Writing in The Spectator Australia online on February 12, Curtin University law school academic Rocco Loiacono referred to several “notorious cases of wrongful conviction” in Australia’s criminal law history.

He cited well-known instances concerning Cardinal George Pell and Lindy Chamberlain in Victoria and the Northern Territory respectively – along with those of Colin Campbell Ross (in Victoria) plus John Button, Darryl Beamish, Andrew Mallard and brothers Ray, Peter and Brian Mickelberg (all in Western Australia).

Ross was hanged in Melbourne Gaol in 1922; he was pardoned posthumously in 2008. The rest were freed by the judicial system after serving terms of imprisonment.

On any analysis, the Pell case is one of the most significant trials in Australian legal history, especially in view of the devastating dissent by Justice Mark Weinberg in the Victorian Court of Appeal that in effect was agreed to by the High Court of Australia in its seven-zero unanimous decision to quash Pell’s conviction on April 7, 2020.

In view of the significance of the Pell case, it is important that all the relevant history relating to the matter is retained for examination now and in the future. But, despite its membership of the Right to Know Coalition of media organisations committed to ensuring public access to information, the ABC has “cancelled” some of its coverage of the matter.

The main impetus in the case occurred when, on July 27, 2016, ABC television program 7.30 devoted its entire 30-minute episode to presenting what Sabra Lane described in her introduction as the “full picture” of the allegations concerning Pell of historical child sexual abuse. This related to (alleged) offences in Ballarat’s Eureka Swimming Pool in the 1970s and at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in the mid-90s.

Louise Milligan presented the program. The episode was cleared by senior ABC management before it went to air. Milligan repeated, and substantially elaborated on, the 7.30 claims in her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell published by MUP in 2017.

Interviewed on ABC TV News Breakfast on May 16, 2017, Milligan told Virginia Trioli that Cardinal was written “from the complainants’ point of view”. In other words, it was not a disinterested study but rather the work of an activist journalist. In view of this, it came as no surprise that Milligan was called by the defence to give evidence at the committal proceedings in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court. She was a player in the case.

The 7.30 program became a significant part of the Pell proceedings. However, the video of the program along with the ABC’s transcript have been wiped from the ABC’s archive.

Check out past 7.30 programs on the ABC website. The full episodes, plus transcripts, are there in 2016 for July 26, July 28 and July 29. But nothing for July 27.It is as if the program did not go to air that night and the 7.30 team had the day off. No explanation is provided for the deletion.

Now Pell supporters have no reason to have sought this episode to be expunged from Australian history; quite the contrary. The ABC has advised that “the material had to be removed as it related to a matter before the courts” but no date has been provided as to when this is said to have occurred.

Nor has any explanation been given as to why there is still much comment hostile to Pell remaining on the ABC website.

What’s more, the ABC has not said why the material was not returned to its website after the High Court’s unanimous decision. It would seem the ABC has obliterated this program because it is embarrassing to the taxpayer-funded broadcaster. The allegations raised by 7.30 concerning the Eureka Swimming Pool were dropped before the trial by the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions due to a lack of evidence. And Pell’s convictions with respect to the St Patrick’s Cathedral allegations were quashed by the High Court.

The problem was the Victorian DPP could not explain before the High Court how the alleged offences could have taken place in a crowded cathedral on a Sunday immediately after solemn mass with hundreds of people in the area at the time and with Pell shadowed on the occasion by his attendants – with the many faithful waiting to meet him immediately after such ceremony.

It was not only the Victorian DPP that was unable to explain this. Nor was 7.30 in general and Milligan in particular. This is the likeliest reason the ABC has sent Milligan’s program down what George Orwell once termed the “memory hole”.

Since the High Court decision, three substantial books have been written on the Pell case: Keith Windschuttle’s The Persecution of George Pell (Quadrant Books, 2020), Frank Brennan SJ’s Observations on the Pell Proceedings (Connor Court, 2021) and my book Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt (Connor Court, 2021). The ABC has completely ignored all publications except for one interview with Windschuttle on Radio National’s The Religion and Ethics Report.

In view of the ABC’s obsessive and overwhelmingly hostile interest in Pell through the years, this seems like censorship. I wrote to ABC managing director David Anderson about this on December 15 last year, in his capacity as ABC’s editor-in-chief, indicating that I was willing to discuss my book on any suitable program. He has not responded. This is not surprising since the public broadcaster is a staff collective where programs are run by journalists, not editors or managers.

Interviewed on ABC TV on Thursday, Anderson declared the ABC was committed to truth and devoted to “informing people”. The problem here is that the ABC is not interested in providing information about all aspects of the Pell case since it censors critics about its coverage of this matter and pretends there never was a program presenting a flawed case for the Pell prosecution.