The two are very different, but then Australia’s population is diverse. Ms Bryce was the first woman to hold the job, and that was certainly overdue. She promoted human rights at the time when human rights needed a champion.
It is true that a good number of military men have held the position in the past, but General Cosgrove is cut from a different set of cloth than his uniformed predecessors.
For a start he has put himself about since retiring from the army in 2005. His best-known work in this period was to head the recovery taskforce after the devastation caused by Cyclone Larry in North Queensland in 2006, but he also accepted the position of Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University and has served on a number of boards, including that of Qantas.
He has said that as Governor-General he wants to do a great deal of travelling, not just to the State capitals and regional centres but deep into rural and remote Australia and to play a role in closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.
He also has the common touch – and now I have to get to the real reason for writing this blog: my personal recollections of the man.
During his time as Chief of the Defence Force, I was a senior journalist on the Canberra Times. The newspaper was going through a painful transition under its new owner, Rural Press, and I found myself dabbling in a number of roles, including writing stories on defence and the military generally in the vacuum caused by the retirement of the long-serving Defence and Aviation Correspondent, the late Frank Cranston.
This brought me into contact with General Cosgrove at a couple of ceremonial events and for one interview, all successful enough, but then he always knew how to handle the media and I can hardly say we were great chums.
A few weeks later an overseas company was trying to sell helicopters to the ADF and had arranged a public presentation at Old Parliament House in Canberra. I was Business Correspondent by now, but having recently been involved in defence matters was thought to be the best person to send along to get the story.
My deadline was pressing but I was very politely told by the company’s officials to shove off and wait until they had made their pitch. I noticed General Cosgrove surrounded by the company’s senior marketers as you would expect, so decided to hang around on the fringe of the group in a desperate attempt to pick up some information at second hand.
To my astonishment, Cosgrove, on noticing me said: “Hello Graham, glad you are here” and shook my hand my hand, before resuming his conversation. Within one minute I had been taken aside by a couple of the company’s leading executives and given all the information I needed (and a bit more) for my story.
Was it coincidence? Did the General just want to greet the journalist he had spent a bit of time with in the past? Or was he genuinely helping out someone who he guessed was in difficulties?
I don’t suppose I’ll ever know. What I do know is that I am not going to quibble about another former military man taking up residence at Yarralumla.