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Peter Hollingworth made one error of judgement. He should not resign

By David Flint - posted Wednesday, 7 May 2003

It is ironic that prominent among those clamouring for the Governor-General to go are precisely those who want to abolish the office. They either want a head of state who is a mere functionary who, alone among those in the civilised world, the Prime Minister would find easier to sack than his cook. Or else they want another politician.

Then there are those who find this a convenient distraction, as well as those who sniff that this is a way of getting at the Prime Minister.

The most reprehensible are those who are guilty of the worst case of double standards in recent times. Bill D'Arcy, a former Queensland MP, was found guilty of 18 charges of abuse, including rape, of children of both sexes and as young as six. These occurred when he was their teacher in a government school. One victim said she was abused in the classroom. The Queensland government has consistently denied liability, so far defending two cases all the way to the High Court. And this was not 10 years ago: the decisions were handed down this year ... 2003!


Moreover, legislation has not been introduced to sequester D'Arcy's generous superannuation for the benefit of his victims ... apparently legal advice is that, without this, it cannot be touched.

In all this it is assumed the Queensland government has followed legal advice. Yet the Queensland government is, thanks to its taxpayers, substantially richer than the Anglican Church which is settling claims against it.

For this reason, we can be sure there will be no move by the Queensland government to appoint a Royal Commission whose terms of reference include its own schools!

The point is that in contrast to Dr Hollingworth, who committed one error of judgment, no-one is calling for the Queensland government to stand down. No-one seems to be arguing for the interests of D'Arcy's victims. No-one is saying that the ministers should be examining their consciences. Why?

If the real reason for the campaign is to counter the terrible crime of child abuse - and it is despicable - there would surely be some consistency in the choice of the targets in this campaign. There would not be this rush to make any allegation, however baseless, however exaggerated, or however irrelevant, constantly raised.

The answer is that the campaign is obviously tainted. In fact, those who are really after the PM gave their game away when the appointment was made.


Good choice, they said, appreciating those long years when he spoke for the disadvantaged. But, they chimed in unison, you should not do it. He's a clergyman.

That they had never raised this supposed constitutional objection when not one but three such appointments were made, nor when Sir Paul Reeves was appointed New Zealand Governor-General, indicates that they were desperate for a reason to find fault with the appointment. No matter whom John Howard had recommended, his choice would have been attacked. What, I wonder, would they have thought of Gough Whitlam's toying with appointing Cardinal Sir Norman Gilroy?

The point is that the position of the Governor-General is essentially constitutional. The ceremonial function is important, although I do have difficulty with the proposition that the Governor-General "interprets the nation to itself''. Because the executive and legislative powers are so intermingled in the Westminster system, there needs to be a first line of defence against the abuse of that concentration of power.

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This article was first published in The Canberra Times on 5 May 2003.

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About the Author

David Flint is a former chairman of the Australian Press Council and the Australian Broadcasting Authority, is author of The Twilight of the Elites, and Malice in Media Land, published by Freedom Publishing. His latest monograph is Her Majesty at 80: Impeccable Service in an Indispensable Office, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, Sydney, 2006

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