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Monday, 25 February, 2002, 14:53 GMT
Australian papers turn on Hollingworth
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By Phil Mercer in Brisbane
The controversy surrounding Australia's governor-general is already overshadowing the Queen's tour of the country, which begins on Wednesday in Adelaide.

All the major newspapers detail the apparent crumbling of community support for Dr Peter Hollingworth, who is the Queen's representative in Australia.

Australia's Governor-General Peter Hollingworth
The government is backing Dr Hollingworth
Dr Hollingworth is accused of mishandling allegations of sexual assault in the Anglican Church during his 11 year tenure as the Archbishop of Brisbane.

The governor-general has issued a third statement defending himself, but Brisbane's Courier Mail reports the latest opinion polls show that almost 70% of people want him to resign.

And 49% believe the country's monarchist Prime Minister John Howard should ask the Queen to sack him.

"PM cornered as public dumps G-G" says the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Support for Hollingworth

Officially, the Queen is the only person who can remove the governor-general.

It is the biggest storm to hit the vice-regal office since John Kerr sacked the government of Gough Whitlam in 1975, sparking a major constitutional crisis.

"Besieged Hollingworth digs in," is the front-page headline in The Australian. The newspaper reports at least one minister in the Howard government believes Dr Hollingworth "is poised to resign within days".

There is a growing sense that the Queen's visit will be swamped by further allegations

But the Courier Mail says it is not all one-way traffic against the Queen's man in Australia. It quotes Defence Minister Robert Hill as saying failure to act fully on child-abuse claims was a "very imprecise basis on which to dismiss somebody".

The letters pages reveal some support for Dr Hollingworth.

One correspondent in The Australian says: "He's become the focus of hatred for all those with scores to settle against Christianity and John Howard. This wave of hatred will engulf us all."

Another reader says simply enough is enough and he should go.

"Howard should replace Hollingworth with a new and long-awaited type of governor-general - a woman," the letter says.

The Sydney Morning Herald says Dr Hollingworth has made "an unreserved apology" for his comments made on national television last week which inferred a 14-year-old girl may have instigated a sexual relationship with a priest.

The paper says the governor-general was "profoundly sorry for the hurt and anger the comment has caused".

Dr Hollingworth has just returned from a trip to New Zealand, his first official engagement abroad. The Courier Mail's front page says it was not the "circuit-breaker" his supporters had hoped for.

Instead, the paper reports, the visit across the Tasman carried the crisis on to "an international stage, overshadowing his duties and prompting some boycotts of functions".

There is a growing sense that the Queen's visit will be swamped by further allegations against her constitutional representative here, or simply by more calls for him to quit or resign.

Whatever happens, there is a feeling in the press that the Queen's jubilee tour of Australia will be tarnished, despite a tradition here that royal visitors are not dragged into local politics.

See also:

21 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Howard stands by governor-general
18 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Hollingworth rejects new abuse allegations
02 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Sex scandal threat to Queen's visit
24 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Queen begins NZ duties
23 Feb 02 | South Asia
NZ premier denies royal snub
21 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Queen leaves Jamaica for New Zealand
19 Feb 02 | Americas
Queen speaks to Jamaican Parliament
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