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Tuesday, 13 May 2003
Page: 13961

Mr CREAN (Leader of the Opposition) (2:02 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister and it refers to a report of the board of inquiry into past handling of complaints of sexual abuse in the Anglican Church diocese of Brisbane. Is it not the case that the Aspinall report finds that Dr Hollingworth's handling of the complaint in respect of a paedophile priest was `not fair, reasonable and appropriate'?

Dr Southcott —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Under standing order 153, questions which are critical of the character or conduct of the Governor-General cannot be asked.

The SPEAKER —I am listening closely to the question being asked by the Leader of the Opposition. He knows the standing orders provide certain restraints. Speaker Snedden has made a comment on this very issue in House of Representatives Practice, which I referred to in preparation for question time. Nothing which is critical of the motives of the Queen or her representative would be contemplated. I am listening closely to the Leader of the Opposition and invite him to continue.

Mr CREAN —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am just referring to the findings of a report which is very important in this nation's dealing with child sexual abuse. I think all members of the House ought to take appropriate note of it.

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will come to his question.

Mr CREAN —It found in relation to Dr Hollingworth's handling of the complaint in respect of a paedophile priest that his action was `not fair, reasonable and appropriate' and, further:

... no Bishop acting reasonably could have continued a known paedophile as parish priest.

Prime Minister, do you believe a person who allowed a known paedophile to continue as a priest is an appropriate person to have been appointed Australia's Governor-General?

Mr Ross Cameron —Mr Speaker, further to the original point of order: questions are allowed to be asked and argument raised in relation to such a matter but only on a substantive motion with notice, which is not present in this case.

The SPEAKER —I am more concerned about the way in which the question seeks an opinion from the Prime Minister than I am about the substance of the question. I invite the Prime Minister to respond to the question, having expressed my concern about the degree to which it seeks an opinion.

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —The Leader of the Opposition asked me a question plainly about the Governor-General. This matter has been very much in the public domain and will continue to be so. My position in relation to the Governor-General has been stated, and I have nothing to add to what I have previously said.