Snubbed war widow Kylie Russell could have to wait several days for her written apology from John Howard, after he failed to phone her or send it by express post or courier. (Snub for war widow.)
Mr Howard’s office used a standard stamp on Monday, meaning it could take up to four days to receive her apology.
Mr Howard did not invite the widow of SAS officer Andrew Russell, the only Australian to die in combat in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, to a wreath laying ceremony by President Bush in honour of her husband last Thursday. He also failed to invite her to watch the Bush speech thanking Australia for its sacrifice, or as a guest at his barbecue for President Bush. She learned of the ceremony after it had taken place while doing her shopping in Perth.
Mr Howard’s office said at first that Mr Howard had not known about the wreath laying ceremony for Mr Russell before Mr Bush mentioned it in his speech to Parliament, then claimed that the omission had been “an oversight”. Mrs Russell has been a public advocate for better entitlements for the families of SAS officer killed in training or combat.
Asked how the letter would be delivered, Mr Howard’s most senior spin doctor Mr Tony O’Leary said: “We just put it in the mail.” Asked why the letter had been sent by standard post, Mr Tony O’Leary replied: “What do you suggest?” When I suggested express post, Mr O’Leary replied: “It will be there shortly.”
I opened our conversation by saying I had some questions on the apology to Kylie Russell.” He sent it to Kylie Russell – why don’t you ask her? We’re not answering questions about the letter until she gets it,” Mr O’Leary replied.
I asked whether Mr Howard had explained the oversight in his letter to Mrs Russell. “Wait until she gets the letter then ask her,” he replied.
“How did that oversight occur?”
“I’ll inquire how it occurred,” he replied. On Monday I asked a junior Howard spin doctor, Mr David Luff, for an explanation of how the oversight occurred. He failed to get back to me as promised.
I asked if Mr Howard was conducting a review of procedures to ensure such an oversight would not happen again. “I don’t know,” Mr O’Leary replied.