The Leader of the Federal Opposition, Simon Crean, has renewed his call for the Governor-General, Peter Hollingworth, to resign, following the release of The Report of the Board of Inquiry into Past Handling of Complains of Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church Diocese of Brisbane.
Crean said it was important “that our society must lift the veil of secrecy that has hung over allegations of child sexual abuse for too long”.
Text of media release by Simon Crean, Leader of the Opposition.
Office of the Governor-General
The tabling in the Queensland Parliament today by Premier Peter Beattie of The Report of the Board of Inquiry into Past Handling of Complaints of Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church Diocese of Brisbane is an important reminder that our society must lift the veil of secrecy that has hung over allegations of child sexual abuse for too long.
The Report confirms my firm belief, first stated on 21 February last year, that the Prime Minister should advise the Queen to terminate Dr Hollingworth’s appointment as Governor-General of Australia.
The Board’s Report makes important findings into 9 complaints.
In relation to seven of the complaints, the Board made either no criticism of Dr Hollingworth’s conduct or found that his actions were “… in all the circumstances fair, reasonable and appropriate.”
However, the Board found in relation to Complaint No. 3 that:
“… the stated inability of Dr Hollingworth to apologise on behalf of other dioceses … should not have precluded him from conveying to the Complainant that he utterly disapproved of the Respondent’s conduct and that she was entitled to an apology from the latter.” (para.13.12); and
“… there must have been a way in which Dr Hollingworth could have provided some compassionate recognition of the wrong that the Complainant had suffered. It seems incongruous on the one hand that Dr Hollingworth pointed to the contrition of the Respondent and a penitent heart, which constitutes the recognition that these were true, yet whilst he was Archbishop made to the Complainant no statements of disapproval of the Respondent’s conduct.” (para.13.15)
The Board was also divided over whether Dr Hollingworth acted reasonably in not withdrawing the permission of the Respondent to officiate (para.13.10).
Dr Hollingworth has since apologised to the Complainant. However, this only occurred following further remarks made by Dr Hollingworth on the ABC’s television program Australian Story last year (para.13.16).
The Board also found in relation to Complaint No. 5 that:
“… no Bishop acting reasonably could have reached the decision to continue a known paedophile in the ministry. There were no extenuating circumstances nor can the Board imagine that any could have justified his continuance.” (para.15.8)
“Dr Hollingworth’s decision, whilst made in good faith, and in consultation, and without demur of the bishops whom he consulted, and in the belief that precautionary conditions imposed minimised the risk of recurrence, was untenable. Thus the Board finds that this complaint was not handled fairly, reasonably and appropriately.” (para.15.9)
Child sexual abuse is a blight on our community and we must work together as a community to eradicate it.
We need positive proposals to help protect our children and to ensure all complaints are dealt with appropriately in future. I have proposed measures such as the National Commissioner for Children and the adoption of a check on all people working with our children (‘Child Tick’) to help ensure this occurs.
It is a tragedy that a failure to deal appropriately with the issue of child sexual abuse stretching back decades has caused this deeply distressing outcome for the victims, the nation, and Dr Hollingworth and his family.
It is essential that all children – in fact anyone who is abused – knows they can turn to those in authority and be believed and cared for.
As I stated in February last year, a Governor-General must be a symbol of unity and our nation’s values and must have the confidence of the nation.
This continuing controversy is a serious matter in the life of the nation and the consequences are beyond politics.
I stated my view last February that the Office of the Governor-General would continue to be caught up in ongoing controversy and that Dr Hollingworth would be caught up in further inquiries leaving the controversy unresolved.
I regret that has occurred.
It continues to be in the best interests of the Office of the Governor-General and Dr Hollingworth personally, that this matter be resolved without delay.
If the Governor-General will not resign then the Prime Minister must terminate his appointment.
Text of media release by Anthony Albanese, Shadow Minister for Employment Services and Training.
Time for Hollingworth to go
In light of the report into the Anglican Church’s handling of child sex abuse complaints tabled today in the Queensland Parliament, Dr Hollingworth should take the dignified course of action and resign as Governor General of Australia.
If Dr Hollingworth won’t go voluntarily, then the Prime Minister should ask the Queen to immediately dismiss him. As it was the Prime Minister alone that made this appointment, he has a responsibility to act.
Only such action will ensure public confidence in the Office of the Governor General is not further eroded by the actions of the scandal prone Dr Hollingworth.
Dr Hollingworth can no longer fulfil the central responsibility of his Office and that is to be a unifying figure for our nation. The insensitivity displayed by Dr Hollingworth towards the victims of child sex abuse has outraged many Australians.
The report found that Dr Peter Hollingworth had acted unfairly, inappropriately and without compassion in his dealings with some child sex abuse complaints when Archbishop of Brisbane.
I acknowledge Premier Beattie’s courage and leadership in tabling the report in the Queensland Parliament thereby ensuring that the issue of child sex abuse within the church is not again covered up.
The Prime Minister should show equal courage and leadership and request Dr Hollingworth’s resignation.
I also renew my call for the Government to allow Parliamentary time for debate on my Private Members’ Bill, the Governor General Amendment Bill 2002.
This Bill seeks to amend the Governor General Act 1974 to allow members of the Federal Parliament to scrutinise the performance of whoever holds the Office of Governor General.
Across the community, in the media and around the kitchen table, Australians are discussing the performance of our current Governor-General, Dr Peter Hollingworth. But under the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives no such discussion is permitted in the Federal Parliament amongst our democratically elected representatives.
The Australian people currently do not have the right to choose their Head of State. At the very least their democratically elected representatives should be able to comment on the vice-regal’s performance.