf War...

 (UNSCOM), the UN weapons inspection organisation in Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, in succession to Rolf Ekéus
Rolf Ekéus
Carl Rolf Ekéus is a Swedish diplomat. From 1978 to 1983, he was a representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, and he has worked on various other disarmament committees and commissions....

. In this role he antagonised both the Iraqi regime and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and was frequently described as arrogant and aggressive. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan
Kofi Atta Annan is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2006...

 rebuked him for using "undiplomatic" language about then Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...


While at UNSCOM Butler frequently argued that Saddam had undisclosed weapons of mass destruction
Weapons of mass destruction
A weapon of mass destruction is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans and/or cause great damage to man-made structures , natural structures , or the biosphere in general...

. In a 1999 speech he said:
"following Iraq's expulsion from Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

, it became clear that the Saddam Hussein government had created a range and quality of weapons of mass destruction that was truly alarming. Iraq had also acquired a very considerable long-range missile force to deliver those weapons. There was also concern about Iraq's nuclear weapons program, which through the International Atomic Energy Agency
International Atomic Energy Agency
The International Atomic Energy Agency is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957...

, we now know was advanced. It was for these reasons that the Security Council imposed very heavy, very strict requirements upon Iraq for the destruction, removal or rendering harmless of those weapons, and all of that to be done under international supervision."

He also accused Iraq of actively concealing its weapons and obstructing UNSCOM's work:
"Iraq never kept its side of the bargain by: not making honest disclosure statements of its prohibited weapons and weapons capability; unilaterally destroying weapons in order to ensure that the Commission would never know the full nature and scope of what it had held and this, under circumstances where the law required that all destruction be conducted under international supervision; and, through the pursuit of an active policy and practice of concealing weapons and proscribed components from the Commission."

In a 1999 interview he said:
"I like to refer to the existence of the "anti-UNSCOM industry." They have an enormous bureaucracy, established for the purpose of defeating UNSCOM, run by a high government committee, with a government ministry, called the National Monitoring Directorate. I mean, Tariq Aziz
Tariq Aziz
Tariq Aziz and Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq and a close advisor of former President Saddam Hussein. Their association began in the 1950s when both were activists for the then-banned Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party...

 directs this. And there's no question that for every person we would put into the field, they would have ten. I mean, I wonder whether it's not the second largest industry in Iraq, after the oil
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 industry. I mean, it's a very big show. They have been extremely active in seeking to defeat our work. That's been a big problem for us."

In 1998 Iraq accused Butler and other UNSCOM officials of acting as spies for the United States, but the UNSCOM weapons inspectors were not expelled from the country by Iraq as has often been reported (and as George W. Bush alleged in his infamous "axis of evil" speech). Rather, according to Butler himself in his book Saddam Defiant (2000), it was U.S. Ambassador Peter Burleigh, acting on instructions from Washington, who suggested Butler pull his team from Iraq in order to protect them from the forthcoming U.S. and British airstrikes. A number of media reports in the United States suggested that there was some substance to the spying allegations and to the charge that he was tailoring UNSCOM's findings to suit the United States. Eric Fournier, a French diplomat who served as Butler's deputy at UNSCOM in 1998, told an Australian journalist, Christopher Kremmer, that the US bombing of Iraq in 1998—which made the UNSCOM mission untenable—occurred "because Richard Butler reported that the Iraqis had not cooperated with inspections, even though more than three hundred had taken place in a few weeks and only a handful had been a problem. Three out of three hundred did not go perfectly smoothly...the report, drafted like that, was a good excuse for some members of the Security Council to take action".http://svaradarajan.blogspot.com/2002/09/frontier-rugs-review-of-carpet-wars-by.html Fournier also told Kremmer that Butler at one point sounded positive about closing the disarmament issue. But then he received a call from the state department who weren’t happy with a positive outcome in Iraq.

Both the Washington Post and the Boston Globe, citing anonymous sources, said that Butler had known of and co-operated with a US electronic eavesdropping operation that allowed intelligence agents to monitor military communications in Iraq. This was confirmed by UNSCOM insider Rod Barton on Australian television in February 2005. This intelligence was used to target US air attacks on Iraq.

Butler admitted that foreign intelligence agencies were being used to locate Iraqi WMD but denied allegations that he colluded with the U.S. to access Saddam Hussein's private channel via "piggybacking" UNSCOM. He also stated that foreign intelligence activities decreased during 1998. http://www.iraqwatch.org/perspectives/act-unscom-6-99.htm He was publicly supported by Kofi Annan, but Annan was reported to be privately seeking Butler's resignation, which occurred a few months later. After leaving UNSCOM in 1999 Butler was a Diplomat-in-Residence at the Council of Foreign Relations.

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

, Butler, despite his earlier criticism of Saddam Hussein, opposed the US-led invasion and Australian participation in it. In July 2003 he called for the resignations of Prime Minister John Howard
John Howard
John Winston Howard AC, SSI, was the 25th Prime Minister of Australia, from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007. He was the second-longest serving Australian Prime Minister after Sir Robert Menzies....

 and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer
Alexander Downer
Alexander John Gosse Downer is a former Australian Liberal Party politician who was Foreign Minister of Australia from March 1996 to December 2007, the longest-serving in Australian history...

, who he said had misled the Australian people over the war.


In August 2003 the Labor Premier of Tasmania Jim Bacon
Jim Bacon
James Alexander Bacon, AC was Premier of Tasmania from 1998 to 2004.-Early life:Bacon was born in Melbourne; his father Frank, a doctor, died when Jim was twelve, leaving him to be raised by his mother Joan. He was educated at Scotch College and later at Monash University, but he did not graduate....

 announced the appointment of Butler as Governor of Tasmania. He was sworn in on 3 October. Although the office is largely ceremonial, Butler was paid an annual salary of A$370,000, higher than that for any other Australian state Governor, and higher even than the Governor-General
A Governor-General, is a vice-regal person of a monarch in an independent realm or a major colonial circonscription. Depending on the political arrangement of the territory, a Governor General can be a governor of high rank, or a principal governor ranking above "ordinary" governors.- Current uses...

's salary. His appointment was criticised on the grounds that he was not Tasmanian by either birth or association, that he was too closely identified with the Labor Party, and that he was a republican
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

, and thus not a suitable person to represent the Queen of Australia, Elizabeth II, in Tasmania.

The Melbourne
Melbourne is the capital and most populous city in the state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia. The Melbourne City Centre is the hub of the greater metropolitan area and the Census statistical division—of which "Melbourne" is the common name. As of June 2009, the greater...

 daily The Age
The Age
The Age is a daily broadsheet newspaper, which has been published in Melbourne, Australia since 1854. Owned and published by Fairfax Media, The Age primarily serves Victoria, but is also available for purchase in Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and border regions of South Australia and...

"The Sydney-born Mr Butler - who has visited 90 countries and lived in 20 - has hardly spent any time in Tasmania at all. Tenuous though his links to the state may be, it is not his "outsider" status that is at issue. More to the point is that Mr Butler is an avowed, indeed, a vociferous republican. In a state where the role of Queen's representative is taken seriously, that may lead to a degree of suspicion among Her Majesty's more loyal subjects."

Butler sought to ease such fears by saying: "I will give no gratuitous offence to any monarchist. It would be pointless and offensive to do so. The day will come when the next part of the Australian story will be told, but in the meantime we get on with our story today and the process of building and making Tasmania grow."

He added: "I hope my international knowledge, my contacts, my experience in the global environment will enable me to make a contribution to the growing international awareness of Tasmania."

He married Jennifer Grey, his third wife, the day after he was sworn in as Governor and commenced his term by leaving for a three-week overseas honeymoon.


Criticisms of various kinds continued thereafter. When Butler broke with established vice-regal convention against public comment on domestic and international affairs, the Premier (Paul Lennon
Paul Lennon
Paul Anthony Lennon is an Australian Labor Party politician. He was Premier of Tasmania from 21 March 2004 until his resignation on 26 May 2008. He was member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly for the seat of Franklin from 1990 until officially resigning on 27 May 2008...

, who had replaced Jim Bacon in February 2004), specifically requested him to refrain from doing so.

In early August 2004, the Tasmanian Liberal
Liberal Party of Australia
The Liberal Party of Australia is an Australian political party.Founded a year after the 1943 federal election to replace the United Australia Party, the centre-right Liberal Party typically competes with the centre-left Australian Labor Party for political office...

 Opposition Leader, Rene Hidding
Rene Hidding
Marinus Theodoor "Rene" Hidding is an Australian politician. He is currently a Liberal Party member for the Division of Lyons in the Tasmanian House of Assembly...

, withdrew his support for Butler, and a federal Labor Member of Parliament, Harry Quick
Harry Quick
Harry Vernon Quick , is an Australian politician. He was a member of the Australian House of Representatives from 1993 until 2007, representing the electorate of Franklin. He sat as an Australian Labor Party representative from 1993 to 2007, when he was expelled from the party for failing to pay...

, also criticised him. In the same week, three long-serving staff members at Government House resigned amid claims of difficulties in working with Butler and his wife.

These departures occurred while Butler was once again on leave, this time for two weeks, during which time he made three public appearances in performances of Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later in his career a conductor of his own and other American music. He was instrumental in forging a distinctly American style of composition, and is often referred to as "the Dean of American Composers"...

's Lincoln Portrait
Lincoln Portrait
Lincoln Portrait is a classical orchestral work written by the American composer Aaron Copland. The work involves a full orchestra, with particular emphasis on the brass section at climactic moments. The work is narrated with the reading of excerpts of Abraham Lincoln's great documents, including...

(a work for speaker and orchestra) with the Sydney Symphony. Reporters tried to speak to Butler while on his way to rehearsals of this work, but were told to leave him and his wife alone as they were "on holiday". He was nevertheless billed for the performance as "The Hon Richard Butler, Governor of Tasmania".

When asked for his view of the growing public controversy about Butler's performance and behaviour as Governor, the Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Australia
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia is the highest minister of the Crown, leader of the Cabinet and Head of Her Majesty's Australian Government, holding office on commission from the Governor-General of Australia. The office of Prime Minister is, in practice, the most powerful...

 John Howard
John Howard
John Winston Howard AC, SSI, was the 25th Prime Minister of Australia, from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007. He was the second-longest serving Australian Prime Minister after Sir Robert Menzies....

 said he would not comment on a matter reserved for state authorities, but he nevertheless made the point, repeatedly, that "this was not my appointment". (However, a few days later he expressed the view that the appointment had always been "inappropriate" given Mr Butler's anti-monarchist stance.)


On 9 August 2004, after a three-hour meeting with Lennon, Butler announced his resignation, citing a desire to end a "malicious campaign" against him and his wife. Lennon said Butler had dealt with the situation "with honour" and that the decision to resign was "courageous and statesman-like".

Butler's supporters held he had been hounded from office by monarchists and the Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch
Keith Rupert Murdoch, AC, KSG is an Australian-American business magnate. He is the founder and Chairman and CEO of , the world's second-largest media conglomerate....

 press; the Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch
Keith Rupert Murdoch, AC, KSG is an Australian-American business magnate. He is the founder and Chairman and CEO of , the world's second-largest media conglomerate....

-owned Hobart newspaper The Mercury
The Mercury (Hobart)
The Mercury is a daily newspaper, published in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, by Davies Brothers Pty Ltd, part of News Limited and News Corporation...

having run a series of articles critical of Butler's performance in the lead-up to his resignation. These aired such matters as his lengthy honeymoon, his alleged inability to get on with staff, and his allegedly arrogant and patronising manner.

On 5 August The Mercury carried an article reporting the University of Tasmania
University of Tasmania
The University of Tasmania is a medium-sized public Australian university based in Tasmania, Australia. Officially founded on 1 January 1890, it was the fourth university to be established in nineteenth-century Australia...

 political scientist Richard Herr as saying that "recent goings-on at Government House appeared inconsistent with legislation attached to the office of Governor." Some of the matters raised included an alleged breach of protocol with the welcome of the Botswana
Botswana, officially the Republic of Botswana , is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. The citizens are referred to as "Batswana" . Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966...

n High Commissioner
High Commissioner
High Commissioner is the title of various high-ranking, special executive positions held by a commission of appointment.The English term is also used to render various equivalent titles in other languages.-Bilateral diplomacy:...

 and a luncheon given for him, at which Jennifer Butler officiated. The point was made that the wife of a governor has no status in her own right during the governor's absence, and that this function should have been hosted by the Lieutenant-Governor the Hon William (Bill) Cox.

Upon Butler's resignation, the Lieutenant-Governor and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Tasmania
Supreme Court of Tasmania
The Supreme Court of Tasmania is the highest State court in the Australian State of Tasmania. In the Australian court hierarchy, the Supreme Court of Tasmania is in the middle level, and is able to both receive appeals from lower courts, and able to be appealed from.The ordinary sittings of the...

, the Hon William (Bill) Cox, was appointed Acting Governor. He was appointed as the Governor of Tasmania later that year.

The day after Butler's resignation, the Premier Paul Lennon said that he had offered Butler an ex gratia
Ex gratia
Ex gratia is Latin for "by favour", and is most often used in a legal context. When something has been done ex gratia, it has been done voluntarily, out of kindness or grace...

payment of A$650,000 in compensation for the loss of four years' expected income from the remainder of his five-year term. This payment, which was not constitutionally required, was widely criticised in the press and by the Tasmanian Opposition. Both the Prime Minister, John Howard
John Howard
John Winston Howard AC, SSI, was the 25th Prime Minister of Australia, from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007. He was the second-longest serving Australian Prime Minister after Sir Robert Menzies....

 and the federal Opposition Leader, Mark Latham
Mark Latham
Mark William Latham , an author and former Australian politician, was leader of the Federal Parliamentary Australian Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition from December 2003 to January 2005....

, were critical of the payment, which Latham described as "sickening."

External links