12.30pm AEST – In scenes reminiscent of the Whitlam years, the Federal Government is in damage control mode today, facing a constitutional crisis over the future of the Governor-General, and its honesty under attack in the children overboard affair.
In a series of developments this morning, the Prime Minister, John Howard, drove to Yarralumla at 9.00am for a meeting with the Governor-General, Dr. Peter Hollingworth.
At 10.00am, Hollingworth became the first Governor-General to give a doorstop interview at the gates of Government House. In a statement lasting 82 seconds, after which he refused to take reporters’ questions, Hollingworth claimed he had misheard a question he was asked on the ABC program Australian Story last Monday, causing him to give a response which suggested he condoned child abuse.
He apologised to the woman he implied had been a willing participant in a sexual relationship with an Anglican priest. Hollingworth also apologised to the Australian people and then left on an official visit to New Zealand for the next three days.
At 11.30am, the Federal Opposition Leader, Simon Crean, held a press conference to announce that he had spoken with the Governor-General and met with the Prime Minister this morning. He said he called on Howard to ask the Queen to dismiss the Governor-General.
A statement from John Howard is expected soon, ahead of what will be a fascinating Question Time in the House of Representatives at 2.00pm today.
The government continues to face problems with the children overboard allegations, but this is being overshadowed for the time being by the drama surrounding the Governor-General.