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The Anglican Church’s public affairs unit has backed a push to review the lifetime entitlements of Australian governors-general, as survivors lobby for Dr Peter Hollingworth to be stripped of his $600,000–plus taxpayer-funded salary and perks over his mishandling of child abuse complaints when he was archbishop of Brisbane.
The church’s professional standards board last month found Hollingworth committed numerous counts of misconduct in the 1990s, including allowing paedophile clerics John Elliot and Donald Shearman to remain in the ministry despite knowing they had sexually assaulted children, and failing to support victims.
The Greens want former governor-general Peter Hollingworth stripped of his $375,000 pension along with about $300,000 a year in office and travel entitlements.Credit: Joe Armao
But in a recommendation that has angered survivors, the board concluded Hollingworth was fit to remain in the ministry as a priest, allowing him to officiate religious services in Melbourne as long as he issued an apology to two people abused by the men.
As a Senate inquiry prepares to hand down its findings on a Greens bill to give the government the power to strip former governors-general of their entitlements, Hollingworth has come under further pressure with Anglican Primate of Australia Archbishop Geoffrey Smith calling on him to resign.
“I would say, on the basis of all that I’m aware of, it would be a good thing to step back and resign his orders. I think that would be a reasonable thing,” Smith told ABC’s Australian Story program, which aired on Monday night. The remarks were made before the board’s findings last month.
The church’s misconduct findings have further fuelled the Greens’ push to have Hollingworth stripped of his $375,000 pension, which he receives as a former governor-general, along with about $300,000 a year in office and travel entitlements. Hollingworth, 88, has received millions in taxpayer-funded entitlements since resigning as governor-general in 2003 less than two years after his appointment, following months of criticism over his handling of the abuse claims.
The Public Affairs Commission of the Anglican Church of Australia has gone some way to aiding the Greens’ bid, describing it as good public policy to enable the review of entitlements “based upon the allowance holder’s probity and the general expectation that the dignity of high office should be maintained”.
But its submission to the Senate inquiry, authored by Bishop Matt Brain before the church tribunal released its findings, does not give a view on whether Hollingworth’s entitlements should be stopped.
Greens senator David Shoebridge’s bill proposes to empower the government or either house of parliament to order that entitlements cease being paid to former governors-general when satisfied they have engaged in serious misconduct.
“This policy should be standard across all publicly held positions. This is necessary to uphold
confidence in public institutions and their related offices,” the church’s submission states. It adds that a ministerial declaration “may be the appropriate mechanism to trigger the cessation of allowances” but proposes that there be an external standard to assist the minister in making this declaration.
Greens senator David Shoebridge says the views held by the church’s public affairs unit highlight broad support for accountability on entitlements afforded to former governors-general.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
Shoebridge, whose bill mirrors a 2019 bill by former Greens senator Rachel Siewert that did not proceed to a vote, said the views held by the church’s public affairs unit highlighted the broad support for accountability for generous entitlements afforded to former governors-general.
“When even the institution involved is stepping up to say that the decent thing to do is
ensure public allowances can be removed when it’s appropriate, it’s time for the Labor and
Coalition parties to step up and support this essential change,” he said.
“Many victims and survivors of abuse have asked me to make this move, and I’m grateful to them for their continuing advocacy for justice, and their continuing belief that the political
system will respond to their calls.”
Beth Heinrich, who was sexually assaulted by Shearman when she was a teenager and has long campaigned for Hollingworth to be held accountable for the way he handled the complaints of survivors, said it was disgusting that he continued to receive more than $600,000 a year in salary and entitlements.
“It would be a fitting demonstration by the government that finally it can do the right thing if the church won’t,” Heinrich said.
Hollingworth declined to comment. The government has also been contacted for comment.
In a statement last month following the misconduct investigation, Hollingworth accepted the board’s recommendations and said: “Hardly a day has passed in the past 30 years when I have not reflected on these matters and my failings.”
Support is available from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service at 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).
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