Governor general accused of telling girl that sex abuse by priest was 'only human'

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The Independent Online

Fresh controversy surrounded Australia's governor general, Peter Hollingworth, yesterday, as the Queen arrived in New Zealand at the start of a regional tour likely to be overshadowed by the scandal.

Dr Hollingworth, who has been accused of covering up incidents of child sexual abuse when he was the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, allegedly told a woman who claimed she had been abused in a cathedral loft that men's sexual urges were "only human".

He is also said to have asked her whether she had been blonde at the time of the alleged assaults by a church worker 20 years her senior. She was 17 at the time. Her account of the conversation with Dr Hollingworth was corroborated by a victim support worker, Karen Walsh, who attended the meeting in 1998. But he described it as "a distortion" and said he did not recall making such remarks about the abuse.

He said in a statement: "Dr Hollingworth may have made references to the obvious human weaknesses involved in such a case, but not in any way to condone them."

The Queen, who will fly to Australia on Wednesday, began her golden jubilee tour of the Antipodes in Wellington yesterday, as an opinion poll published in The New Zealand Herald found that 58 per cent of people regarded the monarchy as having little or no relevance. Among the welcoming party was Georgina Beyer, the world's first transsexual MP.

Dr Hollingworth, the Queen's representative in Australia, was also in New Zealand, where he is conducting a three-day state visit. The pair are not expected to meet.

In further a embarrassment for the governor general, the parents of three children withdrew them from a school choir that sang for him at a Wellington school yesterday. Australian television is expected to broadcast new allegations against him tomorrow.