Governor-general in handshake gaffe

Was it a right royal snub or just a case of Governor-General Peter Cosgrove sticking to the rules?

Sir Peter found himself embroiled in a mini-controversy over a missed handshake when he made a rare visit to the Senate on Monday for the reopening of parliament.


The governor-general appeared to snub deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek as she extended her right hand to Sir Peter just moments after he shook hands with five of parliament’s most senior men.

The Queen’s representative was in the Senate to deliver a speech to a joint sitting of parliamentarians explaining why they were being recalled to consider government bills restoring the building industry watchdog and imposing tougher governance rules on trade unions.

Once he finished speaking, Sir Peter shook hands with Senate President Stephen Parry, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, House of Representatives Speaker Tony Smith and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Ms Plibersek, standing right next to Mr Shorten, extended her hand too but Sir Peter appeared to blank her, leaving her to shrug her shoulders in bemusement.

Parliamentarians and those watching from the public gallery were left wondering if the GG had deliberately snubbed Ms Plibersek or simply didn’t see her.

While his office isn’t commenting, parliamentary protocol states that the governor-general is only required to shake hands with the senate president, prime minister, speaker and leader of the opposition in such situations.

A handshake from Sir Peter wasn’t even meant to be on the cards for Barnaby Joyce, let alone Ms Plibersek.

Nevertheless, the GG later telephoned Ms Plibersek to explain himself.

“Ms Plibersek’s position is that no apology is necessary, and that the whole thing’s a storm in a teacup,” her spokesman said.

However, not everyone agrees.

“Not protocol at all. GG sent terrible message for Aust women,” opposition spokeswoman on aged care, Senator Helen Polley tweeted.

Bridget Bosen wondered if Sir Peter was a “scaredy cat about girls (sic) germs”, while TS tweeted that the apparent snub was “not a good look GG”.

“Oh dear, the GG has just reached back into the era of dinosaurs,” Rob Harris tweeted.