GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 449
3 May 2019
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The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Between November 1997 and October 2015 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In March 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.
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STOP PRESS- EARLY AM MISSES LUKE CREASEY STORY; LOTSA SHOUTING & BRAYING ON THE DRUM; ANNE HENDERSON CORRECTS UAP CANDIDATE’S CLAIM TO BE JOSEPH LYONS’ GREAT-GRANDSON
CAN YOU BEAR IT? STARRING ANDREW PROBYN, PETER MARTIN & PHILLIP ADAMS
FIVE PAWS AWARD- STEP FORWARD STEPHEN CONROY FOR BAGGING CANBERRA PRESS GALLERY’S SOFT COVERAGE OF THE GREENS
JACKIE ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL- JULIAN BURNSIDE CHANNELS AUNTY AND SMH READERS LEARN THAT LONG-TERM LABOR VOTER TOM KENEALLY DOESN’T VOTE LIBERAL (REALLY)
AN ABC UPDATE – LOOKING AT LAST MONDAY’S UNBALANCED Q&A
SANDALISTA WATCH- CRIKEY DISCOVERS THAT DUTTON HATERS REALLY DO WEAR SANDALS
DOCUMENTATION- ANNE MANNE’s ERRORS OF OMISSION AND COMMISSION IN APRIL’s MONTHLY (CONTINUED)
EARLY AM MISSES LUKE CREASEY STORY
Presenting the early AM program at 7.10 am this morning, Sabra Lane banged on about the trouble the Liberal Party candidate for Lyons Jessica Whelan was in – due to her social media postings on Islam and Muslims. However, early AM made no mention of the trouble the Labor candidate for Melbourne Luke Creasey was in due to his past social media posts on rape, lesbianism and more besides. Oh yes, Mr Creasey was once a bitter anti-Catholic sectarian with a hatred of Tony Abbott.
Sabra Lane only covered the Creasey matter in the edition of AM that went to air on Metropolitan Radio at 8am – after the issue had been raised on commercial television by the Liberal Party’s Simon Birmingham. This despite the fact that the Creasey scandal had been around for days.
As it turned out, Ms Whelan stepped down as a Liberal candidate before lunch – and Mr Creasey stepped down as a Labor candidate after lunch. However, a busy person who switched off the ABC Radio circa 7.30 am would have had no way of knowing that Luke Creasey was in any trouble at all. In short Ms Lane and the AM team at 7am missed the story.
JANE CARO BANGS THE LEFTIST DRUM LAST NIGHT ON THE DRUM – AMID SHOUTING MATCHES & PARTISAN BRAYING
On Thursday morning Gerard Henderson read Craig Mathieson’s “Hindsight” column in The Age’s Green Guide. This is what your man Mathieson had to say about ABC TV’s The Drum – under a gorgeous pic of its co-presenters Ms Ellen Fanning and Dr Julia Baird (for a doctor she is):
It’s a small list at best, but if any factual Australian television show is actually going to prosper from the current federal election campaign it may well be The Drum. The ABC’s weeknight current affairs and news analysis hour is meant to bypass smack-down shouting matches and partisan braying, and at a time when divisive qualities are in overdrive it has the potential to be a genuine alternative. New viewers might be surprised by what they find.
For viewers that aren’t used to it, one of the oddest things is how quiet it is. The rotating list of hosts – headlined by Ellen Fanning and Julia Baird – and the nightly guests speak at a conversational level. They’re not carrying a brusque tone or raised volume to discourage interruptions because it’s rare that guests interrupt one another. People tend to finish their answers, even if that leeway allows for some slight rambling. I’ll take that over clichéd digs.
Assured by your man Mathieson’s advice, Hendo turned on ABC 1 at Gin & Tonic Time (circa 6 pm) last night. It turned out that Kathryn Robinson was in the presenter’s chair and the panel comprised Robyn Parker, Jane Caro, Darren Saunders and Ali Kadri.
Seeking a refuge from “partisan braying”, Jackie’s (male) co-owner was shocked to hear the following rant from Comrade Caro against the Morrison government’s funding of government schools:
Jane Caro: So that’s the problem and that money is much more needed in the schools it’s being taken from than the money that is being given, gratuitously, outside of any funding scheme to the Catholic and independent sector. So unfortunately it’s as if the current Coalition government – and really Coalition federal governments (I absolve particularly New South Wales from this, state governments), have just said: “Oh public school students, oh public schools, public school people, they’re not our business, we don’t care, we’re not interested in them”.
It is appalling, they pay no attention. Um, I honestly think public schools around Australia, in response to the attitude of the Coalition, should actually refuse to have Coalition federal ministers and representatives in their schools. I think that they are so, um uh dismissive of the needs of those students, the real needs of those students, that drastic action needs to be taken. I really do!
When Robyn Parker tried to correct Jane Caro’s comment about Coalition funding for public schools, Ms Caro talked her down – see below. Hendo was truly shocked to find that the discussion was not at a conversational level and there were interruptions aplenty.
Then, later on, when it came to a discussion on the Coalition’s concern about the lack of freedom of expression at Australian universities, the University of New South Wales’ Darren Saunders took the lead in saying that there was really no problem at all. And all the other panelists agreed with him.
So, contrary to The Age’s Green Guide, The Drum last night featured (i) shouting matches, (ii) partisan braying, (iii) interruptions and (iv) clichéd digs – and, at times, a lack of diversity. Sure, in Mr Mathieson’s view, The Drum may be “a genuine alternative”. But it’s not clear to what.
ANNE HENDERSON CORRECTS HOWLER THAT CLIVE PALMER CANDIDATE IN HOBART IS THE GREAT GRANDSON OF JOE AND ENID LYONS
As avid readers are aware, MWD takes umbrage at journalists who believe what anyone tells them, without recognising that some people are ill-informed while others have false memories. Take, for example, Andrew Brown who reported in the (then) Fairfax Media newspapers on 9 June 2018 that a certain Jim Starkey is “the great-grandson [of former prime minister] Joseph Lyons.”
It so happens that this very same Jim Starkey is contesting the Tasmanian seat of Clark (formerly Denison) in the election on 18 May. Your man Starkey has been reported in the Tasmanian media as being the great grandson of Joe and Enid Lyons during the campaign.
Enter Jackie’s (female) co-owner – and biographer of both Joe Lyons and Enid Lyons – who issued a clarifying statement this morning. Here it is:
RE JIM STARKEY’S ALLEGED MEMBERSHIP OF THE JOE AND ENID LYONS FAMILY
Jim Starkey who is a candidate for the United Australia Party in the 2019 federal election in Tasmania has falsely claimed he is the great grandson of Joe and Enid Lyons. This has been reported as news in the media.
As the biographer of both Joe Lyons and Enid Lyons, I can confidently declare that neither Jim Starkey nor his wife Wendy have any relationship to Joe and Enid Lyons and their descendants.
Jim Starkey when questioned by David Austin – great grandson of Joe and Enid Lyons – has stated that his grandfather was a William Henry Lyons (ie a son of Joe and Enid Lyons) and his sister was Dulcy. There are no children of Enid and Joe Lyons named William Henry or Dulcy. Any claim to the contrary is simply false.
Any media outlets which have reported that Jim Starkey is a great grandson of Joe and Enid Lyons should correct any earlier reports of same.
The United Australia Party of the 1930s and early 1940s – founded by Joe Lyons and other MPs from the non Labor side of politics and which eventually became the Liberal Party of Australia – has no connection with Clive Palmer’s current UAP.
Author of Joseph Lyons – The People’s Prime Minister and Enid Lyons – Leading Lady to a Nation
So there you have it. It’s called fact-checking. Over to you Mr Brown.
ANDREW PROBYN’s “CHEEKY” REPORTING OF THE 2019 ELECTION CAMPAIGN
Jackie’s (male) co-owner was delighted to discover that ABC’s political editor Andrew Probyn found time to clear his diary and cover the first 2019 election Leaders Debate in Perth last Monday. After all, your man Probyn suggested on Insiders recently (10 February 2019) that he’d heard that Prime Minister Scott Morrison might call the election for Saturday 1 June.
In any event, Mr Probyn did cover the occasion – this is how his report commenced:
The great West Australian dream — aside from elusive secession, of course — is that on election night it all comes down to who wins what seat west of the Nullarbor. Alas, for those election-loving Sandgropers, election nights have long been stitched up well before the canapes and the cheeky Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc are dragged from the ageing Kelvinator on the verandah. So at least the blessed WA folk get the first leaders’ debate to boast about, even if the May 18 blockbuster doesn’t end up coming down to the electors in Hasluck, Swan, Stirling and Pearce.
What a wonderful picture of Western Australia – where the wines are cheeky and the refrigerators old. No wonder your man Probyn made it to the esteemed position of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s political editor.
It seems that Andrew Probyn saw Scott Morrison’s performance as resembling an old Perth-based fridge – while Bill Shorten presented as a well-stacked cupboard. For this is what he wrote:
Labor’s bulging cupboard of policies, accumulated and stacked over several years, offers a vastly different future. By comparison, the Coalition policy offering is rather threadbare.
However, the ABC’s political editor also had this to say:
But some of those ALP policies are so thorny, they are prone to leaving spikes in fingertips with even the lightest touch.
Whatever could this mean? Could this be a result of too many cheeky Western Australian wines on a verandah after Dark? Can You Bear It?
PETER MARTIN’s NEW FOUND BROMANCE WITH BILL SHORTEN
Did anyone see the stunning performance by Peter Martin – formerly of the taxpayer funded ABC and now with the taxpayer funded The Conversation – on ABC TV The Drum on Tuesday? If not, let MWD be the first to advise that your man Martin declared that he was in a bromance with Bill Shorten – following the Labor leader’s performance in the Leaders’ Debate last Monday.
Peter Martin told presenter Ellen Fanning that the economy was “not real” [Really? – MWD Editor] before taking viewers back to the US election presidential debate of 1960s. Let’s go to the transcript:
Peter Martin: …Let’s take you back to 1960
Ellen Fanning: Right-o.
Peter Martin: I wasn’t paying attention then but that was the uh Kennedy versus Nixon debate in the US and um apparently people who were listening on the radio. And LBJ [Lyndon B. Johnson] the uh, later the President, was listening on the radio rather than watching the TV, thought that Nixon had won because Nixon had the best points. When people saw the demeanour uh it was the other way round uh because Nixon looked shady.
I. Can’t. Stand. Listening to Bill Shorten. I can’t stand his smile. I can’t stand the way he delivers very good lines, written for him by other people. That’s just me. So I just happened to be, last night, listening not watching because the TV was uh over with my colleague Michelle Grattan in uh the other corner of the room in Parliament House and I was listening.
As a result I was listening to content and I thought Shorten is slaying them on content. I’m mean, you talk consensus – he was saying “look we agree on mental health, we can work together”. He was completely in command.
But then I thought “no”. I know what he looks like. And then just to, you know, for the last few minutes I actually turned it [the television] on and he looked good too. The point is that, um, when he delivers speeches he’s bad. Uh Morrison is very good delivering speeches, he’s very good with the blokey thing. But when it actually came to substance Morrison had nothing to say other than about Labor and kept saying it and as a result Shorten not only won the debate on substance which is what I was listening for but uh he actually looked good too. I was surprised [laughs]…
Peter Martin went on to say that former trade union operative Bill Shorten has “done things in his life” – whereas former property, marketing executive and Liberal Party operative Scott Morrison has “never had a real job”. In fact, their career paths before entering politics are fairly similar. Ah, the effect on a man who has just found bromance. Can You Bear It?
PHILLIP ADAMS SANS QANTAS LOUNGE BUT STILL HAS OLD JOKES TO RECYCLE
As avid readers will be aware, MWD’s campaign to get David Marr invited into the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge got nowhere. And now, alas, Phillip Adams announced in The Weekend Australian on 20 April that he had been advised that his Lounge membership would not be renewed.
What could be the reason for so cruel a decision by Qantas chairman Richard Goyder and Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce? For what it’s worth [It’s not worth much – MWD Editor] MWD has a theory. Perhaps Qantas staff could not find a name tag large enough to provide due recognition for the achievements of Phillip Adams AO, AM, Hon DUniv (Griffith), Hon DLitt (ECU), Hon DUniv (SA), DLitt [sic] (Syd), Hon. DUniv (Macquarie), FRSA, Hon FAHA.
Still, the ABC’s Man-in-Black ejection experience allowed him to recycle once again his joke about sleeping (sort of) with someone or other. This time it was none other than Janette Howard.
The charming [Qantas] Lounge staff would ensure I got my favourite seat on the aircraft, 1A, unless Mrs Howard pulled rank. If she did, they’d have to give it to her. But showing their sense of humour (and to her visible annoyance) they’d plonk me in 1B. I’d tell Janette to relax – that I was putting on my eyeshades and passing out. That night, on the wireless, I’d inform my listeners that I’d been sleeping with the PM’s wife.
It’s not clear how often – or even if – Mrs Howard travelled in 1A next to your man Adams in 1B. Or the length of any such journey that would have required eye-shades (which are not distributed by Qantas on domestic flights). Nor is it clear that Janette Howard was visibly annoyed by such an occurrence – if such an event did occur. In any event, does anyone care about your man Adams’ relationship with the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge? Can You Bear It?[Er, no. Not really. But at least in this column Mr Adams did not tell us again (groan) that he was a teenage member of the Communist Party of Australia. – MWD Editor]
STEPHEN CONROY CALLS OUT CANBERRA PRESS GALLERY FOR OVERLOOKING THE GREENS’ POLITICAL SCANDALS
The Greens leader Richard Di Natale addressed the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday. Needless to say, he received a soft run from the blokes and sheilas of the Canberra Parliamentary Press Gallery who get to ask all the questions at such functions.
For example, Dr Di Natale – who is wont to moralise at length about parliamentary standards, the need for morality in political parties and all that stuff – did not get one question on the scandals of sexual harassment and bullying which have plagued the Greens in both Victoria and NSW in recent times. Not one.
This came to the attention of former Labor minister and current Sky News presenter Stephen Conroy when he appeared on Paul Murray Live on May Day. This is what Stephen Conroy had to say:
Stephen Conroy: Well look, I’m just frankly stunned – staggered – that not one person bothered to point to the utter chaos and dysfunction inside The Greens. I mean in New South Wales [there] was a war-zone between the two rival factions there. And in Victoria… they have actually had a former MP resign from the party and attack them for their own bullying culture. And Di Natale’s leadership in Victoria – Not one question? I mean, fair dinkum. Was the Press Gallery asleep at the Press Club today? That is just – they stand condemned by their own silence.
Stephen Conroy: Five Paws.
JACKIE ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
Due to popular demand, over the next couple of weeks Jackie’s (male) co-owner will monitor aspects of what’s left of the 2019 election campaign which may be of interest to avid readers.
JULIAN BURNSIDE AO QC CHANNELS THE ABC
Thanks to the avid Melbourne reader who drew MWD’s attention to this function organised by the Greens candidate for Kooyong – Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside AO QC which was held on Tuesday.
On Tuesday 30 April Julian Burnside will be joined by independent speaker Gillian Triggs and former Greens Senator Scott Ludlam for an evening of conversation about the current state of human rights in Australia and around the globe. Julian, Gillian and Scott will be speaking about the different approaches each has taken to try and improve human rights in this country, what’s been most effective in creating change, and what still needs to be done.
Ring a bell? It seems that JB AO QC has channelled the ABC in selling what are called “conversations” in which everyone agrees with everyone else and a fine (leftist) ideological time is had by all. The function was presented as an opportunity to hear “four unique perspectives”. But here was just one perspective – presented by four people (including the MC Jessica Taylor). Sure, Professor Triggs was presented as an “independent speaker” – but it’s not clear precisely what she is independent of.
By the way, it seems that the oh-so-pompous JB AO QC dropped his post-nominals for the flyer. Which indicates the influence of MWD, don’t you think?
QUELLE SURPRISE! LIFE-LONG LABOR VOTER TOM KENEALLY ADVISES SYDNEY MORNING HERALD READERS NOT TO VOTE LIBERAL
On Wednesday, Nine’s Sydney Morning Herald ran an article by author Thomas Keneally titled “Respect local citizen Abbott but vote MP Abbott out”. The reference was to Australia’s 28th prime minister standing as the endorsed Liberal Party candidate for Warringah in the 2019 election.
While conceding that, within Warringah, “Tony Abbott is not seen as the parliamentary wrecker depicted in the national press, but as something of a local hero” – Tom Keneally urged his “fellow residents” to vote the former prime minister out of politics.
Your man Keneally banged on about global warming, education, air quality, HECS debt (the HECS scheme was introduced by the Hawke Labor government), the NBN and so on. But – who cares? The fact is that your man Keneally has voted Labor since he became eligible to vote in Federal elections in 1958.
And yet the powers-that-be at the SMH reckon that it is some kind of news event that Tom K. does not want the Liberal Party to win the seat of Warringah. Really.
LAST MONDAY’S “BALANCED Q&A”- AN ANALYSIS
There is one (alleged) fact which the RMIT-ABC Fact Check unit never checks. Namely, the veracity of the claims by ABC TV Q&A program about the political “balance” of its audiences. Last Monday, for example, Q&A claimed that the audience balance was as follows:
Coalition: 34 per cent
Australian Labor Party: 31 per cent
Greens: 10 per cent
Undecided: 20 per cent
Other: 7 per cent
Nevertheless, the turn-out sounded like a Green/Left rally. Which confirms MWD’s belief that the easiest way for a leftist to join the Q&A kingdom is to take off their Che Guevara tee-shirt, put on a shirt, replace their sandals with sensible shoes and tell Q&A’s executive producer that you are a conservative admirer of Peter Dutton. And it’s “Open Sesame” or “Come in Leftie” or something like that.
And so, it came to pass that the Q&A audience was as “balanced” as the panel – which comprised the Coalition’s Mitch Fifield and Labor’s Chris Bowen plus three journalists – namely The Guardian Australia’s editor Lenore Taylor, Crikey’s managing editor Bhakthi Puvanenthiran and The Australian’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan. The Guardian and Crikey are left-wing on-line publications. Greg Sheridan is not a person of the left, but he has enjoyed good relations with the ALP’s right-wing faction. So, the balance on the panel – well, it wasn’t balanced.
Early on, the left-of-centre presenter Tony Jones declared: “We’ll be asking our panelists to keep their answers short – and I’ll pull them up if they get longer than a minute.”
So how did that go? Well, not all that well in the sense that some panelists got many more minutes than others. Here are Q&A’s own figures for the share of the discussion by each panelist.
Chris Bowen: 43 per cent
Mitch Fifield: 22 per cent
Lenore Taylor: 13 per cent
Greg Sheridan: 12 per cent.
Bhakthi Puvanenthiran: 9 per cent
So, the three left-of-centre panelists took up around two thirds of the discussion. How balanced can you get?
It’s also worth noting that the two sheilas on the panel got a mere 22 per cent of air time and even much less if Tony Jones’ comments are included in the count. It was very much a case of “The Blokes Have It”.
In his 1937 book The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell defended “the ordinary decent person” against “the intellectual, book-trained socialist”. He wrote that the latter “type is drawn, to begin with, entirely from the middle class, and from a rootless town-bred section of that middle class at that. …It includes…the foaming denouncers of the bourgeoisie, and the more-water-in your- beer reformers of whom [George Bernard] Shaw is the prototype, and the astute young social-literary climbers…and all that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruitjuice drinkers who come flocking towards the smell of “progress” like bluebottles to a dead cat.”
CRIKEY ADVISES DUTTON-HATERS TO RALLY IN HATS AND, YES, SANDALS
Due to overwhelming popular demand, this segment returns today – after what journalists like to call a W.E.B. – or Well Earned Break.
MWD has been monitoring the election campaign in the outer Brisbane seat of Dickson where the leftist middle class radicals who belong to the GetUp! soviet are attempting to defeat the sitting Liberal MP Peter Dutton. Paul Oosting, GetUp!’s supremo, does not even know the name of Australia’s deputy prime minister, treasurer or finance minister (see MWD Issue 449 among other places). But he sure knows that he doesn’t like Scott Morrison’s Minister for Home Affairs.
This is what Hilary Whiteman had to say about the battle for Dickson in Crikey on 18 April 2019 – under the heading “Inside the campaign to unseat Dutton”.
A show of hands under the pergola in Jacaranda Park reveals that several people who had come to door knock for GetUp! that Saturday had never done it before. Even fewer actually lived in Dickson, the Queensland electorate Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has held onto for 18 years, and the seat they’re desperate to shift. This is a campaign for anyone but Dutton….
In Jacaranda Park, as she is every Saturday afternoon, GetUp’s doorknock leader Caitlin Gordon-King runs through the spiel for the 40 or so volunteers in hats and sandals who will spend the next one and half hours knocking on doors in Dickson….
So there you have it. Roll up in Dickson on Saturday and door-knock against Peter Dutton. All you need is a hat and sandals. Enough said.[Are you sure they don’t need a Che Guevara tee-shirt and Castro-style pants in case the weather changes? Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]
ANNE MANNE’s ERRORS OF OMISSION & COMMISSION IN THE MONTHLY re R v GEORGE PELL (CONTINUED)
There was considerable interest expressed in MWD’s critique (see Issue 447) of Anne Manne’s essay The Trial of Pell: The Cardinal and the Damage Done which was published in the April 2019 edition of The Monthly.
Like some other commentators, Ms Manne showed a profound lack of legal knowledge when she wrote: “Although [Chief Judge Peter] Kidd is obliged to accept the jury’s verdict and sentence accordingly, his remarks did not sound like those of a judge who felt that this was an unsafe verdict”.
In expressing her personal opinion, Anne Manne overlooked Chief Judge Peter Kidd’s explicit statement: “I must at law give full effect to the jury’s verdict. It is not for me to second guess the jury. What this means is that I am required to accept, and act upon, J’s [i.e. the complainant’s] account.” He later added: “By the jury’s verdict, this offending occurred.”
Needless to say, Anne Manne’s significant howler is not corrected in the current (May 2019) issue of The Monthly. There were two other serious omissions/errors in Anne Manne’s article:
▪ Victoria Police Howler
Ms Manne had this to say about Paul Kelly’s comment in The Australian (on 1 March 2019) referring to an “anti-Catholic bias” in Victoria Police following George Pell’s conviction on historic child sexual abuse charges:
… “Our media demands a scapegoat,” Paul Kelly wrote in The Australian in March, pointing to Victoria Police’s alleged “anti-Catholic bias” in bringing the case against Cardinal Pell. This represented the “poisoning of our culture”. In reality, the royal commission exposed the pro-Catholic bias of those in Victoria Police who over many years were involved in cover-ups. The culture led to Mildura policeman Denis Ryan losing his job for trying to bring the dreadful paedophile, Monsignor John Day, to justice.
This comment is hopelessly wrong. It is true that the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse referred to the practice of Victoria Police in the 1960s and 1970s of not prosecuting Catholic clergy for child sexual abuse. This was part of a wider criticism of the failure of police forces in all States to properly address child sexual abuse. However, this was documented in the book Unholy Trinity: The hunt for the paedophile priest Monsignor John Day (Allen & Unwin, 2013) by Denis Ryan and Peter Hoysted – before the Royal Commission delivered its findings.
As this book documents, there were reports in the Melbourne media (Melbourne Observer, 13 August 1972) about Day’s offending as early as 1972. But Victoria Police did not investigate the case.
In fact, the Royal Commission treated Victoria Police softly. If such notorious priest pedophiles as John Day and Gerald Ridsdale had been arrested in the late 1960s or early 1970s, this would have sent a clear message that such crimes would be punished. As Peter Hoysted wrote in The Australian on 8 February 2017: “The Royal Commission appears stubbornly unwilling to investigate the link between clerical pedophilia and police”. He pointed to the fact that former policeman Denis Ryan was not cross-examined at the Royal Commission concerning his first-hand knowledge about how Victoria Police covered up John Day’s crimes.
The point overlooked by Anne Manne is that such cover-ups took place close to half a century ago. The attitude of Victoria Police to the Catholic Church changed in subsequent decades.
Ms Manne seems ignorant of the fact that, in October 2012, Victoria Police Commissioner Graham Ashton gave inaccurate evidence, concerning the Melbourne Response (set up by George Pell in 1996 to handle child clerical sexual abuse) to the Victorian Parliament’s Family and Community Development Committee Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations. This is documented in Submission by Peter O’Callaghan QC In Reply to Police Submission and Evidence dated 26 April 2013. This is a public document which, apparently, Ms Manne did not read. Mr O’Callaghan described Commissioner Ashton’s evidence – which was highly critical of the Catholic Church – as a “travesty”.
Moreover, following Louise Milligan’s ABC TV 7.30 report on George Pell which aired on 26 February 2017, Graham Ashton took the extraordinary step of discussing the matter on Radio 3AW. He described those making complaints about Pell as “victims”. At that time Victoria Police had not laid any charges against Pell.
This statement from the Commissioner of Victoria Police was damaging to the Catholic Church in general and George Pell in particular. Two men went on camera and alleged to 7:30 that they had been assaulted by Pell in the Eureka Pool in Ballarat in the 1970s. As it turned out, the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped these charges against Pell earlier this year – since there was insufficient admissible evidence to sustain a conviction. In short, the complaints were complaints – and remain complaints today. Graham Ashton’s comment on 3AW that they were “victims” was prejudicial to George Pell.
In short, Anne Manne’s assertion that there was no “anti-Catholic bias” in the Victoria Police around the time that it decided in 2017 to prosecute Pell is simply ignorant. Consequently, her criticism of Paul Kelly’s article in this instance is completely unfounded.
▪ John Silvester’s Omission
In her Monthly article, Ms Manne also suggested that it was only alleged “Pell apologists” – she named Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, Paul Kelly and Greg Craven – who expressed concern at the jury’s verdict in R v George Pell (which is currently being appealed). All of this quartet commented on the Pell verdict in News Corp newspapers.
In writing this, Anne Manne conveniently overlooked the fact that perhaps the most confronting concern about the Pell conviction was written by experienced crime reporter John Silvester who is employed by Nine (formerly Fairfax Media). Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on 28 February 2019, John Silvester had this to say, under the heading “Beyond reasonable doubt: Was Pell convicted without fear and favour?” :
…Pell was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt on the uncorroborated evidence of one witness, without forensic evidence, a pattern of behaviour or a confession. It is a matter of public record that it is rare to run a case on the word of one witness, let alone gain a conviction….
Pell has become a lightning rod in the worldwide storm of anger at a systemic cover-up of priestly abuses. But that doesn’t make him a child molester. If Pell did molest those two teenagers in the busy cathedral, it certainly does not fit the usual pattern of paedophile priests.
Those in power identify vulnerable potential victims, groom and then isolate them, committing offences in private then pressuring the abused into silence. Most of the successful historical prosecutions come when police find multiple individual victims who testify about similar facts.
Take Mildura’s Monsignor John Day (whose crimes were wickedly covered up by the church and police). He would take a boy to Melbourne on the pretext of an excursion, then say they would be staying at his sister’s house and would have to share a bed.
In the Pell case, although he had access to hundreds of boys over his career he did not groom the vulnerable. Instead he attacked two he did not know in broad daylight in a near public area. He could not have known if one of them was not the son of the chief commissioner, the premier or the chief justice who were waiting outside to collect them.
He could not have known if one of them would walk straight out and blow the whistle on him, and with two kids in the room he would have been sunk. This is not the action of a cunning paedophile but of a random, opportunistic criminal who usually turns out to be a serial offender. Yet no one has alleged Pell had a history of this type of crime….
John Silvester is neither a conservative nor a Catholic nor part of News Corp. Moreover, he has not had any connection to George Pell. Clearly, Anne Manne did not refer to John Silvester’s concern about the Pell verdict because it did not fit her, or The Monthly’s, narrative. That’s unprofessional journalism.
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Until next time.
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