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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 May, 2003, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
Australia governor's resignation welcomed
Peter Hollingworth
The governor-general denied the rape allegation
Opposition political leaders in Australia have welcomed the governor-general's decision to resign from his post as the country's nominal head of state.

Peter Hollingworth, 68, the Queen's representative in the country, has been under intense pressure over recent weeks following allegations he raped a woman 40 years ago, a claim he has always denied.

The case was dismissed on Friday after the family of the woman - who died recently - withdrew their application to take civil action against Mr Hollingworth.

He has also been at the centre of controversy over claims he covered up a paedophile scandal when he was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane.

The opposition Labour leader, Simon Crean, said Mr Hollingworth should have resigned 16 months ago when the claims he mishandled child abuse cases first arose.

He said the Australian Prime Minister John Howard had been responsible for what he called a "constitutional crisis", and said future appointments should be made in consultation with the opposition.

1990-2001 - Archbishop of Brisbane
June 2001 - Appointed Governor-General
December 2001 - Allegations he mishandled sex abuse cases in 1990s
1 May 2003 - Report criticises him for conduct as archbishop
8 May - Rape allegations become public

Bob Brown, the leader of the Australian Green Party, said: "The governor-general has done the right thing for the nation."

The national director of the Australian Republican Movement, Jim Terrie, said Mr Hollingworth's case had highlighted flaws in the system.

He said: "There's no accountability, which is inappropriate for a modern, democratic nation.

"We welcome the resignation. It's past time and I'm glad that it happened."

In his resignation statement to Mr Howard, the governor-general said the allegations against him had been "misplaced and unwarranted".

But he added: "It is clear that continuing public controversy has the potential to undermine and diminish my capacity to uphold the importance, dignity and integrity of this high office that I have been privileged and proud to occupy."

Stepped aside

Although independent for more than a century, Australia has retained the British monarch as its head of state. The Queen is represented by the governor-general.

The holder of the post is officially the commander-in-chief of Australia's armed forces, and is nominally responsible for appointing the country's prime minister and other ministers.

But most of the governor-general's functions are ceremonial.

Mr Hollingworth said he had asked to meet Mr Howard on Monday to discuss transitional arrangements.

He also promised a fuller statement to the Australian public later this week.

Continuing public controversy has the potential to undermine and diminish my capacity to uphold the importance, dignity and integrity of this high office
Peter Hollingworth
Mr Hollingworth temporarily stepped aside earlier this month after news emerged that he had been accused of raping Rosemarie Annie Jarmyn, 57.

She filed the lawsuit earlier this year alleging Mr Hollingworth, as a young Anglican priest, raped her at a church youth camp in the 1960s.

Ms Jarmyn committed suicide in April and BBC correspondent Dominic Hughes said her family were believed to have dropped the case because the strain was proving too great.

He said they could also have been influenced by legal opinion that the case would have been difficult to bring considering the only possible witness was dead.

After the rape case was dropped the governor-general said he would give "proper consideration" to his longer-term future.

But Mr Hollingworth still faced the unrelated allegations of mishandling child sex cases in the 1990s.

The BBC's Michael Peschardt reports from Sydney
"The constitutional monarchy is again under the closest scrutiny"

Australia governor 'to stand down'
11 May 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Hollingworth denies rape claim
08 May 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Australia poll stirs resignation row
06 May 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Australian governor-general sworn in
29 Jun 01  |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Peter Hollingworth
25 Feb 02  |  Asia-Pacific

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