Tasmania gives Butler £250,000 'golden gag'

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The Independent Online

After a disastrous 10 months in office, Richard Butler, the former diplomat who resigned as governor of Tasmania on Monday, is to receive a "golden gag" pay-off of £253,000.

After a disastrous 10 months in office, Richard Butler, the former diplomat who resigned as governor of Tasmania on Monday, is to receive a "golden gag" pay-off of £253,000.

The announcement provoked outrage in the island state, where Mr Butler rode roughshod over local sensibilities during his brief tenure as the Queen's representative.

The state government, which appointed him for a five-year term, was not obliged to compensate him for loss of income for his premature exit. But Paul Lennon, the premier, said yesterday that Mr Butler was entitled to the payment as a matter of natural justice.

A former chief UN weapons inspector, Mr Butler was forced to step down after controversies that threatened to bring the vice-regal office into disrepute. He failed to connect with ordinary Tasmanians, and displayed a contempt for protocol while appearing to revel in the trappings of office.

While most people were relieved to see him go, a few portrayed him as victim of a hostile media and establishment. Duncan Kerry, a Tasmanian federal MP, said that Mr Butler had been cast adrift when Jim Bacon, the former premier who appointed him, died of lung cancer this year.

Mr Lennon refused to say what Mr Butler had done that necessitated his departure. "We had to act to protect the good name of Tasmania," he said.

Rene Hidding, the state opposition leader, condemned the severance payment as a "golden gag" - a bribe for Mr Butler to go quietly.

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