GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 541
14 May 2021
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LAST NIGHT’S Q&A – YET ANOTHER ANTI-MORRISON GOVERNMENT PILE-ON
Senator Jane Hume – the Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy – did a fine job on ABC TV Q&A’s post-budget special last night. She had to take on the other four panellists – Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers, Greens Senator Larissa Waters, Independent MP for Indi Helen Haines and Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie. Plus presenter Hamish (“I don’t watch television unless I’m on it”) Macdonald – whose frequent interventions in the debate invariably were aimed at Senator Hume. See below.
So it was a Coalition minister up against a Labor frontbencher, plus a Greens senator, plus an Independent MP of the Zali Steggall Green/Left type, plus a Tasmanian senator who tends to criticise the Morrison government from the populist right. Plus a Green/Left-style presenter. Plus the familiar Green/Left audience stack – the program was filmed in Canberra, need MWD say more?
Comrade Macdonald commenced the program by suggesting that the budget had discriminated against young Australians because of the debt taken on in response to the COVID-19 recession. Q&A had never previously regarded net government debt as much of a problem – especially during the time of the Labor government which after the 2010 election governed with the support of the Greens. Nor was mention made of the fact that lots of the borrowed money would help to sustain youth employment.
And so it went on – with the baying mob that was the audience essentially cheering-on all panellists, except for the Minister. By the way, virtually all the questions/comments approved by Q&A were hostile to the Morrison government.
In such an environment, it would have been professional for Comrade Macdonald to play a neutral role. This would have required that he not participate in the pile-on against Senator Hume and that he not direct leading questions to the likes of Senator Waters. But he did both.
Towards the end of the program, Hamish Macdonald directed this soft question to the Greens Senator Larissa Waters:
Hamish McDonald: Larissa Waters, you heard, the Labor position on this. The question was about the Government’s position on electric vehicles. Uh, Labor doesn’t have interim targets for carbon reductions. The Government, even in the budget, wouldn’t commit to a firm 2050 target. Do you think either of these parties are serious about climate change?
Larissa Waters: Uh, spoiler alert. No I don’t. We need policies that are based on science and sadly today….[the response continued uninterrupted, for some time].
Enough said. And, shortly before this, the presenter had argued his case against Senator Hume – replete with interruptions. Let’s go to the transcript after Hamish Macdonald had asked Senator Hume a 65 word question suggesting that the Morrison government should commit funding to establishing more quarantine centres. Senator Hume was only 17 words into her response when the presenter commenced interrupting:
Jane Hume: We’re considering two proposals [concerning quarantine] that have been proposed by two States, right now, but in the meantime –
Hamish McDonald: [interjecting] but –
Jane Hume: – and –
Hamish McDonald: – why –
Jane Hume: – half –
Hamish McDonald: – why –
Jane Hume: – a –
Hamish McDonald: – just –
Jane Hume: – billion –
Hamish McDonald: – don’t –
Jane Hume: – dollars –
Hamish McDonald: – understand –
Jane Hume: – in –
Hamish McDonald: – why –
Jane Hume: – Howard Springs –
Hamish McDonald: – it’s up to them –
Jane Hume: – expanding its capacity to 2000 people –
Hamish McDonald: – but why
Jane Hume: – is the Federal government’s –
Hamish McDonald: – is it up to the states to propose this? –
Jane Hume: – quarantine program.
As an examination of the transcript reveals, this is what Senator Hume said (absent Macdonald’s interruptions):
Jane Hume: We’re considering two proposals [concerning quarantine] that have been proposed by two States, right now. But in the meantime – and half a billion dollars in Howard Springs expanding its capacity to 2000 people is the Federal government’s quarantine program.
Senator Hume’s response was remarkably coherent in view of Macdonald’s constant interruptions. But she battled to get a word in, in response to his question.
Perhaps Q&A executive producer Erin Vincent might see fit to remind Comrade Macdonald that he is not an elected politician – but rather a taxpayer funded employee of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster who is supposed to be non-partisan when at work. And also that a presenter’s role is to listen to answers – and not to interrupt because he or she disagrees with the answer.
In the aftermath of a budget, the Coalition probably has to put up a panellist to go on Q&A. But, for the most part, it would be best to leave such tasks to backbenchers. Or, better still, give Q&A a miss. Conservatives – whether Coalition MPs or others – never get a fair go on Q&A. So why bother fronting up?
7.30 PRESENTER LEIGH SALES CONSTANTLY INTERRUPTS THE PRIME MINISTER BUT NOT THE OPPOSITION LEADER
While on the matter of interruptions, did anyone count ABC TV 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales’ interruptions when interviewing Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday – followed by Opposition leader Anthony Albanese last night?
Well, as might be expected, Media Watch Dog did. Comrade Sales interrupted the Prime Minister on nine occasions in a 20 minute interview. And the 7.30 presenter interrupted Mr Albanese once in a 10 minute interview.
And the 7.30 executive producer – an avid (but not uncritical) MWD reader – Justin Stevens wonders why senior Morrison government ministers frequently decline to appear on 7.30.
ABC CHAIR ITA BUTTROSE RECKONS THAT THE ABC SHOULD BE INTO POLITICAL PROSELYTISING AGAINST THE EXTREME RIGHT – BUT (APPARENTLY) NOT THE EXTREME LEFT
Newly appointed ABC chairs and board members are wont to be briefed by ABC staff about how the taxpayer funded public broadcaster is essential to the well-being of Australian democracy and more besides. This despite the fact that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets and is all but devoid of political diversity. The interesting thing is that so many ABC board members come to believe such self-serving claims presented to them by ABC management and staff.
Including, it seems, ABC chair and Media Watch Dog fave Ita Buttrose. This is part of what she had to say during her address to the National Press Club in her capacity as Patron of Macular Disease Foundation Australia on the topic “Vision for a Healthy Ageing Australia”. The comment came during the question/discussion period in response to a question from The Australian’s Michael Keating about government funding for the ABC:
Ita Buttrose: In those countries that do not have a securely funded public broadcaster democracy is not as robust as in Australia…[They] often have examples of right-wing extremism, as we saw in America where the mob stormed the Capitol. And what country in the world puts the least money into public broadcasting? The United States of America.
In the past, Ms Buttrose has upheld the importance of the ABC Charter – which requires that the public broadcaster not take political stances. But now she appears to be arguing that the ABC deserves to be supported because it takes a public stance against right-wing extremism. But not, it appears, left-wing extremism.
It’s all self-serving nonsense. Ms Buttrose seems to have forgotten that Australia had its very own Capitol Hill-style riot in early 1996 – when members of the extreme left invaded Parliament House to protest against the newly elected Coalition government led by John Howard. Many of them looked like ABC viewers/listeners who, obviously, had not been diverted from riotous behaviour by listening to or viewing the ABC.
Moreover the extreme-right wing terrorist who murdered men, women and children in two Christchurch mosques in March 2019 was brought up in regional Australia where the ABC is more influential than in the cities. It seems that the presence of the ABC did not prevent this murderer.
What Ita Buttrose, many of the ABC board members and much of ABC management overlook is that if the ABC practised political diversity it would have greater support in Australia.
AMANDA MEADE FAILS TO MENTION THAT THE GUARDIAN AUSTRALIA HAS NOT SIGNED UP TO THE AUSTRALIAN PRESS COUNCIL
As avid Media Watch Dog readers know, this blog goes out at around Gin & Tonic time on Fridays. Which means there’s no time to cover Amanda Meade’s “The Weekly Beast” column each Friday in The Guardian Australia – until the following week, since it appears at around the same time.
Last Friday, Comrade Meade led with a piece titled “Clive Palmer and Kerry Stokes’ paper rapped for spreading Covid vaccine misinformation”. Here’s how it was covered:
The mining magnate Clive Palmer has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on newspaper ads attacking his opponents and making false claims about Australia’s Covid-19 vaccination program. The Australian Press Council, which monitors newspaper standards, has so far been silent about this potentially dangerous spreading of misinformation. But now the Independent Media Council, a press-council equivalent for Kerry Stokes’ stable of newspapers, has stepped up and criticised the West Australian, upholding a complaint against it for publishing a full-page advertisement by Palmer criticising the safety and legality of the Covid vaccination program…. The West decided to set up its own regulator back in 2012 when it objected to new APC rules.
So there you have it. Or do you? According to The Guardian’s media scribbler, “the Australian Press Council monitors newspaper standards”. But it doesn’t. As Meade pointed out, the Independent Media Council monitors The West Australian and other Seven West Media newspapers.
And then there’s The Guardian. It seems that Amanda Meade forgot to mention that no organisation monitors The Guardian. Despite the fact that the newspaper’s editor Lenore Taylor and political editor Katharine Murphy are always banging on about transparency and all that – The Guardian Australia is the only major newspaper in the nation which is not a member of either the APC or the IMC.
This is recognised on the Australian Press Council’s webpage where the following comment appears:
A number of important publications in Australia are unfortunately still not Press Council members. These are organisation such as Guardian Australia, BuzzFeed and MamaMia. They would of course be more than welcome to join. Membership is absolutely vital. It means that each member commits the publications it controls to: (i) comply with the Council’s Standards of Practice; (ii) to ensure its publications deal with complaints in accordance with the Council’s complaints-handling processes; (iii) comply with the requirements relating to publication of adjudications; and (iv) contribute to the financial and other resources required to meet successfully all of these responsibilities.
The Guardian Australia targets many a conservative politician and commentator. But it allows no right of independent review – even for gross howlers – and there is no way to make a complaint against The Guardian to an independent body. To summarise, Lenore Taylor and her leftist comrades constantly bang on about accountability. But they preside over an online newspaper which is accountable to nobody. Can You Bear It?
• AMELIA LESTER IN CRIKEY RECKONS THAT AUSTRALIA IS LIKE NORTH KOREA – BUT FORGETS ABOUT JACINDA ARDERN’S NEW ZEALAND
Like The Guardian, the leftist newsletter Crikey (Editor, Peter Fray) is a repository for many an alienated type who wants to have a whinge about the nation of their birth.
Step forward journalist Amelia Lester. On Wednesday, Crikey republished an article she had written for Foreign Policy – under the heading “My country, the world’s new hermit kingdom”. This is how it commenced:
Buried in Australia’s federal budget papers this week was a predication that devastated the million Australians like me, who live abroad and the millions more at home who love them: the national borders are likely to remain closed until at last mid-2022.
Australia slammed its doors as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and it has kept them more firmly shut that any nation save, perhaps, North Korea. Plenty if not most nations have restricted nonessential travel since the start of the pandemic. But very few have forbidden their own citizens from leaving, not even China, and certainly none – except for Australia – that are democracies.
What a load of absolute tosh. As Melbourne Law School’s Professor Jeremy Gans pointed out in this Twitter thread, the likes of Ms Lester have overlooked New Zealand – led by the left’s fave luvvie Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Professor Gans focused on a tweet by Ed Cavanough in the leftist New Daily:
An entire column based around the thesis that the India ban could only happen in ScoMo’s Australia, without mentioning (and perhaps somehow unaware) that it happened last month (and for longer) in Jacinda Ardern’s New Zealand. https://t.co/AR4Dle8HTJ
— Jeremy Gans (@jeremy_gans) May 9, 2021
The media have made many more egregious errors, but this is a remarkably persistent error on a major story. Multiple journalists, commentators and editors seemingly making no effort to check their claims a week into this coverage.
— Jeremy Gans (@jeremy_gans) May 9, 2021
The ban was in place from 11 April until 28 April: https://t.co/SD0PmbbRCT
— Jeremy Gans (@jeremy_gans) May 4, 2021
But you would not know any of this by reading Amelia Lester’s rant in Crikey that – in her terminology – New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern threw the switch to, yes, North Korea well before the Australian government temporarily closed Australia’s border with India. It seems that alienated types delight in bagging Australia and are ignorant of, or in denial about, what the leader of The Land of the Long White Cloud does. Can You Bear It?
[Good point. I note for the record that, contrary to Ms Lester’s claim, it is possible to leave Australia – unlike North Korea. Comrade Lester would know this if she has read the Department of Home Affairs’ Leaving Australia document on its website. This lists the exemptions which apply to an Australian citizen or permanent resident who wishes to leave Australia. – MWD Editor.]
• THE GUARDIAN’S DAVID MARR AND HIS 1969 FLOUR-BOMB SURRENDER
Has anyone read the chapter on David Marr in Radicals: Remembering the Sixties (NewSouth 2021) by Meredith Burgmann and Nadia Wheatley?
Your man Marr was born on 13 July 1947. Now individuals born on this date were balloted out of – not balloted into – the national service scheme. Which meant that Comrade Marr was not conscripted and did not have to pretend to burn a non-existent draft-card (re which see next item).
Both Meredith Burgmann and Nadia Wheatley interviewed Marr for their chapter “Taking on the rich and powerful”. Needless to say, it was a fawning interview – which was used in Wheatley’s fawning chapter on Comrade Marr.
When Jackie’s (male) co-owner first looked at the contents page of Radicals, he assumed that this chapter must have been about, say, Gary Foley who is profiled in the tome. But no. After all, Comrade Foley did take on the rich and powerful – as he perceived them. But David Marr?
The problem here is that Comrade Marr was born to the rich and powerful – and according to the evidence in Radicals he never challenged the (so-called) power elite in the period 1965 to 1975 which Radicals covers. So what is he doing in a book that is remembering the 1960s radicals?
Look at it this way. David Marr was educated in the private school sector at the Sydney Church of England Grammar School in North Sydney, commonly referred to as Shore. Which leads to such dialogue as: “Did you go to Shore? Answer: Sure.” Then he did a combined Law/Arts degree at the University of Sydney – where he resided at the exclusive St Paul’s College, a Church of England institution. Early on in his college life, your man Marr enjoyed hazing – read the formalised bullying of the first year intake of students. Really. Or so he told the editors of Radicals. He ended up a journalist primarily working for Fairfax Media, the ABC and The Guardian Australia.
Young David grew up in what he terms an “Australian Tories” family. His old man ran the family firm Gordon Marr and Sons and the family home was in Pymble in Sydney’s fashionable North Shore. When young David spent time at the factory in the (then) working class Waterloo, the hoi polloi called him “Mr David”. How appropriate. By the way, Mr David loathed all sport – except for the upper class skiing.
Nadia Wheatley recounts an event in 1968 surrounding the call-up of Andrew Marr, David’s older brother, for national service:
David’s response to his brother’s fate reveals something of his frustration with the politics of the whole thing, but also perhaps a sense of guilt about his own good fortune. In 1968, when Andrew was due to fly out [to South Vietnam] a farewell party was held on a ferry. At one point in the festivities, David – “furiously angry about the whole thing and terribly drunk”- pushed his brother into the water. It is something he agonises over to this day.
How radical is that? Comrade Wheatley doesn’t say. But it seems that Andrew Marr was fished out of Sydney Harbour by someone or other and went on to serve in South Vietnam as an Australian Army engineer. Meanwhile David Marr experienced immediate enemy fire in the form of a massive hangover.
And so the story continues. David worked briefly in a “prestigious city law firm”, then travelled to Europe and based himself in London. Marr returned to Australia in 1974 and commenced a job at Kerry Packer’s The Bulletin. In 1976 he commenced at Fairfax’s loss-making leftist The National Times weekly.
What was radical about such a (young) life of privilege? – MWD hears readers cry. Well it’s this – according to Radicals:
…[In 1969] he [Marr] was still not involved in campus politics, let alone a member of any of the proliferating anti-war organisations, but by now he was sometimes slipping out of the [legal] office to join a street march or demonstration. On one occasion, as he was protesting outside the US Consulate, a mate handed him a flour bomb, and said, “Chuck it at the cops”. Nervous about getting arrested, David dropped it on the ground. The mate chucked his, and was duly lumbered.
So there you have it. The one “radical” act that Comrade Marr did in the decade 1965 to 1975 was to drop a flour bomb on the ground – rather than throw it at a copper. But he sure impressed Nadia Wheatley and Meredith Burgmann who regard this as a “pivotal” moment in David Marr’s radical life. Can You Bear It?
[No, not really – now that you ask. I note that the flour-bomb throw was a skill practised by private school boys at the Head of the River. For example, a Shore boy threw a flour bomb at a chap from The King’s School – who returned (flour) fire sure in the knowledge that both sides had parents who could afford to pay for the dry cleaning. – MWD Editor.]
SMH’s GOSSIP SUPREMO ANDREW HORNERY LOOKS BACK ON THE 1960S BURNING OF “DRAFT-CARDS” THAT NEVER HAPPENED
For those struggling to take on a considered newspaper story at Hangover Time on a Saturday morning – there’s always Andrew Hornery’s somewhat light [Go on say it, you mean lightweight – MWD Editor] “Private Sydney” column in the Sydney Morning Herald. Last Saturday “PS” ran this piece, which commenced as follows:
It was more peppermint tea than pepper spray at Thursday night’s launch of Meredith Burgmann and Nadia Wheatley’s excellent new book Radicals: Remembering the Sixties at Stanmore’s Cyprus Club on Thursday. The crowd of 200 polite hellraisers included Australia’s first draft-card burner Wayne Haylen, QC (now a judge); the first woman elected to federal parliament from NSW, Jeannette McHugh; Judy Mundey, the first female president of the Communist Party of Australia….
Now, unlike the ABC, The Sydney Institute is into political diversity. And so it came to pass, that on 20 April 2021 – well before the “launch” of Radicals: Remembering the Sixties at the Cyprus Club on 6 May 2021 – its co-authors spoke at The Sydney Institute. Comrade Meredith Burgmann and Comrade Nadia Wheatley were treated with courtesy by the well brought up Institute staff and audience alike. But MWD digresses.
According to Comrade Hornery, Comrade Haylen was Australia’s “first draft-card burner”. This would have been some real achievement since there has never been such an entity as an Australian draft-card. When national service for overseas service was introduced in November 1964, it applied to men who were born on and after 1 January 1945 and operated until December 1972. Men of the relevant age were either balloted in or balloted out of national service – and received a document in the post informing them of their status.
Here is a pic, taken from Peter Edwards’ official history titled A Nation at War: Australian Politics, Society and Diplomacy during the Vietnam War 1965-1975 (Allen & Unwin, 1997) about Comrade Haylen and his fellow comrades. And this is what the caption says:
Greg Barker (left), Wayne Haylen (centre) and Barry Robinson burn their national service registration cards in Belmore Park, Sydney, on 3 February 1966. This form of protest, like many of the tactics used in anti-war demonstrations in Australia, was borrowed from the United States, where American protestors burned their draft-cards.
That’s correct. The United States had a draft – and a draft-card. But Australia had a national service scheme and no draft-card.
It’s not clear what Comrades Barker, Haylen and Robinson were burning in Belmore Park on that night in 1966. Perhaps a parking ticket, maybe a university library card, possibly a birthday card. But it wasn’t a draft-card. It was called by some a “draft-card” since much of the Australian left at the time was derived from the American left (Students for a Democratic Society – SDS). The Aussie comrades were – and are – as original as that. Can You Bear It?
Note: Signed copies of Radicals: Remembering the Sixties – Meredith Burgmann & Nadia Wheatley can be purchased from The Sydney Institute here.
There was overwhelming interest in last week’s inaugural segment “Boring for Australia”. As avid readers will recall, Jackie’s (male co-owner) has always been a fan of British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-90) since he read Muggeridge’s 1940 book titled The Thirties. Writing in the New Statesman on 11 February 1956, Saint Mug (as he sometimes was called in later life) had this to say about the British Conservative parliamentarian Sir Anthony Eden:
He is a Disraeli hero who has moved into a service flat, or perhaps a deep shelter; a Bertie Wooster who has turned from the Drones Club to Toynbee Hall. As has been truly said, he is not only a bore but he bores for England.
This segment is devoted to those who – as citizens, residents or visitors – bore for Australia.
SHANE WRIGHT BORES ON INSIDERS TALKING ABOUT HIS SOX APPEAL, RUNNING INTENTIONS AND MAKING STUFF UP ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN CITIZENSHIP TEST
Shane Wright, the senior economics correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, was on the ABC TV Insiders panel last Sunday. David (“Call me Speersy”) Speers was in the presenter’s chair and the other panellists were Katharine (“Malcolm calls me Murpharoo”) Murphy of The Guardian Australia and John Kehoe from the Australian Financial Review. The Guardian’s Michael Bowers presented the “Talking Pictures” segment. Quite appropriate, don’t you think, for the Insiders-Guardian Axis? – with a third of the Insiders’ roll-out from The Guardian last Sunday.
But it was your man Wright who put in a stunning performance. Early on he claimed that for individuals to become Australian citizens “they have to learn Don Bradman’s batting average and everything else” and added:
What does it mean? Like, I know it’s 99.94 surely that means I can get on a flight, get home to suburban Sydney or suburban Melbourne, somewhere along the line. Like, you get into this whole issue of what does it mean, and do we need a whole conversation about what citizenship really means?
What a load of absolute tosh. This is a myth. Don Bradman’s batting average has never been part of the Australian citizenship test. In short, no one needs to know Don Bradman’s batting average (of 99.94) to take up Australian citizenship.
Then, after David Speers interviewed shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers on the forthcoming budget and all that, Comrade Wright had this to say:
Shane Wright: Yeah, well, this [unemployment level] goes to the mistake that was made at the Federal government and RBA level pre-pandemic – where unemployment was, got down to about 5.1. And the Reserve Bank started having to cut interest rates to try and get the economy growing faster. Our major competitor nations NZ, the US, UK, Germany, countries like that had unemployment in the threes. We haven’t had an unemployment rate in the threes since Grant Goldman presented Countdown in colour.
Sure, unemployment was in the threes in 2019 during the time of Donald Trump’s administration in the United States as well as in Britain. But it was over 4 per cent and 5 per cent in New Zealand and Germany respectively. You would expect the senior economics correspondent for the SMH and The Age to know this. As you would David Speers – but he did not correct Wright’s howler. As for Grant Goldman and Countdown, who cares?
Then, later on, your man Wright felt the need to talk about his socks – to the extent of showing them to Insiders’ viewers.
Shane Wright: There was all that concern – how the international border was. The focus was on tourists coming in and international students coming in, that will cost us. It has, but the other side of all those people trapped. Net two million people stuck here thinking. “Right, what am I going to spend on?” Beautiful socks featuring parts of Canberra, things like that. That’s where the money’s going.
So there you have it. Comrade Wright has a new pair of socks featuring Canberra and he reckons that money not spent on international travel is going to, er, expenditure on socks like his – which he flashed to Insiders’ viewers. He could have addressed, say, Australian national politics or China/Taiwan or Israel. But no – he chose to speak about HIMSELF and his forthcoming trail run in the Blue Mountains. Yawn.
Shane Wright: Next Saturday about six and a half thousand crazy people are going to rock up to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to run what is the biggest, ultra-trail race. Including myself. I’m only doing 50k.
David Speers: Only 50k?
Shane Wright: There’s a 100 kilometres race. Zali Steggall, the Independent for Warringah, will be lining up for her third go at this race.
David Speers: 100?
Shane Wright: She’s doing the 100 – not off a lot of training she tells me, about 70k a week. And she’s aiming for sub eighteen hours. Good luck Zali on that, I fear for what we’re about to do to ourselves.
David Speers: Hats off to all of you.
Does anyone give a toss about the design on Shane Wright’s socks or that he’s going to be running around in the Blue Mountains along with Ms Steggall this coming weekend?
Shane Wright: Boring For Australia.
ABC PELL PILE-ON CONTINUES WITH A REVIEW OF HIS PRISON JOURNAL ON THE ABC RELIGION & ETHICS REPORT WEBSITE
Last Friday afternoon the ABC Religion & Ethics Report published a review of the first two volumes of Cardinal George Pell’s Prison Journal (Ignatius Press, 2021) by Miles Pattenden, an academic at the Melbourne campus of the Australian Catholic University. It was titled “George Pell’s ‘prison journal’: Can the Cardinal answer his critics?”.
As it turned out, Dr Pattenden’s review was just a continuation of the ABC’s pile-on against Pell – which goes back around two decades.
Scott Stephens, who edits ABC Religion & Ethics Report , wrote the heading to the review which asked whether Cardinal Pell could answer his critics. It would seem that Miles Pattenden will not answer his own critics. Indeed he seems to have gone under the bed in response to the following email which Gerard Henderson forwarded to him at 3.13 pm on Tuesday 11 May – with a reminder at 8.54 am yesterday.
To: Dr Miles Pattenden
Dear Dr Pattenden
I have just read your article titled “George Pell’s ‘prison journal’: Can the Cardinal answer his critics?” on the ABC Religion and Ethics website dated 7 May 2021.
I may write about your review of the first two volumes of Cardinal George Pell’s Prison Journal. In view of this, I would appreciate if you would respond to the questions set out below:
۰ In the second paragraph of your article you write:
Pell himself has returned to Rome but now seeks to maintain his place in the public eye through the publication of his prison journal. Nevertheless, many Australians — not least in Melbourne — remain as suspicious of him as ever. The court of public opinion apparently cannot quite yet stomach the acquittal bestowed on him by the appellate judges.
How do you define “the court of public opinion”? You state that this “court” cannot accept the unanimous decision of the High Court of Australia to quash Pell’s conviction. The implication is that this is the view of Australians. Yet in the first paragraph of your review you state that Victorians are divided on the case. By the way, how do you determine the view of “the court of public opinion”?
۰ Later you write:
Pell’s acquittal on the narrow technical ground that he did not commit the crimes for which he was charged on the indictment was never going to provide closure or catharsis for the many Catholics and non-Catholics who sympathise with the scores of victims of other priests. For such persons, Pell’s victory is, at best, a pyrrhic one. And how does his acquittal prevent crimes of the nature of the one of which he was accused from happening again?
As a reading of the High Court’s judgment in Pell v The Queen makes clear, Pell was not acquitted on “a narrow technical ground”. All seven judges demonstrated, both in the hearings and in the written judgment, that they were completely across the facts of the case and had reached the view that a jury, acting rationally, could not have come to the verdict of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
There was nothing “technical” about the High Court decision. Pell was convicted by a jury in the re-trial and his conviction was quashed in the High Court on a seven-zip decision. In the criminal jurisdiction, appeal courts uphold or quash convictions.
You seem to be arguing that Pell was acquitted on a “narrow technical ground” because this decision has not provided “closure or catharsis for the many Catholics and non-Catholics who are sympathetic with the scores of victims of other priests”. What you seem to be arguing there is that Cardinal Pell should bear a collective guilt for the crimes of other clergy. If you are not arguing collective guilt here – precisely what is the meaning of what you wrote in this instance?
۰Following the above, you write:
Pell places his faith in the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse from 2017. However, most of those recommendations have yet to be implemented. The sneaking suspicion, however unfair, is that if the threat of damnation and the teachings of the Church have not deterred the kind of wrongdoing of which Pell was accused, then no mere recommendations will ever be completely effective against the powerful sexual urges that are responsible for this kind of criminality. And why should it be for the government to set the Church’s own house in order? Should not her bishops take greater responsibility for what has happened on their watch?
What is the evidence for your assertion that “most” of the recommendations of the Royal Commission have yet to be implemented? My understanding is that most of the Royal Commission’s recommendations have been implemented – and that many such procedures were already in place when the Royal Commission made its recommendations. Feel free to correct me, by citing evidence, if I’m wrong on this.
Finally, you seem to be unaware that it was the Catholic Church in Australia which moved “to set the Church’s own house in order” with respect to clerical child sexual abuse” when it set up the Melbourne Response in 1996 and Towards Healing in 1997. This was well before any government intervention in this area.
Moreover, as the evidence to the Royal Commission indicates, clerical child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church occurred primarily in the period from the mid-1960s until the mid-1990s and has been all but non-existent since then. In other words, clerical child sexual abuse is primarily a historical crime in the Catholic church. Yet your Religion & Ethics article gives the impression that such “wrongdoing” is a widespread current crime. This is simply false on all the available evidence.
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As you will be aware, an article on the ABC website will last a very long time. In view of the importance of your Religion & Ethics article, I look forward to your response.
In a (courteous) correspondence yesterday, Gerard Henderson asked Scott Stephens if he or Miles Pattenden could give him a phone number or an email address for “the court of public opinion”. Mr Stephen provided a (courteous) reply – but did not provide the contact details of – or an address for – the court of public opinion. MWD will let avid readers know if this enquiry is fruitful. Stay tuned – or untuned – as the case may be.
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Until next time.
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