6 May 2003

The people's will: G-G must resign

More than three-quarters of the Australian electorate wants the Governor-General to quit amid growing pressure for his resignation from Federal Government members.

A Herald-AC Nielsen poll at the weekend found that 76 per cent of people believed Dr Peter Hollingworth should give up his $310,000-a-year job. Just 18 per cent believed he should tough out the scandal over his role in protecting a pedophile.

Even after the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975, only 40 per cent of voters wanted Sir John Kerr sacked as Governor-General.

The poll of 1400 people of voting age asked if Dr Hollingworth should resign, given the findings by an Anglican church inquiry that as archbishop of Brisbane, he allowed a priest guilty of child sex abuse to continue working.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, who chose Dr Hollingworth for the job, yesterday continued to stand by him, saying there were no grounds to dismiss him, and refusing to be drawn on whether he should resign.

But for the second successive day, the Treasurer, Peter Costello, put public pressure on Dr Hollingworth to leave voluntarily. Both he and the deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, have called for him to consider his position.

Late yesterday a spokesman for the Governor-General reconfirmed his determination to stay as fresh allegations emerged in Brisbane of Dr Hollingworth having ignored claims of the rape of a nine-year old boy by a church school teacher.

Mr Costello, while supporting Mr Howard's position that there were no grounds for sacking the Governor-General, noted that Dr Hollingworth "can at any stage go to the Prime Minister" and quit.

As well, the Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Joe Hockey, delivered the harshest assessment yet by a member of the Government, saying the evidence against Dr Hollingworth was "damning" and his behaviour indefensible.

"I can't defend Dr Peter Hollingworth for what he did as archbishop of Brisbane in that circumstance, and I think most people would find it difficult to do so," Mr Hockey said.

I suppose I should declare my hand and say I voted against the republic because I think an appointed presidency is a bad idea. All the same I cannot imagine that even the Howard republic could have produced the idiotic situation where the government is devoting time defending the likes of Hollingworth.

The governor-general must be above suspicion. This governor-general is not. John Howard needs to stop inventing constitutional conventions that you only need to be above suspicion while in office. The governor-general is a personal appointment of the prime minister. John Howard should show us some of that vaunted ticker he's so proud of.

And since he has so spectacularly messed up one appointment he should consult more widely when he appoints Holinngsworth's successor.

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