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Peter Hollingworth's response makes him unsuitable for Governor General

By Andrew Bartlett - posted Wednesday, 14 May 2003


There is no question Governor General Peter Hollingworth should resign. If he refuses, as he has so far, Prime Minister John Howard must dismiss him.

The Governor General has clearly lost the support of the Australian public. Australians, largely, are primarily and justifiably aghast at Dr Hollingworth's defence that failing to act appropriately on cases of child sexual abuse reported to him while Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane was just an error of judgement.

Such a defence continues to send the message that child sexual assault is not that important. Victims of sexual assault are effectively being told to "get over it" and get on with their lives.

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The reality is that thousands of survivors of abuse are not able to get on with their lives because the crimes committed against them have never been properly acknowledged or addressed.

There is a need for a strong statement to be sent to all Australians that covering up for the perpetrators of child sexual assault is totally unacceptable, that dismissing the complaints of victims is equally unacceptable. Dr Hollingworth's actions and his response to the Anglican Inquiry sends the opposite message - and that is unacceptable.

The Prime Minister and the Governor General are effectively saying that the Anglican Church Inquiry's findings do not involve matters of sufficient concern to compromise the integrity of the highest office in our land.

I disagree. Child sexual assault is one of the most serious of issues, particularly when the perpetrating and covering-up of such crimes is endemic and institutionalised, as it clearly has been in many cases.

The office of Governor General is one of the most significant in Australia. Dr Hollingworth serves in a position that should be unifying for our nation. It is a position that should portray compassion, empathy and the best of Australian character.

It is a unique and special position, which is why unique requirements attach to it. Losing faith in the office of Governor General is very serious - it can compromise our system of government and diminish us as a nation.

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Dr Hollingworth is the focus of this crisis, but the issue is far larger than the behaviour of one man.

Yet it falls to Dr Hollingworth and Mr Howard - men who have so far failed to adequately take a stand against child sexual abuse - to grab this chance to make significant change and set in concrete the boundaries of appropriate behaviour when it comes to protecting children.

What is required is a clean sweep. Mr Howard must ensure Dr Hollingworth departs as Governor General, and then establish a Judicial Inquiry or Royal Commission into the issue of sexual abuse of children in care.

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The Australian Financial Review on 10 May 2003.



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About the Author

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. He graduated from University of Queensland with a degree in social work and has been involved in a wide range of community organisations and issues, including human rights, housing, immigration, Indigneous affairs, environment, animal rights and multiculturalism. He is a member of National Forum. He blogs at Bartlett's Blog.

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