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Tuesday, 5 March, 2002, 09:50 GMT
Should Australia's governor-general resign?
The Queen's representative in Australia, Governor-General Peter Hollingworth, is under increasing pressure to resign amid a row that threatens to overshadow the Queen's visit.
The Anglican church is to carry out an inquiry into allegations that Mr Hollingworth ignored sexual abuse in his church while he was archbishop of Brisbane more than a decade ago.
He has apologised for not doing more to help the victims, but has repeatedly refused to step down.
Prime Minister John Howard is standing by the governor-general, but there are increasing calls for Mr Hollingworth to fall on his sword before the Queen arrives in Australia.
Should the governor-general step down? Or should he hold tight, hoping the row will blow over?
This Talking Point was suggested by Natalie, Australia :
Should Peter Hollingworth (Governor-General of Australia) stand down in light of the investigation into allegations he covered up child abuse claims during his time as Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane?
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This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
For once, the Queen should exercise the authority which she has, and take the matter into her own hands. She should sack this man without further ado. Give him the same short shrift, Your Majesty, that he gave the victims of the alleged sexual abuse which he refused to investigate.
If we (the Australian people) allow Dr Hollingworth to be hounded down until he resigns or is removed, then we are effectively condoning the actions of a lynch-mob. I believe this story will end as so many others of this kind have: the story will lose its savour, the media will move onto newer and dirtier scandals, the majority of the public will forget all about this, and we will never, ever see an apology from the press, the opposition party, or the children's rights groups for all the damage they've sought to do to a good and honourable man.
This man is a disgrace to himself, his country, and most of all, to the victims and their families. He obviously has no sense of moral obligation and instead of seeking justice for those who deserve it, merely seeks to hide himself as much as possible behind the equally inept and morally ignorant John Howard. There is no doubt in my mind that he should be removed from office and held accountable for his actions (or lack of them).
I would like Dr Hollingsworth to explain (in writing) in full how he defines child sexual abuse and responsibility in terms of adult and child relationships.
If the Governor-General is unwilling to resign and John Howard stands by him whatever, then the Queen must personally order his removal. Although she has never exercised her full constitutional powers within Australia, it is now the time for a change!
Unfortunately this matter goes beyond what he may or may not have done while in positions in the Church. His recent statements quite clearly show him to be out of touch with current attitudes towards child sexual abuse cases. How he even entertained the idea that a case involving a 14-year-old was "not sex abuse", let alone going on to imply that the girl led the priest on, shows how far off the mark he can be. Okay, we can see he does not understand how to handle media and is befuddled easily, but again, these are not acceptable traits in a Governor-General, who must be relied upon to have a steady hand in time of crises. The Governor-General must resign for the sake of Australia.
With all the focus on the past inactivity of church leaders to deal with child abuse by clerics, let this controversy over Hollingsworth long continue. Perhaps it may lead to present church leaders rooting out those deviants NOW within their ranks and prevent us facing this dilemma in 20 years time again. But why meeting the Queen should enter in to it I really don't see. Considering that during her reign she has greeted many leaders and celebrities who later it transpired had skeletons in their cupboard, one more isn't going to make any difference!
I have to agree with Chris B. and many others From England and others who say he should go. It is no excuse that you did not understand about child abuse 20-30 yrs ago. Every one understands sexual abuse against children, may it be 20-30 yrs ago. This is a feeble excuse. He should resign.
Tom Elders US. You don't have to be a socialist to be a republican. This system we have in Australia is all wrong. The PM appoints the GG, not on any grounds apart from a "Job for the Boys" There were a lot more people who could have done a better job and be in tune with the people. Its another reason why we need our very own head of state, and I am a Liberal (Conservative) voter and supporter
To all those to say we should forgive, it was a long time ago. The story on the BBC website is not quite correct when it says decades ago, we are talking 5 and 6 years ago. Hollingsworth was the only Church leader not to show up at a Government Summit on child abuse and is well know among Anglicans for his in-action on child sex abuse.
He should not have made to the position to begin with......I suspect his days are numbered.
How can so many people assert so confidently that Dr Hollingworth has committed no crime? Have you never heard of Perversion of Justice? It is an offence in this country, and several others.
Also, to have knowledge of criminal and abusive acts, but not to report them or act upon them, is to condone them. This is a crime in itself. Especially when such perpetrators are then promoted by someone who is aware of the allegations against them, but has not investigated them - how can this not be seen as a message of encouragement?
This is quite a quandary. The Governor General has been accused of having shown a lack of judgement in a number of instances of alleged abuse. He has comprehensively answered some of these allegations; in others, he agrees that the decisions that he made were not the best. None the less, no one is accusing him of condoning child abuse, let alone perpetrating it. Some of the incidents (that a priest approached an adult man for sex, was refused and did not press the matter, for instance) could hardly be called abuse; others were certainly so. The point is not whether or not the Governor General is guilty of anything; it is whether the scandal (built on a mixture of truth, half-truths and, no doubt, lies) has gained enough momentum to have a life of its own. Sadly, it seems that it has. The man may have to go, if only to allow the position to be free from scandal - whatever the truth of the matter. And the position is supposed to be above politics.
Anyone who protects paedophiles has lost their moral authority.
Australian law requires the mandatory reporting of paedophilic activities.
And as for forgiveness, what right has DH to forgive paedophiles in the eyes of the law. Sure he can administer gods forgiveness if they are truly repentant, but that does not abrogate his responsibilities.
Also he has repeatedly been accused of brushing aside the victims of abuse.
Its one thing to ask for mercy for the criminals, but what of the victims?
Hollingworth is guilty by his silence, his lies and his complicity in these crimes.
How can one turn a blind eye to such despicable act! If he feels that what happened was wrong, he should resign to admit his mistake. You are involved in a crime if you try to cover one up, for no matter what reason.
G Watson, Australia
No Peter Hollingworth should not resign. He has not done anything wrong. He has been accused, and judged by a media frenzy which is unaccountable for its actions. An enquiry will sort the mess out, in the meantime, leave the man alone. He is an honourable man, and if anyone out there can claim to be perfect, then stand up now. You will be the only one.
Hollingworth's stubborn refusal to resign reinforces the perception of a man desperate to cling onto an office which continues to afford him the pomp and ceremony he seems to savour. The simple fact is he is effectively a "dead man walking" - he can never enjoy the trust and confidence of the Australian people and his obduracy brings the office into disrepute.
In public life, the office is far more important than the individual - but remember it is an office of a constitutional monarchy. Viva La Republic
The conservatives may say that the Labour Party is driving the current debate about Dr H's vice-regal position. It is driven by a public outraged that our Parliament is being undermined by virtue of a morally spineless leadership in both the Government and Executive. The Prime Minister is adhering to the falsity of the 'children overboard' issue and we have seen that our head of defence, Admiral Barrie has admitted his version of events on that same issue were incorrect. We are witnessing the pathetic side of Australian 'mateship'.
It was incredibly stupid of Dr Hollingworth to say in public anything that could be interpreted as blaming a victim of abuse.
He has, as I understand it, apologised for this comment.
His initial statement may, quite possibly, have been correct, but in the present climate this is irrelevant.
We look to politicians to be as free from corruption and sin as possible. We demand even higher standards from our religious leaders. Even more so when they are paid a very large amount of money to do very very little.
Australia is fond enough of its history to maintain this archaic institution. But they should not have to deal with scandal in it. He should go. Point of Order by the Way the Queen can not 'sack' him . Constitutionally she can only sack him if a recommendation to that effect is made by the Prime Minister.
He must resign. A school principal who had behaved as he did as Archbishop would have been sacked. A teacher who behaved as did his priest friend would have been sacked and placed on a not to be employed list. A school principal who made the remarks made by the GG publicly would have been suspended the following day. An appalling situation. A very bad appointment. The GG must gallop off.
Dr. Peter Hollingsworth should never have been appointed in the first place. PM John Howard knew full well about the convention of the separation of powers, between the church, politics and the judiciary, but chose to ignore it.
He is history and he knows it, just as Peter Hollingsworth is also.
Why? Because Howard has no intention of being a candidate at the next federal election and Hollingsworth knows full well his days as the GG are severely numbered.
Welcome to the whole sordid world of politics and cover-ups by all so-called religious groups.
It is of great concern that Peter Hollingworth appears, in his own TV appearances, to not understand the principles of child protection, the duty of care of church leaders, that in some Australian states mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse IS law and that as an Archbishop he ought to have been aware of his God given role of protecting the sheep from the wolves. Forgiveness follows confession, repentance accompanied by restitution (where possible) and a changed life. The principal of forgiveness does not override the obligation upon clergy to ensure that the church is a safe place.
He should resign before the Queen arrives. As the representative of a non-partisan constitutional monarch he has to be above politics. He isn't so he should go. If Howard doesn't recommend it the Queen should sack him anyway.
Dr H quite possibly is a decent human being despite his poor judgment over the issue of child abuse claims. He has also shown that he has the skills to carry out his duties as GG competently. However, and with disregard to how loud the media or some politicians squawked about his past, the simple fact is that the public, including politicians, do not like what they have learnt and no longer trust his judgment or character. For Mr H to lose this trust is to lose an integral part of carrying out the role of GG. Therefore, Mr H can no longer perform this role effectively and should stand down.
Why can't people like him in his position ever just resign? It always ends up more embarrassing and vulgar in the end!
Chris B, England
The teaching of Jesus Christ is to forgive. It seems that everyone these days has all but forgotten what Christ said. Shame on all of you.
Like anyone in public life, he should resign only if his position becomes untenable. At the moment I think he can do a bit more buck-passing before he reaches such a point.
Stuart Torn, Russia
The real issue behind this is that the Labour party in Australia are furious that they have lost three elections in a row and are lashing around for revenge. Howard appointed Hollingworth and so he is a convenient way to attack Howard. Howard knows this, which is why he is sticking behind Hollingworth.
There is also a large amount of hypocrisy here. In Queensland, two Labour party politicians were jailed for child abuse. In both cases, this was covered up for years by many of the very people who are calling for Hollingworth's resignation. The present Labour premier of Queensland even released one of these people early. This premier is also one of the loudest voices calling for Hollingworth's resignation.
Hollingworth should resign for the part he played in the cover up of child abuse along with the clerics who supported his view. The church has an obligation to look after their charges who have suffered, not the clerics who caused the suffering.
Patrick Franklin, Australia
There must be accountability. If you do something wrong, you take the consequences, be you a leader of a church, a governor-general, or anyone in a community. This man must resign for he believes he is a moral man, and he has damaged our greatest treasure - our children.
Debby O'Brien, Australia
Before he goes, Australia should consider who should replace him. How many people are there with whiter-than-white histories who are in the running ?
Philip Hobday, UK
No decent person can turn a blind eye to abuse - whether it is yesterday or 1990 or earlier. The establishment appears reluctant to backdate judgement on earlier times - this is mainly due to them protecting themselves against us. Will politicians and leaders use the same argument as to why they failed to protect today's victims?
Peter Biggs, Australia
If Howard hasn't got the guts or moral fibre to sack Hollingworth then the Queen should do it for the sake of her church, of which Hollingworth is an archbishop and the Australian people her loyal subjects!
Tom Elder, US (Australian)
Hollingworth should resign. No one questions that he is a decent individual but like so many in his former position as a senior church person, has completely misconceived the revulsion people feel about these issues. It is clear a cover up was intended albeit quite some time ago. It is a pity Hollingworth has now been so publicly humiliated. It is a greater pity such offensive past conduct was not dealt with properly or at all. The sooner the governor-general goes the better.
While I have some sympathy with Hollingworth in that he hasn't committed any crime and at worst has exhibited poor judgement, the simple fact now is that he can no longer function effectively as governor-general. You can't have a situation where community groups no longer accept a governor-general as a patron, rightly or wrongly. Howard is right not to sack him, there is no offence, but unfortunately for the good of the office, Hollingworth should resign.
Neil Travis, Australia
The issue here is this - does he have the public confidence? Quite clearly he does not. In his position as GG he has shown himself to be either insensitive to the issues of sexual abuse of children or incredibly naive. This is now damaging the position of GG and his former actions (or inactions) have also damaged the credibility of church. He has to go - and the PM and his government (who have shown a similar lack of understanding and compassion towards victims) should follow him close behind.
Dr Hollingworth has brought serious damage to the most powerful office in the land and seems to be incriminating himself further with attempts to exonerate and defend himself against allegations of apathetic behaviour involving a most sensitive issue. It's not good enough for the prime minister, himself a man of shallow moral conscience, to state that Dr Hollingworth be judged on his performance as the incumbent of the governor-general ship and his past "errors of judgement" not be taken into account.
Dr Hollingworth as a venerated man in a position of trust and leadership failed to fulfil his prime responsibility of duty of care towards vulnerable children in the care of his institution. He has already lost the support of the opposition Labour party and of all of the State and territory Premiers.
In the interests of the victims, Australia and out of respect for the visiting Queen, he must resign now.
Kate, Australia (now Germany)
If - and I repeat the "if" here as nothing has been proved - he did cover up instances of sexual abuse, and there is evidence to back it, he should not only resign but he should be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.
Simon Rumble, UK (Australian nationality)
He is a sensitive and caring person.
He looks at the aftermath with sympathy; and realises that compassion and understanding far outweigh the ranting witch-hunters.
He does not subscribe to a media beating brought on by a minority of commentators; who are themselves a mentally ill group, not yet pigeon-holed in our current society.
Who benefits from Hollingworth's continued employment? Not the Queen and certainly not Mr Howard, despite his protestations.
This is a trial by media - and it is essentially Australia's business. His decision of 10 years ago may have been a mistake, but we can only suggest that with all the brilliance and wisdom of hindsight. He otherwise seems to be a good man . I see no reason to pillory the guy without clear evidence that he was deliberately and maliciously acting against the public interest. I fear that this is another case of the media trying to bring down anyone who associates him or herself with the establishment. If one is allowed to excel one is allowed to err.
Simon Cameron, UK
21 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Howard stands by governor-general
20 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Calls grow for governor to quit
18 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Hollingworth rejects new abuse allegations
20 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Sex scandal dogs Governor-General
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