Tue, May 13, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Calls for Hollingworth to step down unabated

AFP , SYDNEY

Embattled Governor-General Peter Hollingworth, waves as he leaves Government House in Canberra, on Saturday with his wife Anne.

PHOTO: AFP

The clamor for the resignation of the British queen's Australian representative continued unabated yesterday despite his decision to stand aside while he fights to clear his name of a rape claim that dates back 40 years.

Peter Hollingworth, 68, on Sunday became the first Governor-General in Australian history to suspend himself from vice-regal duties after public opinion turned strongly against him.

But it did so over the unrelated issue of his admitted mishandling of a child sex abuse scandal while he was the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane.

Prime Minister John Howard arrived home from an overseas trip on Saturday, held talks with Hollingworth on Sunday and announced their agreed decision immediately.

But Howard repeatedly refused to express confidence that Hollingworth could continue as governor-general, saying only that it remained his view there were no grounds for his dismissal.

However, the announcement did nothing to silence public and political demands for Hollingworth's immediate resignation.

Opposition Labor leader Simon Crean said it was unacceptable for Howard to allow Hollingworth to step aside temporarily. "The prime minister has acted on an allegation that is not proven but he's failed to act on allegations that have been proven," Crean said.

New South Wales Premier Bob Carr said "a clear-cut resignation" was the only way to resolve the row and allowing Hollingworth to stand aside was an "unsatisfactory compromise." However, constitutional law expert Richard McGarvie, a former judge and governor of Victoria from 1992 to 1997, warned Australia is now facing a constitutional crisis over demands for Hollingworth's resignation.

McGarvie said the pressure for his resignation posed a greater threat to the Constitution than the constitutional crisis of 1975 in which former governor-general Sir John Kerr sacked prime minister Gough Whitlam's Labor government.

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