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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14863

Mr CREAN (2:40 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, given the seriousness of child sex abuse, why didn't you dismiss the Governor-General when it became clear in February 2002 that Dr Hollingworth had been involved in covering up the actions of a known paedophile?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I made the judgment then and—as the Leader of the Opposition has done and as others have done—it has been heavily criticised. Given what I knew at the time and what had been put to me not only by the Governor-General but also publicly and also having regard to the fact that on the evidence available to me—and I do not think that has been subsequently disputed—the person in question did not reoffend after his entry into the priesthood, I took the view that an error of judgment alone, serious though it was, in an earlier occupation, was not sufficient grounds to warrant his dismissal. That was the decision I took then. I believed it to be right then. I still believe that that decision was right. That formed the basis of the judgment I made, and repeated recently: that he had not behaved in a way, during his tenure of the office of Governor-General, to warrant his dismissal. That was a judgment and, like all of our judgments, we stand by them and we are accountable for them before the bar of public opinion. I repeat: that was my judgment. People criticised me for it, people will question me for it; they are entitled to do that—as the Leader of the Opposition is doing today, and that is his right—but that was my judgment. I stand by it and I also stand by the earlier statement about the price that he paid. That bears nothing at all upon the obvious price paid by the victims of child abuse. They are two quite separate issues. But it does not alter the fact that a judgment was made at the time and I stand by that judgment.