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.
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.
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.
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.