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Rape-cloud governor steps aside

Melbourne, May 11 (Reuters): Australia’s titular head of state has temporarily given up office while rape claims he firmly denies are resolved, but his long-term future is uncertain, Prime Minister John Howard said today.

Governor-General Peter Hollingworth, the British Queen’s envoy to Australia and a former Anglican archbishop, stunned Australia three days ago when he issued a public denial that he raped a girl at a church camp 40 years ago.

The bombshell came as Hollingworth already faced pressure to resign after a church inquiry found he allowed a paedophile to remain a priest in the 1990s when he was an archbishop. “It has been agreed between the governor-general and myself that he will stand aside from his position as governor-general, pending the determination of the court proceedings,” Howard told a news conference.

“It is only when the proceedings started by the late Ms Jarmyn have been resolved that proper consideration can be given by the governor-general to his longer-term tenure of the office.”

It is the first time in the 102-year history of the vice-regal office that a governor-general has stepped aside. But opposition politicians and child welfare groups continued to call for Hollingworth’s resignation, saying it was not enough to step aside since he had also mishandled child sex abuse cases as an archbishop. “The decision of the Prime Minister tonight is totally unacceptable,” said Labour opposition leader Simon Crean.

The decision for Hollingworth, 68, to stand aside was taken after Howard met his hand-picked governor-general today, following the Prime Minister’s return from a nine-day world tour.

Hollingworth said in a statement he had made the move mindful of maintaining “the integrity and dignity of the office”.

An administrator, Tasmanian governor Guy Green, takes over in the interim.

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