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Last Updated: Monday, 26 May, 2003, 06:32 GMT 07:32 UK
Howard backs Hollingworth's resignation
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said that Governor-General Peter Hollingworth made the right decision, when he stepped down.

Mr Howard was making his first public comments since Mr Hollingworth quit as the Queen's constitutional representative in Australia.

The prime minister formally received Mr Hollingworth's resignation during an hour-long meeting in the Australian capital, Canberra.

Former Australian Governor-General Peter Hollingworth

Mr Hollingworth had been under intense pressure over recent weeks following allegations he raped a woman 40 years ago, a claim dismissed last week by a court.

Mr Howard told parliament that Peter Hollingworth had dedicated his life to the service of the less fortunate and under-privileged.

But, he said, Mr Hollingworth had committed "a grave error of judgement" in failing to dismiss a paedophile priest while he was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane.

"He has paid an extremely high price for that," said Mr Howard.

His decision to resign was correct, said Mr Howard, and one that put the dignity and strength of the office of governor-general above his own needs.

Opposition Labor leader Simon Crean condemned the prime minister for the delay in dealing with the issue.

"This was a person in authority... and he failed to act. He was guilty of moral turpitude," Mr Crean told parliament.

Republican cause

The affair has led to calls for reform of the way the governor-general is selected and held accountable once in office.

It is the biggest scandal in the 102-year-old office of governor-general since 1975, when incumbent Sir John Kerr dismissed a Labor government that had failed to win parliamentary approval for public spending.

The dismissal of a government by any future governor-general is thought highly unlikely, with the position now seen as largely ceremonial.

The controversy has reinvigorated republicans who want to replace the Queen with an Australian president, but their cause is seen as having little chance of success under Mr Howard, a staunch monarchist.

The BBC's Michael Peschardt reports from Sydney
"Many are intensely angry that the Governor-General held on as long as he did"

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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