A coalition of sexual abuse survivor groups has urged the prime minister to strip former governor-general Peter Hollingworth of his taxpayer-funded pension and entitlements.
The groups – Bravehearts, Blue Knot Foundation, Care Leavers Australasia Network, End Rape on Campus, Beyond Abuse and Queensland Child Sexual Abuse Legislative Reform Council – have signed an open letter to Scott Morrison saying it is “shameful” Dr Hollingworth receives the money.
Dr Hollingworth became governor-general in 2001 but was forced to resign in 2003 after a series of scandals over his handling of sexual abuse allegations against priests and teaching staff while he was the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane in the 1990s.
As a former governor-general, he receives an annual pension of $357,732, as well as a Commonwealth-funded office and staff in the prestigious 101 Collins Street building in Melbourne’s CBD.
Documents provided under Freedom of Information show that in 2015–16, Dr Hollingworth spent more than $275,000 on office and travel expenses, on top of his pension for that year of $328,000.
The groups said in their letter that the current Governor-General Act, which allows Dr Hollingworth to receive the public-funded salary and allowances, should be changed.
“Under existing legislation a former governor-general could be convicted of a crime and imprisoned and the government would be obliged to continue to pay them,” the letter stated
“At the time of drafting the legislation, the Parliament did not foresee that a former governor-general would have betrayed the public trust so severely … and therefore the legislation contains no provision to stop ongoing payments of public money.”
The group would like to see a Code of Conduct attached to the legislation, linking ongoing payments to a character test, and a provision to cease payments to a former governor-general if it’s no longer considered to be in the public interest.
It is time for that oversight to be corrected and we look at you Prime Minister to rectify this wrong.”
Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston is a signatory to the letter. She said Mr Morrison needs to step up.
“I hope we have a prime minister now who is going to put children’s best interests first and I hope that is the message he puts out there,” she said.
“Because when you do that you put the nation first.”
She said former governors-general should be looked after and honoured.
“But Peter Hollingworth does not fit that same example – by his own action and he has admitted his own action.
“So to then still take the money even though you know you have betrayed all these children, you know you have done the wrong thing, is really quite appalling.”
Kelvin Johnston from the Queensland Child Sexual Abuse Legislative Reform Council said the prime minister must act before the national apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, scheduled for October 22.
“It is despicable. Anyone with a moral conscience would say ‘OK I have done wrong, I will forgo something’. But to keep accepting that money it is just beyond belief,” he said.
“It’s a shameful scenario and an un-Australian situation that the prime minister must fix now and before the national apology.”
The Prime Minister’s office has been contacted for comment.