The Guardian May 21, 2003


The defunct G-G

In the 1999 referendum for a republic, John Howard and the pro-
monarchist lobby cynically manipulated the whole process in order to 
scupper the "yes" vote. Howard publicly cast his lot with the monarchists. 
With the aid of the mass media, Howard sidetracked the main issue of 
whether Australia should be become a republic behind the question of how 
the head of state should be chosen.

Howard went on to choose his head of state; the Anglican Archbishop of 
Brisbane, Peter Hollingworth as the Governor-General. The appointment was 
made based on Howard and his Government's fundamentalist Christian values.

We now have the disgraceful situation of Howard defending his man who has 
admitted that while he was Archbishop he failed to act on reports he 
received of the sexual abuse of children in the Anglican boarding school 
system in Queensland. Hollingworth also faces allegations of rape.

Compounding this, Hollingworth has not resigned but stepped aside and 
another Governor-General has been appointed, so the Australian people now 
are lumbered with two representatives of the British monarchy in Australia.

The contradictions exposed by this debacle are many. It serves to highlight 
the historically defunct nature of the monarchy and the power of the church 
hierarchy. Such power relations, hidden and unaccountable, have allowed 
clergymen, whose sexual abuse of children is known, to remain in positions 
of authority over children in their charge. Hollingworth was acting as a 
de-facto pimp for paedophile priests.

It should be recalled that the head of the Catholic church in Sydney, 
George Pell, also was accused of rape but was let off through an internal 
church inquiry. Hollingworth, who also hoped to be let off by an internal 
church inquiry, was so burdened with admissions of "poor judgement" that 
his conduct could not be exonerated.

Howard's hypocrisy has no limits, as demonstrated by the Government's 
attempt to destroy the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission 
(ATSIC) and its vendetta against two of ATSIC's leaders, Ray Robertson and 
Geoff Clark.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Philip Ruddock is demanding Clark step down as 
ATSIC chairman pending the outcome a rape claim against him. The 
allegations have yet to go to court. So, while the Government has 
unequivocally defended Hollingworth  an unelected representative of a 
foreign monarch  it is, for its own political purposes, trying to force 
the democratically elected leaders of the nation's Indigenous organisation 
from office.

It was fortuitous that the person who made the rape allegations against 
Hollingworth died in April, apparently by her own hand.

The whole affair reflects the ideological and political commitment of the 
Government to the most antiquated institutions of the colonial era. In many 
respects, the republic referendum result was a vote of no confidence in 
Australia's political processes and the major parties.

What remains to be done is to develop a broad struggle, one that takes in 
democratic rights, including the rights of Australia's Indigenous people, 
in a movement towards an independent and sovereign Australia with a 
government of a new type.

* * *
Human rights violations
Three doctors have lodged a formal complaint with the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission against Australasian Correctional Management, the US- based prison corporation contracted by the Howard Government to manage Australia's refugee detention centres. Dr Loise Newman of the Royal Australasian College of Psychiatrists, Dr Michael Dudley, chairman of Suicide Prevention Australia, and Dr Bijou Blick, a paediatric medical officer have based their complaint on two cases that in themselves highlight Australia's cruel and inhumane mandatory refugee detention policy. One is a young Thai prostitute brought to Australia as a sex slave. She died in the Villawood detention centre in 2001. Dr Dudley described her horrific death on the ABC's Lateline program. "She was actually vomiting into a bucket and using the same bucket for toiletries. And it was only when she actually missed the bucket that someone went to check it out and found out she was dead." The other case is a young Iranian mother who was discovered by Dr Newman and Dr Blick in Villawood suffering from extreme postnatal depression, dehydration, fever and severe infection. Only after their intervention was she transferred to a hospital. These two cases are examples of what is happening to asylum seekers in Australia's prison camp system. They are violations of human rights for which the Australian Government is responsible, and for which it should be made to answer.
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