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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14871

Mr CREAN (3:12 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. It refers to the statement he made at the beginning of the parliament, in which he said:

There was a different attitude in the past in relation to the handling of child abuse allegations and child abuse practices. That different attitude in the past was largely but not entirely reflected in the handling of this particular matter by the Governor-General.

Prime Minister, I ask: what standard existed in 1993 to condone the covering up of paedophilia?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —In answer to the Leader of the Opposition's question, I think it is fair to say that there is a different standard now than in 1993.

The SPEAKER —The member for Gellibrand is warned!

Mr HOWARD —There is a different standard obtaining now in relation to how claims of this kind should be dealt with.

The SPEAKER —The member for Corio is warned!

Mr HOWARD —Whether it was 1993 or 1983 or 1973, I hold the view that the past practice was the wrong approach, and I made that plain in my statement. I think the contemporary approach is the right approach, but it does not alter the judgment that I made last year—which I continue to hold—that there were not grounds in relation to Dr Hollingworth's behaviour as Governor-General that would warrant my recommending to the Queen that he should have been dismissed. The reality stands. He made a very serious error of judgment. It was an error of judgment that was made by a lot of people in authority prior to then, not only in churches but also in government bodies and in government institutions. It was a different approach. I think that approach was flawed. I have made that very clear. I think the contemporary approach is far better. But, in forming a total view on something like this, you have to have regard to the practices and the circumstances of the time and you have to make a judgment, when you look at a person's conduct, having regard to a knowledge and understanding of that. I think if you do not do that you run the risk of making judgments that are not accurate.