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
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
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
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