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Minister praises Governor-General for putting interests of office ahead of himself.

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Monday 26 May 2003

Minister praises Governor-General for putting interests of office ahead of himself


MARK COLVIN: One of the Governor-General's most steadfast supporters within the Government has been Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Abbott. 


A few minutes ago he spoke to Alexandra Kirk. 


TONY ABBOTT: He's put the office ahead of himself. I think that his life has been marked by high ideals of duty and service and I think his action is in keeping with those high ideals. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: If it was okay for him to resign now, why wasn't it okay for him to resign 15 months ago, when the allegations were first raised? 


TONY ABBOTT: Because a lot's happened since then, most notably the Anglican Church report.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But when you say you supported the Governor-General and that he shouldn't resign, you knew about the Anglican Church report. 


TONY ABBOTT: Well yes I… I did know about the report. And I commented… 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: So what's changed your mind? 


TONY ABBOTT: … And I commented that the report said that he had acted in good faith, he'd made an error of judgment. But he's obviously reflected on this and he's come to the conclusion that in all the circumstances, it's appropriate that he resign. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: And have you reflected on it too? 


TONY ABBOTT: Well, my position always was that he'd done nothing as Governor-General to deserve dismissal, and under those circumstances the continuation of someone in this kind of an office is entirely up to that person. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: So you still maintain that he needn't have resigned? 


TONY ABBOTT: Well, that's really a bit irrelevant because he has resigned. He's reflected on all the circumstances and he's come to the conclusion that it would be in the best interest of the Office for him to resign. And all honour to him. All honour to him for putting the Office ahead of himself. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Do you think, in hindsight it was a mistake for the Prime Minister to have appointed a man of the Church as the Governor-General? 


TONY ABBOTT: No. At the time I thought he was a perfectly appropriate appointment, and there has been a former Archbishop as Governor-General of New Zealand, and there have been three clergymen as State Governors. So that was a perfectly appropriate appointment at the time. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But even the Catholic Archbishop George Pell says that Dr Hollingworth replacement should not be another religious person. 


TONY ABBOTT: Well, well I'm confident that it won't be if only because we went for almost a hundred years at the Federal level without an Archbishop being appointed, and I daresay the way things evolve, it will probably be another hundred years before anyone wants to appoint an Archbishop… just in the way things. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: So it's a good idea not to do it? 


TONY ABBOTT: Well, we never… we never found it necessary in the past to have Governors-General drawn from the ranks of the church. It was a perfectly appropriate appointment at the time but I imagine that just in the way of things, we'll probably go back to retired politicians, retired judges, retired generals. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mr Howard says that he consulted four senior ministers about Dr Hollingworth's appointment, were you one of them? 


TONY ABBOTT: Well, look, I, I'm not going to comment on, on who might have been consulted. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Is that a yes? 


TONY ABBOTT: I'm just not going to comment on who might have been consulted. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Well, if it wasn't you, why not say it wasn't you? 


TONY ABBOTT: Well, because what constitutes consultation, what constitutes information I just don't want to go into that business.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: So next time round, should the Prime Minister consult anyone about the next appointment, or should he rely on his judgment? 


TONY ABBOTT: I think that the Prime Minister should do what's always been done in the past. He should canvass names in his own way and he should come to his own conclusion and make the usual sort of recommendation. 


MARK COLVIN: Tony Abbott speaking to Alexandra Kirk.