Bill targets misbehaving governors-general

Finbar O'Mallon and Sonia Kohlbacher

Governors-general accused of serious misconduct could be stripped of their allowances under a new law proposed by the Greens.

Senator Rachel Siewert is introducing a private member's bill which could see former governor-general Peter Hollingworth see his payments cut.

Dr Hollingworth was forced to quit in 2003 after an inquiry found he had allowed a known paedophile to stay on as a priest while he was the Anglican archbishop of Brisbane.

Taxpayers still fund Dr Hollingworth's $357,000 annual pension plus travel and office expenses, despite his stint as head of state ending in disgrace after less than two years.

Senator Siewert said the bill addressed a clear oversight.

"It is important that people who hold public office are held accountable," she said on Wednesday.

Lisa Flynn, lawyer for the father of a deceased man sexually abused by Catholic Cardinal George Pell as a boy, says survivors and their supporters want individuals who turn a blind eye to child sex abuse to face the consequences.

"There's a hugely strong sentiment that people who cover up child sexual abuse, who don't report it, who don't stop it when they have an opportunity to do so, should actually be punished," she said.

"Rather than continue to reap the rewards of the position that they were in when they allowed the abuse to continue."

Ms Flynn believes many would be shocked by the sum of taxpayer funding Dr Hollingworth receives each year.

"I think that it would come as a surprise to many people when it was very public, in terms of his failings towards children that were vulnerable and that were being sexually abused," she added.

"I do think that it's an incredible sort of sum for anyone to receive, but particularly when someone has acted like that in their career."

The bill's explanatory memorandum defines serious misconduct as inappropriate, improper, wrong or unlawful conduct, or a failure to act.

According to the bill, this could include corruption, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, theft, fraud and other criminal behaviour.