F IVE words uttered in the Australian Parliament - "John Holloway is a pedophile"
- have stunned both the accused and Cambodian child welfare groups.
came as a complete and utter shock and had nothing to do with us," said Tony
Culnane, who runs a World Vision street kid center in Phnom Penh, of the
allegation which rocked Australia.
"We didn't name names," he said of
information which local NGOs had earlier sent to the Australian government about
alleged Australian pedophiles in Cambodia.
Meanwhile Holloway, the former
Australian ambassador now a top adviser to the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, says
his reputation has been tainted forever.
Holloway - who refused to talk
to the Phnom Penh Post - told the Sydney Morning Herald that his
accuser, backbench MP Ken Aldred, had no evidence.
regarding me is strictly untrue. I am angered because parliamentary privilege
enables him to slander innocent citizens without any
"This is a travesty of justice and an abuse of free
speech," said Holloway, 52.
But, he believes, the damage is done. No
matter how many times he denies the allegation, it will be believed, and his
future career has evaporated overnight.
Aside from sensational headlines,
all Aldred has won at home is the anger of both his own Opposition leadership
and government ministers.
Aldred had a big week - prior to naming
Holloway as one of 20 diplomats who were pedophiles, the MP claimed Australia's
chief diplomat Michael Costello had received $1 million from an Israeli secret
agent with links to South American drug lords.
That statement led Foreign
Affairs Minister Gareth Evans to describe Aldred's allegation as "the lowest
form of political and human behavior."
Aldred's "pedophile" speech,
however, landed him in hotter water. His own party - taken by surprise by his
claims - called them regrettable.
The Australian attorney-general, Mr
Lavarch, said Aldred's comments were the worst breach of Parliamentary privilege
he had seen in 17 years.
But for all that Holloway's reputation has been
damaged - and perhaps, ironically, that of Aldred - there is greater concern
about the possible repercussions for attempts to track down
Some child welfare workers in Cambodia have expressed concern
that the flurry of headlines will push the child sex trade underground, making
it harder to keep tabs on. Others, however, say it is high time that the issue
was thrust under public, and governmental, attention.
care workers deny any responsibility for the claims made in the Australian
Aldred's June 5 allegations followed the sending of a
confidential request for help to deal with pedophiles in Cambodia to the
Australian Federal Police (AFP).
Both Australian Justice Minister Duncan
Kerr and World Vision Australia have said the request was for an investigation
into Australians involved in organized child-sex activities in
Tony Culnane, however, maintains the request was merely for
advice on how to gather evidence against pedophiles, and for possible assistance
to the Cambodian police.
He says the request came from about 30 UN and
private agencies making up the Child Welfare Group in Cambodia, which recently
began monitoring known child prostitution pick-up places in Phnom
"We are not following individuals, diplomats, businessmen or
visitors. We're just going to places to watch," Culnane said of the
But the agencies wanted to know whether their observations could be
used as evidence under Australia's Child Sex Tourism Act, which allows
Australians involved in pedophilia abroad to be prosecuted at home.
asked the Australian Federal Police 'Can you send somebody to give us some
advise on what does our observations mean in this context? Are they
"We've had no formal response yet. Now we don't know whether we
will, given what's happened."
The AFP was also asked whether they would
be willing to help train Cambodian police officers if a child-protection police
unit were established in Phnom Penh.
Culnane says Holloway, or others,
were not named to the AFP.
"We didn't tell them the pick-up points. We
didn't name names...we asked for technical advice... We're not gunning for
Australians, we're trying to work out a way we can protect children."
Australia, however, NGOs have said they want an AFP investigation into
A World Vision spokeswoman was quoted as saying an
investigation was requested into "Australian expatriates, diplomats and
tourists" involved in pedophilia.
Another agency, End Child Prostitution
in Asian Tourism said: "We have information that prominent Australians and
foreign diplomats have been involved in these activities and we are asking the
government to investigate."
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs
has meanwhile started an internal inquiry into allegations diplomats have been
involved with pedophilia while on overseas service.
The allegations are
long-standing - some were raised as long ago as 1988, and others more
Two months ago, a Philippines senator alleged that two serving
Australian diplomats, and a former one, had molested children while posted to
Manila several years ago.
Meanwhile the only Australian diplomat to have
been publicly named in Australia, John Holloway, fears his career is
"Who's going to give someone accused of this any responsible public
job?" he told the Herald.
Holloway, who is about to finish a year's
contract with the Cambodian Foreign Ministry and return to Canberra, said: "The
government has to decide whether I'm suitable for any of the senior posts now
"Even when I'm exonerated I believe that these accusations
will still cause hesitation."
The former ambassador, who is divorced with
five adult children, said he found pedophilia abhorrent.
"I don't believe
it is a valid form of sexuality. I believe it is a crime. As someone who has
raised five children I can only say there is nothing acceptable about forcing
sexuality on children."