12 May 2003

how to act on principle
Dr Peter Hollingworth on 1 May:
Dr Hollingworth accepts, as he did in his statement of 20 February 2002 prior to the establishment of the Board of Inquiry, that he made a serious error of judgement.� He acknowledges that he would reach a different conclusion today.

Now we hear that Hollingworth believes he was denied natural justice. I guess his statements of 1 May 2003 and 20 February 2002 are now inoperative. The opposition really should be asking if the taxpayer is funding this nonsensical exercise in spin which seems to be motivated only by a desire to stay in office at all costs.

Standing the governor-general down does not solve the problem. It is only a first step. At his press conference the prime minister said:

It is only when those proceedings have been determined that the Governor General can give proper consideration to his longer term tenure of his office. The Governor General has told me in giving consideration to the longer term tenure of that office that he will place the dignity and the protection of the office above all other consideration. It remains my view that the Governor General has not done anything during the tenure of his office as Governor General to warrant my recommending to the Queen that his commission should be terminated or his appointment ended.

The governor-general has been at best misleading about matters of fact arising from the pedophile protection allegations and has made misleading statements while in office as governor-genral. The claim that the governor-general, far from accepting the church report as he stated on 1 May, believes he was denied natural justice is belied by the church report itself which reads:

5.3 When this was done, a collection of these documented events was circulated to relevant stakeholders, in an endeavour to achieve agreement as to the basic facts. This was accompanied or followed by the Board submitting its preliminary conclusions and perceived areas of potential criticism to the relevant persons. This resulted in a lengthy and relatively complex exchange of correspondence between the Board and the stakeholders which has continued up to this time.

5.4 There has been criticism because it is said that the Board has not conducted hearings. This criticism is misconceived. The Board has been relevantly and adequately informed by reference to contemporaneous documentation concerning the particular complaint, and by written statements of fact, comment and submissions. The Board has also undertaken a small number of recorded telephone conversations. The Board has received a mass of documented information and comments and submissions from or on behalf of relevant persons.

The report continues for many pages discussing its difficult correspondence with Bravehearts Inc. There is nothing of any objection by Peter Hollingworth to the board's method of proceeding. Only now, when the public relations exercise on 1 May becomes unsustainable, does the natural justice claim emerge. Not on 1 May. Not during the board's investigation. Not since the report was released. Spin, pure and simple.

I do not understand why the trial of the rape allegation operates to stay any decision on the governor-general's future. His responsibilities as a public official surely override his private desire to clear his name. But then that would be holding Peter Hollingworth to standards of conduct greater than those he required of others as archbishop of Brisbane.

No comments: