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Peter Beattie Calls For Governor-General To Stand Aside

The Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie, has called for the Governor-General, Dr. Peter Hollingworth, to stand aside.

In a statement to Parliament, Beattie said:”If the Prime Minister will not move to dismiss the Governor General he should require him to stand aside until there is a full, open inquiry and a determination is made as to whether Dr Hollingworth is fit to continue in the role of Governor General.”

  • Listen to Beattie’s statement (4m)

Text of Ministerial Statement to the Queensland Parliament by Premier Peter Beattie.

BeattieI have read the Governor General’s statement in full.

Australia is currently facing a constitutional crisis involving the Governor General.

The Governor General’s statement in my view raises more questions than it answers.

The issue in relation to the 14 year old girl remains hanging over the Governor General’s head and it is irrelevant whether she was 14 or 15.

I find it impossible to accept that Bishop Shearman was able to continue to hold a practising certificate after confessing his actions which involved carnal knowledge of a minor.

Priests are in a position of trust. They are in a very special position.

They are held, quite rightly, in high esteem.

Wendy McCarthy, who shared a dormitory with the girl abused by Bishop Shearman, told the 7.30 Report last night Bishop Shearman was also in loco parentis with regards to the child and other children at the hostel – in other words in a position of trust.

I therefore do not accept the Governor General’s explanation in relation to this matter.

What is perhaps central and most relevant in my judgement is the fact that when the Governor General was interviewed by Australian Story, he sought to defend a man who had – at the very least – carnal knowledge of a minor.

He sought to impugn the standing of a 14-year-old girl by suggesting that she was predatory. That is my word, not the word of the Governor-General.

That to me is:

  • Damaging to the woman and her attempt to rebuild her life
  • Damaging to the campaign against child sexual abuse and damaging to the office of Governor General. It is not the behaviour Australians expect of this non-political office.

I know the Governor General, Dr Peter Hollingworth. I have met him on many occasions.

I am also a practising Anglican.

It has been very difficult for me to reach this view.

Unlike some who have been pursuing his head for some time, I have not.

I have endeavoured to try to give the Governor General natural justice and I have indeed agonised over my public comments on this matter.

I fact, I remind the Parliament that before the latest allegations I indicated publicly, before Christmas, that the Governor-General should meet with the victims.

I inform the House today that the Governor General, in fact, rang me, agreeing with my view that he should meet with the victims and said that he was thinking along similar lines.

I was pleased that he was seeking to meet the victims and I encouraged him to do so.

I think that was a positive step to take by the Governor General.

I mention this to show that I have endeavoured all along to play a positive and constructive role in trying to resolve this matter and have not been engaged in simply trying to pursue the Governor General.

That is not my interest.

The Office of Governor-General is there to unite Australians, not divide them.

I have taken this strong position because these matters and events happened in Queensland, and it is appropriate that I provide some leadership on these issues.

No individual or personal interests are above the office of the Governor General.

No one is above other Australians.

The problem from this day forth is that if the Governor General remains in office there will be controversy every time he visits a school.

There will be controversy every time he visits a youth establishment.

That is not good for Dr Hollingworth.

It is not good for the office of the Governor General.

And it is not good for Australia’s constitutional democracy.

It is not good enough for the Governor General or the Prime Minister to leave the issue in the hands of an inquiry being run by the Anglican Church in Queensland, important though that inquiry is.

I want to make this very clear distinction. I have liberal views about people’s personal behaviour in relation to other adults.

I am not judgmental about the personal behaviour of adults.

They have to look at themselves in the mirror in the morning, but provided adults are adults – and consenting adults – what they do in private is a matter for them.

I have liberal views and I am not judgmental, but this is about children and this is totally different from the behaviour of consenting adults.

In the end the Governor General has to put the office he holds ahead of his personal interest.

He has to exercise his conscience, and do the right thing by Australia, and by all Australians.

Therefore, my view is now that this is a matter for the Governor General’s conscience. I believe that he has to put the country before his personal interests.

If the Governor General refuses to exercise his conscience on this matter then the Australian people will look to the Prime Minister to resolve it before Her Majesty the Queen arrives in Australia and before CHOGM is held.

It is important that the Queen’s representative in Australia does not embarrass Her Majesty prior to an official visit.

I understand that the Prime Minister has had a meeting with the Governor General at Yarralumla this morning.

I also understand that the Governor-General is leaving for New Zealand.

If the Prime Minister will not move to dismiss the Governor General he should require him to stand aside until there is a full, open inquiry and a determination is made as to whether Dr Hollingworth is fit to continue in the role of Governor General.

I appeal to the Prime Minister to act in the interests of this nation.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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