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Prime Minister Under Pressure To Launch National iInquiry Into Child Sex Abuse

Apr 17, 2002 | AP

Prime Minister John Howard was under increasing pressure Wednesday to launch a national inquiry into child sex abuse following a series of scandals involving the Anglican Church.

A string of sex abuse cases involving clergy and teachers at Anglican schools almost sparked a constitutional crisis two months ago when it embroiled the nation's de facto head of state Governor-General Peter Hollingworth — a man hand-picked by Howard for the job.

A number of victims claimed Hollingworth tried to cover up child sex abuse allegations when he was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane in the 1990s. As governor-general, Hollingworth represents Australia's head of state, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain.

Conceding "errors of judgment," Hollingworth apologized publicly and personally to some of the victims. Backed by Howard, he survived a torrid two months during which the federal opposition, state government premiers and a broad range of community leaders demanded his resignation, claiming the scandal had undermined the governor-general's moral authority.

As the revelations unfolded in February, Phillip Aspinall, the current Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, capital of Queensland state, vowed to set up a church inquiry, but this week said a national independent judicial inquiry, known as a Royal Commission, was also needed.

On Wednesday, Queensland state government premier, Peter Beattie, added his voice to those calls arguing that "pedophiles don't respect state borders."

"Let's look at what happened here in the Anglican church, but let's look at what happened in all areas," Beattie said.

Howard said he would consider Aspinall's request, but had reservations, arguing governments should not set up a Royal Commission for every problem in the community.

"If there is a group in the community that feels it has something to investigate regarding child abuse in its own ranks, then it should do so itself," he said.

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