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Overview of controversy surrounding Dr Peter Hollingworth.

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Thursday 8 May 2003

Overview of controversy surrounding Dr Peter Hollingworth.


HAMISH ROBERTSON: I'm joined now by our political reporter in Canberra, Matt Brown.  


Matt, it's been a dramatic and remarkable day. Where does this leave the Governor-General now? 


MATT BROWN: Well, it leaves him facing new raft of perceptions, if you like, about at least the use of secrecy. Of course, he has made a very clear and very detailed denial of all of the claims he understood this woman was making against him and all of this is still a matter for the Victorian courts ultimately to decide. 


But let's look what happened today and indeed yesterday, over the last 36 hours. A whole new controversy has been revealed to us, a controversy that was under the seal of a court order. You have just heard Terry O'Gorman defend that sort of secrecy, and from a very different perspective, Professor David Flint put it into context as well. 


So it's difficult to know how that will play out. A lot of people could identify with the notion of pretty serious and inflammatory allegations being made and not being tested, and therefore having their identity suppressed. 


But the Labor Party has gone for the Governor-General on this issue, as we've already heard as well. So a whole new front has opened up, if you like, of discussion and controversy and people wondering about his conduct in office. 


The leader of the Opposition says, getting back to the very basis of the sad facts at the base of this case, that the fact of the case revealed today by the lifting of the suppression order in the Supreme Court in Victoria, it's clear that a profound human tragedy has occurred. 


That's obviously referring to the death of the woman who is at the source of these allegations. And that makes it all the more difficult doesn't it, to deal with and settle the matter, given that she has passed away. Of course, the leader of the Opposition points out that the Governor-General, like anyone, is entitled to the presumption of innocence. 


HAMISH ROBERTSON: But Matt, even before these details emerged this afternoon, how strong was the expectation that Dr Hollingworth would eventually be faced with that agonising decision to stand down? 


MATT BROWN: He's been a very difficult man to predict. A lot of people thought when all of this came up last year, that if they were in his shoes they would stand down.  


When this re-emerged, with this Report and its conclusions about Dr Hollingworth's handling of the cases in Brisbane, a string of senior Cabinet ministers emerged, casting doubt on his future, a future that shouldn't be in question at all for another three years. 


It happened very early and it happened right from the very top, from the Acting Prime Minister, people wondering about how he would now approach his position in public life. 


Did the Prime Minister know about this case? We can't know right now and to be fair, the Prime Minister is en route, he's travelling between London and Doha. 


He arrives there at around midnight tonight, so I guess there'll be more for us to find out on that front as well and the speculation around Canberra has been to wonder about what will happen when the Prime Minister returns. 


Although of course, no one has signalled that they are going to ask for his resignation, no one has said that they would want him sacked, in the Government. 


HAMISH ROBERTSON: Well, whatever Dr Hollingworth's final decision, assuming that it is his decision to make, it's an inescapable fact, isn't it Matt, that he is looking increasingly isolated? 


MATT BROWN: Well, increasingly isolated… the procession of government ministers hasn't really slowed, you have heard some voices of support for him, and we don't know really whether that's a way we should be judging, whether the Governor-General should stay on in office or not. 


It seems to be more and more a matter of him exercising his conscience. That's what senior members of Government have asked him to do, that's what senior members of the Church have asked him to do, but he clearly feels so far, that his resignation has not been warranted.  


HAMISH ROBERTSON: Matt Brown in Canberra, many thanks.