and until 9 August 2004
, the Governor
of the island state of Tasmania
Richard is blessed with abundant self-esteem. As a junior public servant he plastered the walls of his office with photographs of himself. After climbing up the rungs at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Richard became Australia's Ambassador to the United Nations in 1992. In 1997 he was designated director of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), with the purpose of supervising the disarming of Iraq. His brash, unaccomodating style did not endear him to Saddam Hussein, whose threats to end cooperation with UNSCOM if Richard was not removed led to American and British military strikes against Iraq in 1998 (Operation Desert Fox).
He resigned his post the following year, and took up a position of Diplomat-in-residence at the Council of Foreign Relations. He also wrote a book about arms control issues : Fatal Choice: Nuclear Weapons and the Illusion of Missile Defence, explaining his strong views about weapon proliferation, the need for verification and how anti-missile 'Star Wars' defence systems would be strategically if not technically useless.
Ironically, he is a republican who took on a vice-regal role in the Australian island state of Tasmania that had the strongest support for keeping the British monarchy in the 1999 referendum. Premier Jim Bacon chose him for a five year term to put Tasmania on the map, hoping to share in Butler's global fame. Butler dropped useage of the honorific 'your excellency' amongst his staff, but his AUD$370,368 a year salary , more than the Governor-General or Prime Minister, rose eyebrows in the conservative state (the smallest and poorest in Australia).
However it is his personality, described as incredibly egocentric, and strong views that were less forgivable. Butler spoke out against the war in Iraq in 2004, despite convincingly endorsing the belief before the war that Saddam had retained WMD. In Australia and other Commonwealth countries with the British Queen as the head of state, it is highly inappropriate for state governors to comment on political matters.
After assuming office he left on a honeymoon to Vietnam. He bought a cheap economy class ticket on the assumption he would be upgraded to business class by virtue of being a viceroy. Singapore Airlines thought otherwise, leading to the Governor engaging in a tantrum at Sydney airport. Other slights included failing to wear a poppy at a memorial service on Remembrance Day, tucking into the banquet before the arrival of the Danish Royal family at the wedding between Tasmania's Mary Donaldson and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, and when presenting awards at a ceremony he skirted over the achievements of a schoolgirl, muttering et cetera et cetera as he skimmed over his notes. Many Taswegians considered his behaviour as condecending, elitist and arrogant (as they think the same about many mainlanders anyway)
Three senior long-serving staff members attached to the vice-regal office resigned in short succession in August 2004. After a discussion with the Tasmanian Premier, Richard Butler declared his resignation, around 11pm on 9 August 2004.