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Treasurer and Minister comment on the controversy surrounding Governor-General, Dr Peter Hollingworth.

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Monday 5 May 2003

Treasurer and Minister comment on the controversy surrounding Governor-General, Dr Peter Hollingworth.


LINDA MOTTRAM: But first to the issue of the pres sure on the Governor-General, Peter Hollingworth, which has continued to mount over the weekend. While there's no one in the Federal Government saying that Doctor Hollingworth should resign, several key ministers have hinted at their concerns. 


The Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, has said that Doctor Hollingworth's actions when he was Archbishop of Brisbane, dealing with sex abuse complaints in the church, were not a simple error of judgement but a serious lapse, and the Treasurer, Peter Costello, says that most people would say that the Governor-General should have taken a stronger line against those priests whom he knew had engaged in molestation. 


But a spokesman for Peter Hollingworth is quoted this morning as saying that the Governor-General has no intention of standing down, that he's a man who examines his conscience constantly. 


Peta Donald reports. 


PETA DONALD: The pressure on the Governor-General is growing. Over the weekend, the Acting Prime Minister, John Anderson, urged Dr Hollingworth to weigh carefully his own conscience.  


The Treasurer, Peter Costello, weighed in, on Channel 10 Mr Costello was highly critical of Dr Hollingworth's performance in his previous job. 


PETER COSTELLO: Whatever errors that he's made, they were made before he became the Governor-General, when he was the Archbishop of Brisbane. The second issue of course is whether or not he did the right thing as Archbishop of Brisbane.  


Most Australians would say he didn't, that he should have taken a stronger line against those priests that he knew had engaged in molestation and so it's really a question of his conduct in that office, an office he had prior to becoming Governor-General, and that's a matter for him.  


He acknowledges he's made a mistake. It was a mistake. I'm sure, I'm sure if he had his time again he wouldn't do it again, but it was something he did before he became the Governor-General.  


PETA DONALD: Then Mr Costello left plenty of room for Dr Hollingworth to take matters into his own hands and resign. 


PETER COSTELLO: We come back to the two stages don't we? Are there grounds for dismissal? No. The Prime Minister has the right to recommend his dismissal at any time. Are there such grounds? No. By the same token a Governor-General, at any stage, for whatever reason, personal reasons or others, can go to the Prime Minister and can, can make his view known to the Prime Minister and that's just a matter which is with the Governor-General.  


PETA DONALD: This morning, the Federal Tourism Minister, Joe Hockey, only added to the pressure, speaking on Channel Seven. 


JOE HOCKEY: It is a very, very difficult and complex situation and I urge all people to read the report, to read the details of the report. What is, is damning in a sense, is the evidence provided by Dr Hollingworth's own solicitors and including a letter written by Dr Hollingworth in 1999.  


And they were activities of course when he was Archbishop, not as Governor-General but, you know, Dr Hollingworth is under tremendous pressure at the moment and he has to very, very carefully consider the interests of the nation and obviously try and in some way send a message to any victims. 


PETA DONALD: But Dr Hollingworth is digging in. His spokesman has confirmed comments made by a close friend of the Governor-General reported in today's Australian newspaper. 


The friend says Dr Hollingworth has no intention of standing down as Governor-General. He says Dr Hollingworth is a man who examines his conscience constantly and if he didn't have a conscience Dr Hollingworth wouldn't have gone into the church or spent many years running the Brotherhood of St Lawrence. 


It's a similar line to that taken by the Governor-General's daughter, Deborah Hollingworth, over the weekend. She said one error of judgement should not disqualify her father from public office. 


LINDA MOTTRAM: Peta Donald with that report.