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‘It’s obscene’: Peter Hollingworth urged to give up his $600k pension and benefits

Former governor-general Peter Hollingworth is being urged to forego hundreds of thousands of dollars from his taxpayer-funded pension and entitlements he receives every year.

Key points:

  • Senator Derryn Hinch says Dr Hollingworth should forego his taxpayer-funded pension
  • Abuse survivors want former governors-general to be stripped of their entitlements in cases of misconduct
  • Dr Hollingworth says no inquiries have recommended action against him

Dr Hollingworth was forced to resign as governor-general in 2003 after a series of scandals over his handling of sexual abuse allegations against priests and teaching staff while he was the 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 St 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.

In the six years between 2010 and 2016, his office and travel expenses alone added up to almost $1.5 million.

"I think it's obscene, but it's legal," senator Derryn Hinch said.

"If he had any moral standing, he would not accept that pension."

There has been renewed scrutiny of Dr Hollingworth's positions and entitlements after the ABC yesterday revealed he is still a bishop in the Anglican Church.

Category 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16
Office accommodation $125,059 $135,197 $136,879 $137,469 $153,739 $144,411
Communications $8,137 $7,480 $7,598 $7,902 $7,083 $6,597
General office expenses $4,720 $2,847 $4,683 $2,039 $2,218 $4,378
Staff costs $593 $126,325 $83,201 $87,182 $100,670
Travel/Vehicle costs $20,104 $18,088 $18,654 $8,081 $14,690 $13,228
Fringe Benefits Tax $7,432 $7,734 $6,591 $6,868 $6,713 $7,429

While he is not paid a salary by the diocese of Melbourne, abuse survivors say the church should revoke his holy orders, based on the findings of several inquiries into his actions as archbishop of Brisbane.

Last year, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found Dr Hollingworth made a "serious error of judgement" in allowing paedophile priest John Elliot to continue in the ministry, and that he failed to take into account a psychiatrist's advice that Elliot was an "untreatable" paedophile who posed a risk of re-offending.

"I think the payments need to stop," Kelvin Johnston, an abuse survivor who now serves on the Queensland Child Sexual Abuse Legislative Reform Committee, said.

"It's millions — that sort of money could go a long way to looking after the wellbeing of survivors of child sexual abuse. And towards issues like homelessness among survivors. We shouldn't reward such behaviour."

Mr Johnston said advocates made Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull aware of their concerns 12 months ago, and they want a misconduct clause in the legislation covering the entitlements of former governors-general.

The atrium at 101 Collins Street, Melbourne.

"We have a national apology to survivors happening on the 22nd of October," he said.

"It will make an absolute mockery, and show the insincerity of the apology to survivors, if the Prime Minister does not step up and take action."

"He needs to take a leadership position, like he did on the Philip Wilson matter."

Queensland Child Sexual Abuse Legislative Reform Committee member Kelvin Johnston

In July, the Prime Minister called on Pope Francis to sack Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson, who was found guilty of concealing child sex abuse by a Catholic priest in the 1970s.

Philip Wilson later stood down.

Mr Turnbull's office declined to comment to the ABC on questions about Dr Hollingworth.

Nor did Dr Hollingworth respond to questions from the ABC about his entitlements.

But in an earlier statement, his spokesman said Dr Hollingworth had participated in four previous inquiries over 15 years, including two case studies at the royal commission — and that "none had recommended action against him".

We take complaints seriously: church

In response to yesterday's ABC report about complaints about Dr Hollingworth's ongoing status as a bishop, Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier said in a statement that the church took all complaints against clergy very seriously through its independent complaints handling body, Kooyoora Ltd.

"My role is to respect that independent process and allow it to do its work, free of interference or public commentary from the church," Archbishop Freier said.

Under this process, Archbishop Freier is bound to follow any substantive recommendation.

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