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PM John Howard Interview On Hollingworth 22/2

22 February 2002

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER
THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP
RADIO INTERVIEW WITH JOHN LAWS, 2UE

Subjects: Governor General

LAWS:

Prime Minister, good morning and welcome.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning John good to be with you again.

LAWS:

You are under a bit of pressure aren’t you here and there.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh yes there’s been a bit happening the last couple of weeks but that goes with the territory and I have had a fair amount of experience in handling pressure and I just try and deal with each issue on the merits as it arises.

LAWS:

Okay, well let’s have a look at this whole thing. Assumedly you saw Australian Story?

PRIME MINISTER:

I did.

LAWS:

Were you shocked by any of the answers given by Peter Hollingworth?

PRIME MINISTER:

I was puzzled about one of them and you know which one.

LAWS:

Yeah

PRIME MINISTER:

He… and he made a statement yesterday. I think the statement he made yesterday, the intent of that was to withdraw any impression people had got that in some way you could condone sex with an under age child.

LAWS:

Well do you understand that he failed to do that because he contradicted himself?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’ve seen the newspapers this morning and I’ve seen the ABC rerun the original tape, don’t know that ….let me put it this way, I don’t think what has come out alters the fact that the purpose of what he said yesterday was to withdraw that impression and I know from discussion with him that that is his view and I am sure it is the view of everybody listening to this program and it certainly is my view.

LAWS:

Okay, well let’s ….

PRIME MINISTER:

But I don’t want to get into a position of trying to interpret and reinterpret what may have been his intent when he answered …..

LAWS:

Okay but there’s little to interpret, there’s very little to interpret. Let me just play you the two pieces, that’ll simplify it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, please do.

[tape insert – Governor-General]

“…that occurred between a young priest and a teenage girl who was under the age of consent. I believe she was more than 14. I also understand that many years later in adult life their relationship resumed and it was partly a pastoral relationship and it was partly something more. My belief is that this was not sex abuse, there was no suggestion of rape or anything like that quite the contrary. My information is that it was rather the other way round and I don’t want to say any more than that.”

LAWS:

Okay, now when Dr Hollingworth made his statement his, I presume unscheduled stop and statement to the press yesterday, this is what he said.

[tape insert – Governor-General]

“I thought I was talking about an adult relationship and I want to make an unreserved apology to the woman concerned and to the whole of the Australian public. That was not what I meant and I realise that that particular little segment has been picked up and used on the media yesterday.”

LAWS:

Now Prime Minister he obviously said in the Australia Story that he was referring to a young couple he said under the age of consent he did believe that she was more than 14 and then yesterday he said I thought I was talking about an adult relationship.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, well look …..

LAWS:

He’s absolutely contradicted himself.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I understand the juxtaposition and I understand that, but I don’t really think it’s appropriate for me other than to say more, it really is a matter for him to further deal with it if he chooses, but I do know this that the view he expressed at the doorstop yesterday that he doesn’t in any way condone ….

LAWS:

Ah well I know I know that.

PRIME MINISTER:

…. is his view.

LAWS:

Yep, well we all know that.

PRIME MINISTER:

And I mean I think I think once again it’s a question of, I don’t reckon he’s expressed himself very well if I may say so.…

LAWS:

Well I mean he’s totally contradicted himself .

PRIME MINISTER:

I really, I really don’t, but I don’t think that goes to the question of whether he condones or doesn’t condone. So I don’t think there is any question that he, of course he doesn’t condone.

LAWS:

But if what he said yesterday he meant, he clearly didn’t tell the truth. He lied.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that’s an allegation that you’re making. I am in no position to answer that because I didn’t make the statement.

LAWS:

No, but given ……

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ll answer, I’ll answer as to my own statements, I can’t …

LAWS:

Yes but but with respect.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I know that ….

LAWS:

But with respect hearing what he said, hearing what he said, you heard both things he said.

PRIME MINISTER:

I did.

LAWS:

The second thing was clearly contradictory of the first. “I thought I was talking about an adult couple”. And yet in the statement he made on Australia Story he said they were under, the girl was under the age of consent, they were a young couple. He then went on to say some years later in adulthood, there was no doubt in his mind that he was talking about a young girl. The next day he said he wasn’t , he was talking about an older couple. Clearly not correct.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I understand that interpretation’s been put on it and I understand why it would be put on it and I wouldn’t suggest that he was setting out to be deceptive and lying. I think that’s harsh. He he does, there is, it is open to the interpretation that he’s contradicted himself.

LAWS:

Yeah, well he …

PRIME MINISTER:

But that ..

LAWS:

He may not have intended to.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, well I, look I don’t think he did, but once again it is very difficult as you know in your long experience in listening to people and talking to people and interpreting what people say. It is next to impossible for one person to fully understand and answer for why another person says a particular thing. I mean in my situation and the judgement I made yesterday which was based on all the information in front of me I reached a certain conclusion, but I don’t think it’s helping the situation for me to give a continuing running commentary on every single thing the Governor General says. I don’t think he will be saying anything more about this issue in the immediate future …

LAWS:

He’s certainly going to be asked

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, John, I understand the reality of where we are at the moment. The Governor General will respond to any further things that may be said on the Sunday program, but the question of his Office is one which I have to make a judgement about in relation to all the facts and circumstances and the judgement I held, and hold, is that on the information available there are no grounds to advise his removal and it would not be proper to do so. As to whether in relation to a particular issue, he has contradicted himself, I mean, I guess over the years I have contradicted myself, I mean we all do on occasions. If you do it deliberately and with a particular purpose then you’re deserving of criticism. But if you do it inadvertently then you’re not deserving of criticism. Now only he can answer for what his motives are. I am not going to get into a position of what I thought somebody else meant.

LAWS:

But this is a very, very crucial contradiction on a very, very crucial issue. I mean the man has said in one breath that this was a young girl under the age of consent. He thought she was more than 14 but he says under the age of consent. He then goes on to say that later in life when they were adults, he knew he was talking about a younger women, so why did he say I thought I was talking about an older couple. I mean that’s contradictory, to say that it’s contradictory is very generous.

PRIME MINISTER:

John, I am not going to presume to answer for somebody else. That’s unreasonable and it’s also dangerous, because I don’t know what is in the person’s mind. I have no doubt that he will have something to say about this issue if it is raised and I am sure it will be.

LAWS:

But, can we really have a Governor General – now I have absolutely nothing against Peter Hollingworth, I don’t know him and I’m sure he has endeavoured to be a very decent man, and I don’t think for a moment that he has committed any criminal offence..

PRIME MINISTER:

No, he has not only not committed any criminal offence, but I don’t think he has been guilty of any moral lapses either. No more than the rest us. Look we’re getting into an incredibly judgemental area.

LAWS:

We’ve got to

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, but you’ve got to do it in a fairly objective fashion.

LAWS:

I’m trying to.

PRIME MINISTER:

And that’s what I’m endeavouring to do as well.

LAWS:

OK but let me say – when you say that he’s not responsible for any moral indiscretion or words to that effect.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think I used the expression moral turpitude which is a baser kind of moral lapse. I mean everyone on occasions falls well short of perfection, Archbishops included and there isn’t a person alive who hasn’t.

LAWS:

Do you think it’s a moral lapse for a somebody like the Governor General to suggest that a 14 year old is more responsible for her actions than a man 20 years her senior is ..

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think for a moment that you can ever condone people, adults having a sexual relationship with somebody under age. There are no circumstances in which that can ever be condoned.

LAWS:

But the Governor General endeavoured to suggest that perhaps this young girl was more at fault than the older man. I mean how is that not a moral lapse in judgement.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think you’d have to ask the Government General to explain ..

LAWS:

Did you ask him?

PRIME MINISTER:

When I talked to him I talked about a large number of things and I am satisfied from my discussion that he did not condone what happened.

LAWS:

Did you suggest to him that he make that stop outside ..

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we did discuss that issue. As to what he said, I didn’t presume to tell him what to say because only he knew what was in his mind when he gave the answer. I mean, it wouldn’t have been appropriate for me to say well I think you ought to say this or I think you ought to put it that way. That would not have been right, because I wasn’t there. I did say to him that I believed it was an issue that had to be addressed because an impression which I am sure he did not intend had been created.

LAWS:

Do you not think that the whole of the Australian Story reeked of self preservation?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I don’t. I think that’s an unfair judgement. I think that ..

LAWS:

It was not a judgement, it was a question. It wasn’t a judgement it was a question.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, a judgement was implicit in the question.

LAWS:

Anyway ..

PRIME MINISTER:

Let’s not fight about that. I thought it was understandable given everything that had occurred that he would want to say something on the media. I’ll keep to myself whether I would have given the same advice or not. That’s not really relevant. He is, given that his reputation is under severe attack, he has been subjected to an enormous amount of scrutiny and his feeling was that he had to put his side of it. Now as in all of these programs there were probably several hours of footage and whether what came out represented the whole balance of it I don’t know. I have to say that my own experience with Australian Story was that it was a good program…

LAWS:

It’s very highly regarded.

PRIME MINISTER:

… and I have watched many episodes of Australian story and they were kind enough to do one on me in the election campaign as they did on Kim Beazley. In the main, I’ve always found them to be quite straightforward positive stories.

LAWS:

Well why did we get the result we got out of Monday night’s? I mean why did the…

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not here to be a media commentator I mean, I’m in the position of having made a judgement on the evidence, material currently available to me…

LAWS:

I’m not asking you to be a media commentator, I wouldn’t ask you to lower yourself…

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not a political version of, who’s doing the media watch now - David Marr.

LAWS:

I have no idea, I don’t look at it. But I’m not suggesting you should be a media commenter, I’m simply suggesting to you that this ongoing thing…it was considered by the majority of Australians that the Governor General was dismissive of these allegations in relation to under age sex molestation, that he appeared to be dismissive, would you be dismissive of children being damaged physically as well as psychologically.

PRIME MINISTER:

Never.

LAWS:

Of course you wouldn’t.

PRIME MINISTER:

Never.

LAWS:

So how can we tolerate a Governor General who…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t believe that he is dismissive.

LAWS:

Well he told a women, I’ve spoken to the women, he told…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you have, I haven’t …

LAWS:

But I must tell you…

PRIME MINISTER:

Sure.

LAWS:

That the women endeavoured on more than one occasion to contact Dr Hollingworth, ultimately he was contacted firstly by someone from the school, secondly by a nurse from the school, and thirdly by their legal representatives, and were told he was too busy, that he needed a holiday and he couldn’t do much about it anyway and he said on Australian Story “ I wasn’t up to it.” Now if you’re not up to it, if you’re crook, you get Peter or somebody to come along and do the job for you. If you’re not up to it you get somebody else to do it but to be that dismissive of a girl who was beaten up and found under a tree, and then raped, and then raped and raped again and the man who did it had to answer for nothing, in fact the headmaster of the school in question was offered by Dr Hollingworth a five thousand dollar increase in salary. Is that not being dismissive?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t know all of those circumstance John.

LAWS:

Well with respect shouldn’t you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I do know this…. well I haven’t had the benefit of an interview with this women and you say with respect should I well… if people want to put material in front of me that I haven’t previously seen I invite them to do so. I’m not a person who ever avoids a difficult situation.

LAWS:

I’m aware of that

PRIME MINISTER:

And I’m not avoiding a difficult situation this morning and if people want to put some material to me, clearly I didn’t have the benefit of the interview that you had, and when you talk to someone directly you always make a judgement about the strength of what they put to you and their feeling and you make a judgement about everything they are putting to you, I understand that and I’ll say if anybody wants to put material before me then I invite them to do so because I’m in the position of having to make judgements on the basis of material that is in front of me.

LAWS:

And normally Australia has regarded you as very good at making those judgements…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I try to, my judgements are not infallible

LAWS:

I suppose nobody’s is, but be that as it may we look to you because we understand that you are a descent man if you’re a friend you’re a friend, you are not going to dismiss people on hearsay evidence. We understand that we have a Prime Minister of whom we are proud as being a thoroughly decent human being, but we all found it very difficult yesterday, I could hear the country gasp when you said there was no reason to dismiss the Governor General or even ask him to resign. Now this woman to whom I spoke told me this story. I’ll call her Sue that’s not her name. In 1988, she finds her daughter whimpering in the dark huddled under a tree, the girl’s nose is bleeding, she’s crying, she’s in bad shape. This man Kevin Guy apparently raped her, she kept that secret for 14 years, she only told her parents last Christmas Eve. For the next three years after the rape, Kevin Guy went on to rape or sexually abuse apparently up to 80 girls. Peter Hollingworth was notified of the abuse when charges were laid against this man Kevin Guy. On December 18th 1990, the day that Kevin Guy was to appear in court he committed suicide, gassing himself in his car after a suicide note named 20 other girls in the school. Now after his death the police child abuse unit advised that all parents at the school should be informed that their children had been abused. The school tried to keep Guy’s suicide and the reason for it as secret as possible and only the parents of the 20 girls named in the suicide note were told the truth. The rest of the school and the rest of the parents were not told and Peter Hollingworth knew. Now is that not deceiving parents who have trusted their children into your care?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well this issue was covered in his statement…

LAWS:

Very badly by him.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it was covered in his statement, I don’t have a direct knowledge of it, obviously, other than what appears in what you’ve said and other material that’s been published and other than what he’s said about it, my recollection, and I don’t have his statement in front of me, was substantially to the effect of what you’ve said in relation to circumstances concerning that poor girl. In relation to the fellow Guy, well of course he did commit suicide and it is true for reasons that I just don’t have in my mind in at the moment because I don’t have the statement with me that the advice to communicate with all of the parents with the school was not followed.

LAWS:

Why wasn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t…John… hang on just a moment, we are getting into a very difficult position, I can’t presume to have in my mind the motivations of the headmaster of the school council. I mean I had nothing to do with them and I really think we, I can’t really even try and answer questions like that. All I will do is say something that is silly or is factually not well based and then people will say well there’s Howard, he’s misleading the Australian public. I mean Howard is not trying to mislead the Australian public. I am quite…I find this a very difficult position but I’m not going to run away from dealing with it and I’m very happy to deal with it on public radio, on radio, because I think people are interested in it and they’re interested in my own thought processes on the subject. The last thing I am trying to do is to protect anybody who’s been soft on child sex abuse. That’s the last thing I’m trying to do.

LAWS:

I’m aware of that and all Australians are aware of that.

PRIME MINISTER:

And all I can say is that I’m uniquely in the position, I’m the one person who’s got to make a judgment about this…

LAWS:

That’s why we need to talk to you about it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Indeed, and I’m very happy and the reason that I’m here is that I think this is an issue that the Australian public is interested in, I am accountable to the public for the judgments I’ve made and I am more than happy to, as best I can, respond to them by talking to you because you represent their feelings so very effectively.

LAWS:

Well let’s withdraw the question why wasn’t it acted on. But let’s put the question to you the fact that it wasn’t acted upon, excuse me, doesn’t the fact that it wasn’t acted upon cast aspersions on the office and the character of those involved?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the Governor General in the statement he made has tried to deal with the issue relating to Guy, which was the issue relating to the Toowoomba School, I think in a couple of areas he disputes the facts mentioned in the Sunday programme. But they’re issues of detail rather than issues of substance so I don’t want to go into them lest anybody think I’m in any way trivialising the issue. I made a judgment in relation to the material that he put out yesterday, the day before yesterday, I made a judgment that he had I thought responded to a lot of the allegations that had been raised in the Sunday programme. And I mean some people will agree with that judgement, I mean bear in mind that the person had committed suicide…

LAWS:

But you’ve also got to bear in mind that these people hadn’t been warned and the woman I talked to simple, decent, Queensland country people who put their faith in the church, they sent their girl to that school because they thought she’s going to be safe in the arms of the church. She wasn’t. I mean if these parents had been notified a lot of this could have been avoided. Somebody has got to be held responsible or accountable for the fact that there was no notification given to the parents. I mean a lot of this heartbreak….this family is very nearly destroyed.

PRIME MINISTER:

I understand that.

LAWS:

Maritally, the relationship with the girl has broken up. Now a lot of this could have been avoided.

PRIME MINISTER:

A lot of it, I think in all of these situations the day to day running of a school and the day to day decisions in relation to a school are more the responsibility, to be fair, of a school council, and more specifically the headmaster. And unless there’s evidence that there was some kind of direct and active intervention at an Archbishop or Bishop level to stop something happening that made a great deal of sense and afforded additional protection, it’s difficult to automatically make the Bishop or the Archbishop responsibly because on that basis just about every Archbishop and Bishop anywhere would be responsible for anything bad that went on in a school.

LAWS:

I’ve got in my hand a letter, Dear Mr and Mrs so and so, I have received your letter of concerns about the situation at Toowoomba Preparatory School and I want to assure you that I have been in close consultation with the headmaster and the chairman of the school, etc etc etc. Another paragraph reads I should explain too that the ramifications of the situation only emerged when I was interstate and it has not been possible to follow through your concerns and concerns felt by parents such as yourself at the time. That letter is signed by Peter Hollingworth.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. I’ve seen a letter, perhaps a copy of the same one.

LAWS:

Well he was involved at that level, he wasn’t…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well somebody wrote to him, what I’m saying is he wasn’t involved in employing the teacher.

LAWS:

No but he could have been involved in advising parents.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well normally decisions like that are taken… I mean it is true that he could have been but the point I’m simply making is that the way independent schools operate, and denominational independent schools in particular is that they are run by school councils and the involvement of an Archbishop in the day to day conduct of the affairs of the school is normally quite remote. I mean that is just the reality. Now I’m stating that as a general proposition, I’m not specifically relating that to this issue because there were other factors. But the assumption that in the day to day running of the affairs of a school an Archbishop, be it an Anglican or Catholic or indeed the head of any other church, or indeed any other organisation to which a group of schools is attached, that they’re involved in the day to day running, it doesn’t operate that way. Now that’s not meant to excuse or apportion blame, it is just my understanding of the way in which these things are organised.

LAWS:

Okay, if Dr Hollingworth was so concerned about the statement that he made on Australian Story that he endeavoured to rectify yesterday but simply contradicted himself by doing it, if he was that concerned about it don’t you find it surprising that the programme was aired on Monday night, the concern was certainly voiced on radio, this one, on Tuesday morning. Why did he, I can’t ask you why, don’t you think it’s surprising that he left it until Thursday to rectify it, he could have released it, had a press release which we would have all read.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m not going to comment on that, I don’t know, I can’t answer that.

LAWS:

Did you suggest to him he should say something?

PRIME MINISTER:

What I suggested to him all along was that he should make a detailed statement about the allegations which had been made. And I know for a fact that he was working very hard on that statement all of, what Tuesday, through Tuesday through to Wednesday. Now I did as I said earlier when I saw him yesterday, I did mention the issue that you’ve been questioning me about, and I said I felt he should say something about that because there was that perception which I knew did not accord with his feelings as I understood them, and his views as I understood them, very strongly didn’t. Now as to the form of that comment, of course I didn’t presume to say well I think you ought to say this and this and this. I mean I don’t give media coaching to the Governor General and it’s not really my place to do that. It is my place to do, when I think he should deal with an issue, suggest that he deal with it.

LAWS:

Your concern is mainly about damage to the Office of Governor General.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I’m concerned about, in this particular situation, I’m concerned about the victims of sex abuse.

LAWS:

Of course.

PRIME MINISTER:

Very concerned about them. Look I think the damage to the office…. the office is very important to me, it’s important to all Australians, whether you believe in a monarchy or republic is beside the point. At the moment it is our constitutional pinnacle if you can put it that way.

LAWS:

Yes it is.

PRIME MINISTER:

And the office has got to be protected. Now that involves not…. avoiding if you can controversy surrounding the office. But it also means avoiding capriciously dismissing people from the office. There are a lot of things you’ve got to take into account.

LAWS:

Don’t you think, I know you’ve got to weigh it up and I understand it’s difficult but don’t you think it’s damaging to the Office of Governor General to have various charitable organisations who have had the Governor General as a patron asking him to resign.

PRIME MINISTER:

I wish that hadn’t happened.

LAWS:

It’s happened and continuing to happen.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes it does. I think that’s regrettable, I think it’s a pity that that’s occurred. And it’s one of those things that I’d rather not be the case. But you can’t in my position do an opinion poll or do a focus group on something like this, you listen to what the public’s got to say but I have to try and apply some fair and objective criteria in making a judgement and they were the criteria I tried to outline in my news conference yesterday. And tried to put all of those factors into balance and I came to the conclusion on the information then and now available to me that it wouldn’t have been appropriate to advise the Queen to remove the Governor General.

LAWS:

Okay, while he’s in New Zealand the only questions he’s been asked about are what’s going on in Australia. Can you have a Governor General who’s going to be hunted by a media pack who aren’t interested in the fact that he’s Governor General but are simply interested in whether he’s going to last or whether he’s not going to last. Isn’t that demeaning to the office?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look it is clearly not desirable. I wish it weren’t happening. But just as it would be undesirable for that to go on indefinitely it would be equally undesirable that every time a controversy arose regarding somebody in that position the prime minister, in order to cut short the controversy, without proper grounds decided to remove the Governor General. That would not be desirable either. In the end the responsibility comes to me and in the end I’ve got to try and make a judgment on all of the material in front of me. I don’t find this pleasant, I don’t find it easy. I feel very much for the people who have been affected by the bad deeds of others. I have to pay regard to questions of fairness for them but also fairness for Peter Hollingworth and also to recognise that when you’re dealing with an issue that people understandably feel so very strongly about, you always, and predictably and quite plainly have an emotional atmosphere. I mean you should bring emotion into something like this but you have to also bring in reason and fairness and justice and you’ve got mix all of them up and try and get the right outcome and that is what I am struggling or endeavouring to do.

LAWS:

We all know it’s very difficult.

PRIME MINISTER:

But I’m not reluctant to have a view on it and I’ve formed….

LAWS:

Okay well one of your reasons for not acting against Dr Hollingworth, and you said this is that there was no evidence that he’d committed any crime. I mean have the standards of our Vice Regal office stooped so low that we’re concerned merely with criminality?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, but I’m not concerned merely with criminality. I mean I know you’re not necessarily saying that but you’re putting that to me as a proposition. I said that I had to ask myself a number of questions to determine whether he should be removed and one of those questions was whether he’d committed any crime. One of the other questions as to whether he’d been guilty of any moral, what I call moral turpitude, I mean behaved badly as a person morally himself. Now I mean self evidently I did not say yesterday that the only standard in relation to the Vice Regal Office was that of criminality, I explicitly did not limit it to criminality. I in fact went into quite a number of other areas, I asked myself whether he’d failed to perform his duties as Governor General well, I mean the answer is he’s worked hard and enthusiastically. No criminality in his past life and no moral baseness rather than turpitude and errors of judgment, yes, like the rest of us, errors of judgment. But I mean I don’t just see it in a cold clinical legal sense, it’s not like that.

LAWS:

The Governor General really has to represent the majority of Australians. Do you agree with that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he has to be somebody who the majority of Australians feel comfortable with.

LAWS:

Well the majority of Australians don’t.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you can’t make that judgement just at one point in time, I mean there were I think, I think it’s, it’s not necessarily a reasonable assessment of public opinion.

LAWS:

Why?

PRIME MINISTER:

Just to do it at one particular moment. I think the judgement as to whether the majority of Australians feel comfortable with a particular person is something that will go on over a period of time.

LAWS:

This has been going on for some time. It’s been going on since the 12th of December last year.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes it has. And I think it’s clearly intensified.

LAWS:

Yeah,

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s intensified since the airing of those claims on the Channel 9 program.

LAWS:

You can hardly say that this is the result of one point in time the majority of Australians not wanting him to stay. I mean….

PRIME MINISTER:

No I didn’t say that. I said that you can’t make a judgement about whether the majority of Australians are comfortable with somebody just by reference to opinion at one point in time. I mean there’s been plenty of times when the majority of Australians have probably not wanted me to be Prime Minister at certain points….

LAWS:

But they voted for you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah in the end they did but I mean I went up and down.

LAWS:

But they voted for you at one point in time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah exactly they did vote for me because it’s an elected position whereas the Governor General is an appointed position.

LAWS:

That’s right. But they voted for you at one point in time and now they’re voting about the Governor General at one point in time and the majority of Australians don’t want him to stay.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well at the moment there is a view, I mean I haven’t sort of had any poll done on it and I’m not frankly proposing to. I guess the newspapers will do a number of polls and they’ll probably be published next week and I’m not going to make any predictions about what they may or may not say. But in the end I can’t make a decision like this other than in an objective fashion. I think it’s desirable that people feel comfortable with somebody but I don’t think it necessarily follows from that that as soon as I see an opinion poll that says the majority of people want another Governor General I automatically act on that I mean I can’t…I don’t think anybody would appreciate my doing that. They would think that I was a poll driven Prime Minister.

LAWS:

You have been.

PRIME MINISTER:

What?

LAWS:

Poll driven.

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ve taken notice of public opinion on some issues and I’ve swung against it on others.

LAWS:

Why not this issue?

PRIME MINISTER:

Why not? Because I’m…well I’m not accepting, I mean I don’t know what the poll evidence you’re talking about is. I mean I know from your own judgement and it’s very good that you’ve formed a view. But I haven’t seen any particular opinion poll and I haven’t commissioned one and I won’t be commissioning one. This is one of those issues where I have to try and make an objective judgement and that is what I have done to date and that’s what I’m going to continue to do. It’s difficult but I’m not walking away from it.

LAWS:

No I know that and we admire that even though we may not all agree with it we admire it let me tell you that. Have you seen this morning’s Courier Mail?

PRIME MINISTER:

No.

LAWS:

Let me read something to you. Former Archbishop of Brisbane Peter Hollingworth allegedly told a woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted in the loft of Brisbane’s St Johns Anglican Cathedral that men’s sexual urges were only human. She claimed Archbishop Hollingworth said we’re only human after all. At the same meeting the Archbishop asked whether she’d been a blonde at the time of the alleged incidents. Dr Hollingworth’s comments to the woman have been corroborated by Karen Walsh, a support advocate who also attended the 1998 and 2000 meetings. His analysis was to blame the victim, blame the woman. He reframed the event as an affair for which she had equal responsibility.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I haven’t seen that story, I don’t know anything about the circumstances.

LAWS:

How do you feel about it?

PRIME MINISTER:

How do I feel about it? Well I don’t like the way….but I’ve only heard, you know, I don’t know anything about it. I mean John, how do I feel about? Well it sounds very surprising to me and it would not be the sort of thing that somebody in that position ought to say.

LAWS:

Well if that’s the case where do we go from here?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look I don’t know that it is the case John and look you can’t, fair go. I mean I’m very happy to be frank in answering questions. I mean to put something like that, I haven’t seen that. It hasn’t been put to Dr Hollingworth. I don’t know any other context to it and I’m really not going to get dragged into commenting on that on what is a very hypothetical situation.

LAWS:

Well not hypothetical. It’s been corroborated.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s hypothetical because I don’t know the facts.

LAWS:

Okay. Well if you think that’s unfair I don’t want to be unfair.

PRIME MINISTER:

No I’m not….I’m simply saying I’m in no position to objectively answer a question. You’re reading out to me a story in a newspaper. I haven’t read the story but I accept that you would have read it out accurately. I don’t know anything of the facts. There is nothing in that story that reflects Dr Hollingworth’s view on the alleged incident. To ask me to make a judgement on it is I think on this occasion unreasonable.

LAWS:

It was Dr Hollingworth who said we men are only human after all.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look I don’t know what was said because I wasn’t there and I’ve always held the view that men should behave appropriately.

LAWS:

You’re not getting angry with me are you?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I’m trying to be very calm but I’m also trying to point out to you John that it’s a bit much to ask me to comment on a comment by some people that has been read out without my knowing any of the circumstances. I wasn’t there, I don’t know his side of the story and I simply cannot comment on it because I don’t know anything.

LAWS:

Okay. You’ve been very generous with your time and I hope I haven’t been unnecessarily probing with mine.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no that’s your job and can I say to you and to your many listeners that this is a difficult important issue and I am perfectly happy to be questioned about the judgement I have come to at present and I’m perfectly happy to talk to the Australian people about this very difficult issue because it involves a lot of issues.

LAWS:

Yes it does. But do you understand, and I’m sure you do, you’re smarter than I am, that this is going to go on day after day? I mean once people start to talk then the others get the courage and you’re going to be confronting this and so will he. It will go on and on and on.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s been going on for a while I understand that and that is a factor that I take into account but it can’t be the only factor. I mean you can’t in my position base decisions you take only or overwhelmingly on a desire to get the issue out of the papers and away from public gaze because if you do that on this or indeed any other issue you can end up making an incorrect judgement, you can end up being unfair. In the end on some issues you have to go through the difficulty of trial by publicity and public scrutiny and so forth. I accept that. Now that’s something I take into account but it’s not the only thing I take into account because if I did I could make an unfair judgement.

LAWS:

Is the fact that Her Majesty the Queen is coming to Australia, did that weigh heavily upon the decision you made yesterday?

PRIME MINISTER:

It didn’t affect it in any way. Her Majesty has had a long experience in public life and she’s gone through and been able to handle difficult situations of all kinds and done it with enormous aplomb and that was not a factor in the judgement I made. If you’re suggesting in some way I thought I’ll just put it off until the Queen’s visit is over, no no. I made the judgement quite independently of the timing of the Queen’s visit. I mean in the end the Queen acts entirely on my advice in relation to these things. I respect her as a person very much and I think she’s widely admired in the Australian community whatever their views may be about a republic. She personally has been an extraordinary and exemplary constitutional monarch for now 50 years and people genuinely like her. Now I don’t think anybody wants any embarrassment for her but on the other hand she’s handled difficult situations. She has a lot of skill at that.

LAWS:

So she was not the catalyst in the decision?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. She is not in any way the catalyst in this decision.

LAWS:

You couldn’t guarantee the future of Dr Hollingworth could you?

PRIME MINISTER:

I can’t guarantee anybody’s future. I can’t guarantee mine. I can’t guarantee anybody’s future. All I can do is to respond to the situation as it is now. I mean Dr Hollingworth, and I don’t say this with any intent other than a statement of fact, he holds office at the Queen’s pleasure and that pleasure’s exercised on my advice or the advice of the Prime Minister of the day and that’s me, and it’ll certainly be me for some time.

LAWS:

Thank you very much for your time Prime Minister. I know that our listeners around Australia would have appreciated it very much as well. Thank you for your directness and as I say I hope I wasn’t too probing but that’s what I’ve got to do.

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s your job.

LAWS:

Good to talk to you John.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[Ends]

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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