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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14865

Mr CREAN (2:47 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister.

The SPEAKER —Apparently the Leader of the Opposition is to be denied the call by either the member for Swan or the member for Port Adelaide.

Mr CREAN —Why was it necessary for Dr Hollingworth to stand aside as Governor-General when allegations of rape were made against him but was not required to stand aside when it was clearly shown in February 2002 that Dr Hollingworth had covered up the actions of a known paedophile within the Anglican Church?

The SPEAKER —As the member for Mackellar has already pointed out, Dr Hollingworth remains the Governor-General and is entitled to the protection of standing order 74. His reputation shall not therefore be impugned by the way a question is framed.

The SPEAKER —The member for Lingiari is warned! I have exercised a good deal of tolerance in the way in which the last question by the Leader of the Opposition was framed. I merely point out to him that standing order 74 requires him not to reflect on the character of the Governor-General.

Mr McMullan —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I understand that we are treading a very difficult course because we are in a unique set of circumstances, but it cannot be a breach of standing order 74 to say in this place about the Governor-General what he has said himself and what the independent inquiry of the Anglican Church has said. The Leader of the Opposition must be able to go to independent reports that have been brought down and that have made findings even if they are adverse to the Governor-General. I understand the unique situation that the standing orders raise, but it cannot be the case that we cannot raise in the House of Representatives what is being raised in every other house in Australia.

The SPEAKER —I would point out to the member for Fraser that at no stage in my comments have I ruled the Leader of the Opposition out of order or his question out of order. I have instead merely asked him to exercise the constraint that invariably goes with standing order 74, given that Dr Hollingworth remains the Governor-General and standing order 74 remains in place. His question could have stood without the imputation in the latter part of it.

Mr CREAN —In addition to the first part of my question, I ask the Prime Minister in response to his last answer when he said that he made the right judgment at the time not to ask him to go: what has changed in the last 15 months that now makes it appropriate for him to go?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —What I said that I had formed a judgment about was whether grounds existed for me to recommend his removal to the Queen. I would point out that the Governor-General is resigning not as a result of a recommendation by me to Her Majesty, but rather as a result of his own decision.