Howard Says He Has No Regrets About Hollingworth

Prime Minister John Howard says he has no regrets about appointing Governor-General Peter Hollingworth.

Howard commented on the Governor-General during a doorstop interview at Sydney Airport, prior to his departure for the United States.

Transcript of Prime Minister John Howard’s Sydney Airport doorstop.

PRIME MINISTER: Well ladies and gentlemen as you know I’ll be going shortly to the United States where I’ll see President Bush and I’ll have the opportunity of spending some time with him and Mrs Bush at the Bush family ranch in Texas. We’ll talk about the bilateral relationship, reconstruction, the challenge ahead in Iraq, the possible progress on a free trade agreement between Australia and the United States, circumstances in our own region and most particularly North Korea and it will be an opportunity of course with the fairly extensive amount of time for bilateral discussions to cover each of these issues in some detail. I’ll then go on to Britain to see the British Prime Minister, Mr Blair, and other ministers in his government having first passed through New York where I hope to see the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and I’m sure we’ll have the opportunity of talking about United Nations inter-relationships with the post-war reconstruction phase in Iraq. We see a role for the United Nations. We had our differences, and we don’t apologise for them, with the Security Council but we certainly regard the United Nations as a very important contributor to world stability and world cooperation and Australia will continue to play her part as a very active member of the United Nations.

JOURNALIST: Mr Howard, will you be asking Mr Bush about the release or at the very least a trial…Guantanamo Bay?

PRIME MINISTER: I imagine that general issue will come up.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, why [inaudible] peacekeepers into Iraq, isn’t the responsibility of those nations that went to war in Iraq now to keep the peace there?

PRIME MINISTER: Not automatically. There was quite a difference between the combat forces in Afghanistan and the stabilisation forces in Afghanistan. We indicated before the war started that because of other pressures, including East Timor, we didn’t see it as something that we could do to provide a large peacekeeping force. We are leaving in Iraq some hundreds of Australian defence personnel for a transitional period, exactly how long we haven’t decided, and the duration of their stay will be assessed from time to time. But there’s no automatic obligation and it was never seen in that light by the United States and it’s not seen in that light by Australia.

JOURNALIST: If Mr Bush is to ask for peacekeepers from Australia what will you tell him?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don’t know what Mr Bush is going to raise but I think he’s very well aware of our position.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you believe that consumers who are now returning Pan products should get refunds for them?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the consumers should get what they’re entitled to under the law and the question of whether they’re entitled to it under the law is a matter, I suppose, for their lawyers. Look, I’m not going to give running kerbside legal advice. The important thing in relation to Pan is that public health interests were protected and they were protected very speedily, very speedily indeed by the action taken by the TGA and by the Government. It’s a very regrettable issue, but whenever something like this arises the first obligation of the Government is to do everything it can to protect public health and that’s what the Government has done. Could I just have two more questions, I’m running a few minutes late.

JOURNALIST: Are you going to sack the Governor General?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I’m not going to sack the Governor General. This issue came up last year and I laid down the principles that I would bring to bear on whether or not I would ever advise Her Majesty to terminate the commission of the Governor General. And I think if you go back to what I said last year, you can rest assured that what I said last year will apply in relation to any other considerations that I bring to bear on his position. If you’re talking about the report that was tabled in the Queensland Parliament, I haven’t had the opportunity of reading that report. I have been given a briefing on some of its contents. I understand the issue that has naturally attracted interest concerns the Elliot case, that matter was addressed last year by Dr Hollingworth, he’s already acknowledged that he made a very major and serious mistake, an error of judgement. I’m told, although I haven’t independently confirmed this from all of my own reading, I’m told that there’s no finding in the report of any deliberate misconduct by the Governor General in his then office as Archbishop of Brisbane. But he will be making a statement and until that statement is made, I suggest people don’t rush to judgement but if people want to be informed as to my… the way I will approach this matter, they should refer back to the statement I made on this issue last year.

JOURNALIST: It makes a very… the report, as you know, even in [inaudible] is a very clearly negative document for a man who’s Governor General of this country. Do you think that now knowing the man that he was… that you put in that job that he was the appropriate man?

PRIME MINISTER: I don’t regret the appointment. Thank you.

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