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Opposition Leader discusses Governor-General; and ALP leadership.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

TRANSCRIPT 0F INTERVIEW - PAUL MURRAY, 6PR CANBERRA, MONDAY 12 MAY 2003

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Dr Hollingworth’s standing aside; Leadership

MURRAY: Good morning, Simon.

CREAN: Good morning, Paul.

MURRAY: Simon, isn’t it the case that the Prime Minister could really do little more than he’s done given these unsubstantiated rape allegations against the Governor-General?

CREAN: No, because the rape allegations are completely separate from the arguments that warrant the Governor-General resigning and in the absence of that, the Governor-General being dismissed by the Prime Minister. And they go to the findings of an Anglican Church inquiry into victims of child sex abuse by the Anglican Church which found that Dr Hollingworth, in failing to act against a known paedophile, that his actions were untenable. Now, this was an inquiry that found the Governor-General’s actions to be untenable. That’s what makes his position as Governor-General untenable and why he should go. It’s got nothing to do with the rape allegations.

MURRAY: Yes, I noticed the, but the rape allegations surely have muddied the waters here and don’t they have to be taken out of the way until the real game is played?

CREAN: They certainly have to be dealt with and they have to be dealt with separately, Paul. I don’t deny that. And the Governor-General is entitled to the presumption of innocence and I watched his emphatic rebuttal and I obviously had sympathy for the circumstances in which he finds himself in relation to them. But they are separate issues. And Paul, I just say this to you, if the Prime Minister’s judgement is that the Governor-General should stand aside because of the allegations of rape, why didn’t he come to that view last December?

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MURRAY: Yep, I agree with that point. But what, if he sacked him now or if the Governor-General resigned now, surely there would be many who would think that that was because of the rape allegations?

CREAN: Well then, that’s why it’s important to demonstrate the complete separateness of the two issues. One in which the court action has to run its course and the other in which the action is being taken because of completely unrelated matters on the findings of the Anglican Church. I think the Australian public understands that distinction. And to argue that they get blurred and that they would think that that’s an admission of guilt I think is selling them short.

The Australian public knows full well what the two separate issues are in this. It’s been front and centre in our newspapers for weeks. They know the findings of the Anglican Church - an inquiry which the Prime Minister urged upon the church because he wouldn’t conduct one himself.

Now that the findings are out the Prime Minister has to look properly at the detail of those findings - and it’s damning. And what we have is a Governor-General that covered up for a known paedophile.

And, you know, we’re talking about the victims of child sex abuse here, Paul. It’s not just a Governor-General and how fair or unfair it is. Well what about the fairness to the victims of child sex abuse? These are people that have been calling for this action, calling for natural justice, calling for an understanding about their position for years. They’ve been denied it, they know that the Church and the Archbishop covered up for it, now we’ve got findings saying that that was all wrong, don’t you think the Governor-General needs to be held accountable for those actions?

MURRAY: Well I suppose we’ve got to go back to the words of the Prime Minister where he said that it remains his view that the Governor-General has done nothing wrong during the tenure of his office to warrant him recommending that he leave.

CREAN: Well, two issues about that. That didn’t stop him allowing his Party to pursue Mr Justice Kirby about actions that occurred before he was made a High Court Judge. Secondly, where does the stupidity of the logic of that get you? If someone commits a criminal offence that’s not known, say they murder someone, are you saying that shouldn’t be taken into account because it happened before they were Governor-General? It’s a nonsense proposition. And in any event, the Governor-General in his actions since he’s been Governor-General have brought into question serious judgemental errors - particularly when he accused that young woman of submitting herself, not of being raped but of submitting herself - that happened when he was Governor-General, Paul.

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MURRAY: Given the Governor-General’s own statement just yesterday that he’s mindful of maintaining the integrity and dignity of the office, is it now inevitable that he’s going to resign?

CREAN: Well, it certainly is the only thing that can save the office of Governor-General and it’s the right thing. It’s the right thing based on the facts. I’ve noticed a bit of commentary today in the papers suggesting that that will be the eventual result. But if that’s the case is this some secret deal, the Admiralty deal hashed between the Governor-General and the Prime Minister? And if that’s the case, what does that say about the Constitutional relationship between the office of Governor-General and the Government? I think it raises a whole lot of questions and the Prime Minister needs to come clean on that. He’s hasn’t come clean, he hasn’t acted appropriately, he’s missed the point. What he’s done is to essentially get the Governor-General to stand aside for something that’s not proven but he won’t dismiss him for something that has been proven.

MURRAY: I just want to ask you about some of the Constitutional niceties here, and about the position of putting a cleric into the role of Governor-General. Just over a week ago I spoke to the Anglican Primate, Peter Carnley, and I asked him whether if Dr Hollingworth retains holy orders and he does, and I said, `given what had come out in this report, would he automatically be taken back into the Church’ and the Archbishop said, `no, he wouldn’t, his position would have to be reviewed in the light of this.’ It appears that he may not be good enough for the Anglican Church but he still remains as Governor-General.

CREAN: Yes, well it raises very interesting questions doesn’t it? and if the Anglican Church now had a code of conduct - which I understand that they may well have - that says that people who didn’t act in relation to victims of child sex abuse were not appropriate for appointment, it does raise the very interesting question that someone who the Prime Minister is prepared to defend as Governor-General the Church couldn’t reappoint under its own guidelines. It’s a different set of guidelines that the Prime Minister’s got. He will stick to stubbornly defending his so-called judgements and his friends regardless of the national interest.

MURRAY: Yes, you wonder whether this appointment was all about Dr Hollingworth’s support for the Prime Minister’s line at the Republican Convention?

CREAN: Well, who knows? I mean, people can read all sorts of things into that, Paul. But what I do know is the Governor-General did wrong. The Anglican Church found that he did wrong. The Governor-General admits that he did wrong. But it’s a wrong that has hurt so many people. And it’s a wrong that has galvanised the whole community, virtually, against the cover up and calling for the resignation. That’s something that can’t be ignored. A Governor-General has to hold, not just bi-partisan support in this country - he has to command the respect of the nation. He is the head of state, he’s not

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elected. He’s appointed by one man - the Prime Minister. This is not just the Labor Party saying that he should go, there are people within the Liberal Party and the National Party saying that he should go. He’s lost bi-partisanship, he’s lost confidence, he’s demeaned the office. But most importantly, he did wrong. These were circumstances in which what he did was untenable, he’s made his own position today.

MURRAY: Well this now just festers the wounds.

CREAN: Well I think it will. I think the Prime Minister has made the wrong call. He’s missed the point, he’s tried to blur the issues and garner some support for being seen to act decisively in relation to that issue for which the Governor-General has some more sympathy. But the fact is, the Governor-General is still in office. He’s not out of office, he’s not performing official duties but he’s still in the job. The point that people want has got nothing to do with the rape case - they’re prepared to let the court run its course. The most important issue is to say the Governor-General, in acting the way he did, in covering up for the paedophile, acted in an untenable way. That’s why he should go.

MURRAY: Just finally, if I can ask you, one other issue, Labor Caucus meets today, will you confront Kim Beazley this morning?

CREAN: I’ll be confronting the whole of the Caucus today, Paul. We have a real opportunity this week, it’s the Budget week - you wouldn’t know it given the controversy of the Governor-General. But it’s a Budget in which this Government is taxing people the highest it’s ever taxed them and for what? It can’t even afford to maintain Medicare. It’s taxing them more and now it’s going to introduce a scheme that charges them more to go to a doctor and it’s going to introduce a scheme by all sorts of reports that will charge them more to go to university. That’s not an Australia that I want. And that’s what our Caucus has to confront and fight - fight for Australian people, not fight amongst ourselves.

MURRAY: What about the Beazley question though? He’s questioned your authority even just by refusing to return your phone calls?

CREAN: Oh look, we will deal with that in the course of events. But the issue that has to be dealt with firmly and decisively is what we’re going to do and say and campaign for Australian families. I want a better deal for them, they’ve been hurt, they’re struggling and they’re entitled to Medicare, they’ve earned it, it’s theirs. And I am putting as number one priority, saving

Medicare by restoring bulk billing.

MURRAY: Thanks for your time, Simon.

CREAN: My pleasure, Paul.

(ENDS)