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Last Updated: Monday, 25 February, 2002, 14:50 GMT
Profile: Peter Hollingworth
Peter Hollingworth
Peter Hollingworth spent many years working to combat poverty

Australian Governor-General Peter Hollingworth is the representative in the country of Queen Elizabeth II, the Australian head of state.

The role carries sweeping constitutional powers, including the ability to dismiss parliament and call fresh elections.

But in practice the governor-general acts only on the advice of elected ministers, traditionally playing a ceremonial, non-partisan role symbolising the unity of the nation.

Mr Hollingworth was appointed by the Queen on the advice of Australian Prime Minister John Howard in June 2001.

Since then, however, his appointment has been dogged by allegations that he failed to act appropriately over a series of sex abuse claims during the time he was working as the Archbishop of Brisbane in the 1990s.

An Anglican church report in May 2003 concluded that he had made a "grave error of judgment" by allowing a known paedophile to continue working as a priest.

He has also been forced to defend himself against claims of an alleged rape dating back to the 1960s.

Poverty campaigner

Mr Hollingworth's previous career was a crusade against poverty - which spanned decades, stretching from beginnings as a young, inner-city minister in northern Melbourne to executive director of the anti-poverty Brotherhood of St Laurence and then Archbishop of Brisbane.

Born in Adelaide in 1935, he was educated in state schools in Victoria and the independent Scotch College before doing national service in 1953.

He was drawn to Christian ministry whilst working alongside an armed forces chaplain, returned to education and was ordained at the age of 25.

Four years later he began his 25-year-long relationship with the Brotherhood of St Laurence, a national organisation working for employment, housing and welfare for the disadvantaged.

During this period he added a masters degree in social work to his University of Melbourne theology degree, wrote several books based on his experiences of working with the country's poor and socially excluded, and was awarded an OBE.

Queen Elizabeth II
The governor-general is the Queen's representative

Elected Canon of St Paul's Cathedral from 1980, consecrated Bishop in the Inner City in 1985 and elected Archbishop of Brisbane in 1989, Mr Hollingworth remained an outspoken advocate for Australia's poor and unemployed, and was a frequent critic of government policy.

In May 2001, he received the Lambeth Degree of Doctor of Letters from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, for his work in the area of Christian Social Ethics and Social Welfare.

Symbolic role

The role of governor-general, established in 1901 when the Commonwealth of Australia was formed, combines constitutional, official and ceremonial duties.

The holder of the office commissions the prime minister and authorises legislation once it has been passed by both the Senate and House of Representatives.

The governor-general is also technically the commander-in-chief of the country's armed forces, but again acts only on the advice of elected ministers.

A key element of the role is to "articulate and represent those things that unite Australians as a nation".

This involves receiving foreign heads of state and heads of government, attending and opening conferences and functions, and awarding honours under the Australian honours system.

Although, traditionally, the office is mainly symbolic, one previous governor-general, Sir John Kerr, controversially exercised his power to dismiss the government in 1975.

Terms of office, which come with a tax-free salary and two official residences, usually last five years.

However, the appointment is "at her majesty's pleasure", meaning the Queen can extend or terminate a governor-general's term - and may do so on the advice of the prime minister.

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