The High Court and Cardinal Pell

By April 15, 2020Other

I wrote about Cardinal Pell’s trial and his incarceration more than a year ago,
and was then deeply troubled by the whole business. I did not think he had received a fair trial, and probably could not have received one, given the almost visceral fury with which he had been pursued in the media. How could twelve jurors have shut their eyes and ears to what they had seen and heard in the preceding months? Victoria did not have the possibility of a judge-alone trial, which might have produced a fairer outcome. Cardinal Pell appealed, and it took more than 400 days, which he spent in prison and as I understand it in isolation, before the High Court heard the appeal and released its decision.

It quashed the original verdict, saying the verdict was wrong, and that the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria erred in not doing so itself. That Court divided two to one, and the High Court seems to have agreed with the dissenting judge. There have been cries of outrage, and claims that people who have been abused will no longer come forward.

Now the High Court was unanimous in its finding, and it cannot be said, as some have done, that Pell has been freed on a technicality. The decision and its argument are freely available, at Pell v The Queen [2020] HCA 12 (7 April 2020), and I have read the document carefully now three times. It repays such reading. It provides a chronology both of the issues and of the story as it played out from the first trial (in which the jury could not agree), the second trial and its verdict, to the finding of the Court of Appeal, and to the reasoning of the High Court.

I will not go through the whole thing here, but it needs to be said that there was one Complainant, A, who alleged that he and Complainant B, now deceased, were the subject of sexual abuse. Complainant B told his mother that he had not been subject to such abuse, did not go to the police or anyone else, and of course was not present. Complainant A was therefore the sole witness for the prosecution. What was said about Complaint B was therefore hearsay. The jury and the Court of Appeal were impressed with Complainant A, who seemed to them to be a credible witness. The dissenting judge in the Court of Appeal was less impressed.

The High Court has come to the view that, without casting scorn on the lower jurisdictions, there was never enough attention paid to the possibility that an innocent person could be convicted, and that hinged on the notion of “reasonable doubt”. The High Court followed earlier decisions in this domain, one of them being ‘it is evident that there is “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the required standard of proof”’. The High Court stated that it had the necessary information to enable it to make the judgment that should have been made by the Court of Appeal.

And it went on to do so. The core of its argument was that there was so much uncertainty about where the Cardinal actually was (his master of ceremonies, Monsignor Portelli, was quite clear about this, and was not cross-examined), the nature of the Cardinal’s clothing, the timing of the alleged incidents, the fact that witnesses and Complainant A gave contradictory accounts of procedures and events, and much more of the same, meant that in all the previous trials there should have been ‘reasonable doubt’ as to the Cardinal’s guilt. 

Perhaps more searchingly, the Court of Appeal seemed to have put the onus of proof on to Pell — that is, he and his team had to show that things were impossible rather than highly unlikely. The High Court rejected that approach. As it argued, that Court of Appeal seemed to be setting out to establish that notwithstanding the obstacles from the evidence, it was nonetheless possible that A’s account of things was correct. The High Court said, in effect, that while that might be true it was also reasonably possible that, given the same evidence and conflict, A’s account of things was not correct, and therefore there must be a doubt as the applicant’s guilt. At no time was this possibility canvassed, as it should have been.

The rest of the High Court decision involved a close analysis of the detail, and it is there to support the major finding, which led to the most important outcome, at least for Cardinal Pell: the appellant’s convictions be quashed and judgments of acquittal entered. 

What follows now? Cardinal Pell has moved quickly to a seminary in Sydney, where yesterday a large squad of police arrived. The police put out a statement to say that the group were there to talk with the seminary about security, not about any further allegations of sexual abuse involving Cardinal Pell, one of which refers to incidents alleged to have occurred in the 1970s! I fear that the vendetta against him is not going to go away.

Not being a Victorian, and not having seen much Victorian television or press, I am unable to comment on whether or not there has been some kind of complicity involving the police, the government of Victoria, the media, especially the ABC and The Guardian, and other groups determined to deal with Cardinal Pell and the Catholic Church more generally.

As I said in my earlier essay on this subject, I am not a Catholic or even a Christian of any practising kind, even though I won first prize for Catechism when I was about ten or eleven. But I found the long pursuit of Cardinal Pell creepy. Of course, Melbourne has been the ideological capital of Australia for a long time. It was the home of the DLP, the Communist Party, the lively small magazines, the big protests, and so on.


Perhaps now that he is in Sydney the ageing cleric might be free of some of the abuse. I think it was wildly improbable that he did what he was alleged to have done on these occasions, and the High Court has come down with the correct finding, unanimous, let it be noted.

Join the discussion 186 Comments

  • Don Aitkin says:

    I had computer trouble, rather, Word Press trouble today, and I could only overcome it by deleting a section. Intried to publish it as a Comment. but No. I can’t!

    • Peter S says:

      Don,
      I posted a very intensive outline of the persecution of Pell which has not survived your moderation system. I am interested to understand why as it is material to other discussions in this thread.

    • Andrew says:

      Episode 3 of Revelations is back up on ABC iview if anyone would care to watch….

      • Andrew says:

        https://johnmenadue.com/chris-geraghty-pell-again/?mc_cid=4601d224b6&mc_eid=d4068760f3

        “A team of Her Majesty’s commissioned officers heard the evidence, listened attentively to what you (and others) had to say, and found that, on the balance of probabilities, they couldn’t trust that on your oath, you had been telling them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Unfortunately for you (and for the Vatican – to say nothing of the little people in the pews), they found your evidence was implausible, untenable, unreliable, inconceivable and unbelievable. They found as matters of fact, and contrary to your denials, that they were satisfied that as a young priest in the Ballarat diocese and later as a bishop and archbishop in Melbourne, you played a part in the unholy, ghastly mess involving sexual abuse of children.”

  • Don Aitkin says:

    It involved a tendentious tweet by the Premier of Victoria.

    • Boxer says:

      That is very disturbing. Who or what operates Word Press?

      If this trouble is as malign as it seems, it doesn’t say much about the Pell-hate machine. If they are so sure of their position, they should not need to control the speech of those with whom they disagree.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    If I try to set out what he said I am forbidden to publish it. What a thing!

  • Don Aitkin says:

    Who would have thought Daniel Andrews had such power!

  • Boxer says:

    I have wondered if, because Pell was the individual who negotiated compensation payments with many of the victims at the time when the Church first admitted liability (the Melbourne Response), he became identified quite strongly as virtually being the Church. While trying to confront and somehow resolve the abuse, he was inevitably going to become a focus for hatred of the Church.

    I think he tended to drive a hard bargain on behalf of the Church. Perhaps he came across as personally somewhat unsympathetic? I imagine he took that role seriously and saw it as his responsibility to settle on a compensation sum, while not just dispensing money too freely. A difficult role, and he acquired many enemies. It is difficult to imagine how much money would compensate for abuse by a priest, because it is such a monstrous betrayal of trust.

    Under those conditions, if I were such a victim, I would find it hard to accept that Pell, negotiating a compensation payment with me, was not actually defending the abuse and merely trying to pay me hush money.

    But in the end, however unlikable Pell may or may not have been in his role as negotiator, the court has found him innocent of abusing children himself. The court cannot convict him of pedophilia because he took a firm stance during compensation negotiations.

    • Andrew says:

      Incorrect, they simply found the evidence (in their view) did not support a standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt.

      Two very different things.

      • Colin Davidson says:

        And therefore acquitted, (ie found to be innocent, the prosecution not having proven its case beyond REASONABLE DOUBT).
        The seven most senior judges in Australia UNANIMOUSLY agreed that Pell was incorrectly found guilty and by implication that the Victorian Court of Appeal should have acted to acquit.

        People who are found not guilty are by definition, innocent (“innocent until proven guilty”). In Australia law that is, but not in other systems. Fortunately this case was conducted under Australian law.

        • Andrew says:

          The fact remains he was found guilty, unanimously, by a jury and a Superior Court.

          That the HCA overturned the decision does not at all reflect badly on the VCA decision.

          As I said earlier, the HCA is ill equipped to make the decision they did – it is not their mandate.

          imo, if Joe Smith had been the convicted (man) seeking leave to appeal to the High Court, he wouldn’t have got a look in.

          That is the bigger injustice.

          • Colin Davidson says:

            “The fact remains he was found guilty, unanimously, by a jury and a Superior Court.”
            What does this mean? I note that the verdict in the Victorian appeal was not unanimous. The Superior Court is the High Court. and there the verdict (7 to nil vice 2 to 1 in the Victorian system) was unanimous for acquittal.

            He has been acquitted. He is therefore innocent. I would think that if anyone went around saying “The fact remains he was found guilty, unanimously, by a jury and a Superior Court.” without also saying that the trial and initial appeal were unanimously found to be flawed, and that he is and was therefore always innocent, might be guilty of libel.

            All seven of the High Court judges agreed with the dissenting judge in the Victorian Court of Appeal that the trial outcome was incorrect. This does not make the other two judges look very impartial.

            You say that the High Court does not have that mandate, but I haven’t seen any supporting argument or document – as far as I am aware, when the High Court was elevated to be the very highest court, it replaced the UK Privy Council, which would have been the last resort before 1986 (Hawke Government).

            See http://www.cefa.org.au/ccf/what-was-role-privy-council

            “In 1986 the Australia Act was introduced in all of the States, the Federal Parliament and in UK Parliament. The Australian States and the Commonwealth confirmed their sovereign, independent status from Britain. All Privy Council appeals ended from Australian courts other than the High Court, where it remains theoretically possible for some appeals to be taken under Section 74 of the Constitution. Technically the High Court could still grant a certificate for appeal to the Privy Council, but this is unlikely. Tony Blackshield et al. write about the effect of removing appeals to the Privy Council:

            The final abolition of Privy Council appeals has had a dramatic effect on the High Court’s own jurisprudence. Many commentators have observed that the abolition did more than formally make the High Court the final court of appeal for all Australian matters. It also contributed to a new judicial mindset. Liberated from the correction of a higher court and then from competition in relation to appeals from state courts, the High Court became the true apex of the Australian hierarchy and took a new responsibility for shaping the law for Australia.

            The High Court of Australia is now the final court of appeal.”

          • Peter S says:

            A good comment Colin

  • Andrew says:

    Can’t agree Don.

    You overlook several key points.

    1. The jury system is in place for a reason. Second time around they formed a unanimous view – they alone (i.e. not the VCA nor the HCA) listed to ALL the evidence.
    2. The VCA’s role, in the circumstances, was to determine whether it was reasonable for the jury to form the view that it did – that Pell was guilty to the required standard (by 2-1 majority granted).
    3. The VCA majority (who at least watched the testimony of the key players) came to the view that it was reasonable for the jury to downgrade/play the ‘weight’ of the two key defence witnesses – Portelli and Potter. Why?
    a. Potter since before the trial had been living in an aged home and had documented, undisputed memory problems.
    b. Portelli (aside from being an ongoing member of the Catholic elite in Victoria) was very sure of any question that helped Pell, yet curiously vague on anything that went the other way. This critical point was ignored by both Weinberg J and the HCA.

    4. The HCA acknowledged that the VCA asked the right question. However, they ran with Weinberg J’s intriguing concept of ‘compounding improbabilities’ and therefore conclude “The (VCA) analysis failed to engage with whether, against this body of evidence, it was reasonably possible that A’s account was not correct, such that there was a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt.”

    My opinion – this is a new, somewhat spurious leg to the well established test (detailed below).

    The majority VCA decision suggested the jury was within its rights to discount to some degree the testimony of the two key witnesses (Potter and Portelli) based on reliability, not veracity (and who no doubt were prepped very, very well – that’s the game right there after all).

    As above, Potter was 84 at the time of trial with documented ‘issues’ that directly affected his recall; on Portelli, the VCA stated “”the jury were entitled to have reservations about the reliability of Portelli’s affirmative answers under cross-examination when they were viewed in the light of his answers in examination in chief and re-examination.”

    What is wrong with that assessment – after all it would be more than odd if the HCA listed to any testimony from either A or key defence witnesses.

    Why have a jury system at all if the courts can then go and arbitrarily (imo) cast aside the jurors’ assessment of the respective worth of the various testimonies (again, noting it’s very unlikely the HCA even viewed these testimonies given their limited mandate)?

    The test that the VCA adopted: “The court must ask itself: “whether it thinks that upon the whole of the evidence it was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty”.

    and

    “As their Honours observed, to say that a jury “must have had a doubt” is another way of saying that it was “not reasonably open” to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the commission of the offence” ….

    At the end of the day the majority VCA judges thought the jury was able to make such a call, Weinberg and the HCA thought otherwise….nothing but a subjective choice in my opinion.

    And of course it’s very difficult in sexual assault/abuse cases when there are never going to be witnesses, let alone after 20 odd years.

    The one point few have raised is that very, very few applications for ‘leave to appeal’ to the HCA succeed. Something in the order of 10%.

    I would speculate that if the Appellant had not been a person of Pell’s stature, leave would not have been granted. Full stop.

    After all, a Superior Court had affirmed the decision of a unanimous jury. The HCA is ill placed (extremely ill placed in my opinion) to go and flick that, yet they did.

    As an aside, and yet to watch the HC video, but how did Judd SC perform in the moment?

    • Peter S says:

      Andrew,
      Might I suggest that you read the actual judgement. Until you have it would better to remain silent.

      https://jade.io/article/724774?fbclid=IwAR3pjA4fPHOexzfVOiWSo1ALA9cqLLFHOL1U-bBiiBNpvAROo7Kv_pWG7TI

      • Andrew says:

        How boorish Peter S.

        I read it within a day of its release and again subsequently.

        If you have an issue with any of my argument, put up your position, don’t be a wailing squib.

        • Peter S says:

          Yes I knew you had read it – that was evident in your comments. I simply thought you might read it again and in hindsight revise or amend some of your rather silly comments. This for one:

          “After all, a Superior Court had affirmed the decision of a unanimous jury. The HCA is ill placed (extremely ill placed in my opinion) to go and flick that, yet they did.”

          I presume therefore you don’t believe there should be any right of appeal beyond the Vic Supreme Court? Did you read the dissenting judgement made by the only judge on the bench who has extensive experience in criminal law. Of course you did.

          “At the end of the day the majority VCA judges thought the jury was able to make such a call, Weinberg and the HCA thought otherwise….nothing but a subjective choice in my opinion.”

          For such an eminent “lawyer” as you pretend to be you seem to have a lot of “opinons” (your right of course) but you have precious little understanding of legal process (in my opinion).

          • Andrew says:

            Peter S,

            Are you intimating I am not a solicitor? Very funny. Indeed, I went through law school with one of the current HC justices (which admittedly somewhat saps my faith in that esteemed institution).

            If you can’t see the contrivance here, you shouldn’t be commenting. That said, it’s the norm, the law has long hidden behind precedent and similar quirky spurts of hot air. Most often for the better mind you.

            If you can’t understand or even grasp (what is supposed to be) the role of the HCA, you need to work on your IQ.

          • Peter S says:

            Andrew,
            Please forgive me. I am rolling around laughing

          • Andrew says:

            I’ve seen your form before Peter. I have very low expectations of you. But carry on.

          • Peter S says:

            Andrew,
            You have a very clouded memory. Once we were allies.

          • Andrew says:

            Yes my bad, home schooling does that!

            That said, your behaviour was as boorish as theirs back when – and therefore the connection.

            C’est la vie, alliances fail….not to mention you’re yet to say anything of substance on point.

          • Peter S says:

            Andrew,
            I am amazed by your obfuscation. Rather curious. I naively believed those with legal training, even mere solicitors, would be capable of separating their personal biases and taking a dispassionate view of the facts. Your criticism of the High Court decision is , in my opinion, a reflection of your personal bias in the case of Pell, rather than a serious criticism of the process. It seems to me that the process did not realise the outcome you wanted.

            Rather sad.

          • Andrew says:

            Peter S,

            I’d go as far to say you have no idea what you’re talking about.

            I’ll leave it at that.

          • Peter S says:

            Coward. Obfuscation is not an argument. And I will leave it at that because I now understand where you are coming from and that my analysis was correct.

          • Andrew says:

            Again Peter, say something relevant to the case, the judgment, the point of law in dispute. One point of cogency.

            You can’t as it is miles out of your knowledge base…..my 7yo would know more about the law I’d hazard a guess.

            By the by, are you Catholic?

          • Peter S says:

            Andrew,
            I was baptised a catholic, an alter boy for a large slice of my youth, but haven’t practiced since I was twenty, when I moved to agnosticism for personal reasons resulting from personal experiences.

            Are you a Catholic?

          • Andrew says:

            p.s. there was no analysis by you.

            Don’t flatter yourself.

          • Peter S says:

            I did provide a very detailed analysis which for some reason fell foul of Don’s moderation system. When that is sorted you will have what you want. What staggers me is your selective criticism of the HCA decision while at the same time you seem to accept the the necessity of the existing system. To put it bluntly in this particular case the HCA made a decision with which you do not concur so your arguments express that. Prejudice is always present in expressed opinions and in your case your prejudices are clearly evident. Don’t pretend otherwise.

  • Stu says:

    So, moving on from the witness J situation and the High Court finding that there was a possibility an innocent man may have been convicted. Did anyone see the final episode of “Revelation” on ABC? In part of that show an individual appeared on camera saying Pell abused him in Ballarat. The part that was interesting to me was that this man never came forward with a complaint and was severely shocked when police arrived at his home to ask if he knew of Pell. In other words, on the advice of third parties, they approached him as a possible witness/victim of Pell. He reluctantly, subsequently agreed to provide evidence in court. However he said the emotional toll was too great and he could not give evidence in court. The case was dropped. He is now prepared to talk and did so in the show. Anyone who watched that episode would be hard pressed not to be moved by his emotion when talking with the interviewer. Keep in mind this guy did not initiate this action, it came to him. Once again, if it gets to court it will be a one on one story like witness J so now very unlikely. Unlike the J case we all can see the emotion. Note that the High Court justices did not view the video evidence that the police, the jury and the appeal court viewed. It should be noted that witness J did not and still does not seek monetary gain from the case, so what was his motive beyond justice? As for the High Court. The fifteen minutes on the steps greeting the faithful was more than enough time for the sacristy to be free of other priests etc, all except the two choir boys. Of course the beauty of the catholic confession is such that any sin can, once forgiven, then be forgotten such that it never happened. Perhaps the ageing Pell memory is failing him. As part of this sorry saga we need to see the redacted sections of the Royal Commission report. Failure to release that information will lead to revulsion with the legal and government system.

    • Andrew says:

      Plenty more to play out yet Stu, no question.

      And the HCA judgement was facile, at best.

      Classic desired outcome logic….imo.

  • John says:

    The appeal in Victoria put the onus on Pell to prove that he couldn’t have done what he was accused of rather than on the prosecution having to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the crime occurred.

    Also, as I understand it, the judge in Pell’s second trial disallowed his defence showing an animated video that explained why it was impossible for Pell to get from the steps of the cathedral and abuse the two boys, as claimed, in the period of time that was claimed. It seems to me this had this video been shown no reasonable jury would have found him guilty.

    Andrew Bolt (like him or loathe him) explored this point after the event and showed that it was indeed impossible. After Pell’s acquittal, we learnt that the Victorian police never investigated this and failed to interview key church people who were potential witnesses.

    • Andrew says:

      that’s unadulterated rubbish John.

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        Well, you try undressing (from clerical robes), getting erect, and forcing two (presumably reluctant) ‘choir boys’ (such an evocative term) to fellate you, clean up the mess, and go out to bless the congregation. Even a woman would have been disappointed in that performance.

        • Andrew says:

          Bryan,

          Undressing? Try reading the decision.

          The jury actually inspected the clerical robes and determined in short order it was far from difficult to manoeuvre the garments to allow ‘access;.

          Next….

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            “The jury actually inspected the clerical robes and determined in short order it was far from difficult to manoeuvre the garments to allow ‘access” and they performed as stipulated? Bullshit.

        • Bryan Roberts says:

          It was deliberate, darlings, so don’t bother.

    • Stu says:

      And the new accusations?

    • Stu says:

      Actually they are old accusations. Have you seen Revelations?

  • JOHN STANKEVICIUS says:

    This attack of Cardinal Pell, I have never seen anything so intense of an individual. My question post the trial is why has there not been any legal action to any other organisations looking after children. As I understand the situation, this all stemmed from Julia Gillards inspired investigation into children in orphanages. The abuse uncovered was widespread. The rate of abuse in the Catholic Church was less than in Uniting Church,Anglican Church and the State Wards. Why has there been no legal action taken or press given to the other organisations and why is it just Cardinal Pell.
    The protestant labour front bench v the catholic Liberal front bench at the time seem’s to me to be the start.
    If this is the case then those hounding Cardinal Pell are the cause of a civil war.
    Be careful with all of this , the trial was a fix – this is USSR/China/ North Korea. The difference is in those countries the dictators know what they are doing.

    • Andrew says:

      “The rate of abuse in the Catholic Church was less than in Uniting Church,Anglican Church and the State Wards.”

      Put up some data or a link to support this claim.

      Pell is but one of dozens of clergymen charged, not sure why you lot think Pell got a raw deal…and as Stu says, keep an eye out for Episode 3 of Revelations (being updates as we speak I gather).

  • JOHN STANKEVICIUS says:

    Hi Andrew

    There was an informative article in Quadrant when Cardinal Pell was charged in Feb 19 with the numbers.
    I cant seem to find it or who the author was.
    I will keep searching.
    As to watching the ABC show – Catholic bashing – we are in 2020 not 1900. For some reason in Oz if you are a Catholic you were always 2 nd division so to speak where it was fine to abuse and physically attack them. The ABC is full of Catholics with a massive chip on their shoulder eg Kerry O Brien, Kevin Rudd etc.
    Pell is the scapegoat because he is a Catholic.

  • Chris Warren says:

    Has anyone (except Don) actually read the full judgement – all I could find was a two page statement.

    What is the link?

  • John Stankevicius says:

    Hi Andrew

    This is one of the article’s I was referring to:
    https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2019/02/catholics-sex-and-cardinal-pell/
    If this does not open Google – Catholics Sex and Cardinal Pell – Quadrant On Line 27/2/2019 – Author Peter Wales

    • Andrew says:

      I put the links up John.

      And your recollection is incorrect, the Catholics won hands down sorry.

      • Boxer says:

        The link given by John, to an article written by Peter Wales, is unambiguous.

        Catholic institutions educated and/or accomated 80% of the relevant children, and those children were subjected to 60% of the total recorded abuse. Per capita, a number of non-Catholic organisations caused more harm.

        The absolute numbers were higher for Catholic institutions, but the Catholic Church is, for example, 5 times larger than the Uniting Church. This debate is about the level of risk to children (a question of probability), and the degree to which Catholic Church was more or less corrupted by pedophilia than other institutions.

  • Peter S says:

    “Not being a Victorian, and not having seen much Victorian television or press, I am unable to comment on whether or not there has been some kind of complicity involving the police, the government of Victoria, the media, especially the ABC and The Guardian, and other groups determined to deal with Cardinal Pell and the Catholic Church more generally.”

    I very much doubt that there has been a conspiracy across the segments of the media, the ABC, The Guardian etc. However there certainly has been a “get Pell” mentality at work across them all.

    Living in Melbourne I have seen all this unfold, sometimes immediately, sometime retrospectively.

    Personally I have never really warmed to the public persona of George Pell, although I am told the private Pell is very different.

    There is no doubt at all that the Victorian Police were out to “get Pell”. Indeed one of the officers involved in the investigation virtually admitted this at the trial. The impetus was almost certainly provided by Chief Commissioner Ashton, who twice presented false information to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into institutional child abuse, and has never publicly recanted. Ashton established the Tethering Task Force to investigate Pell without any provable allegations being made. It was a fishing expedition. This task force subsequently morphed into the Sano Task Force which went fishing for allegations of abuse at the Catholic Cathedral in the period 1995 to 2001, the period Pell was Archbishop of Melbourne. I clearly remember seeing the advertisements the Sano Task Force placed in the Melbourne press. It was after this that the complainant emerged.

    One can only speculate about the reasons Ashton took this path. The Victorian Police were investing a number of allegations against Pell going back to the seventies. But they were unsupported by any corroborated evidence, and in some cases quite clearly false. As it turned out, all of these were thrown out either at the committal hearing or subsequent to the trial. I can only speculate that they were trying to find a more substantial case on which to proceed and were planning to use the earlier allegations as tendency evidence. If this was the tactic then it fell apart and they were left only with the uncorroborated evidence of Witness J who painted a sequence of events which were more than highly improbable.

    The police brief was twice returned to the Commissioner without any recommendations to proceed. It was Ashton who made the decision to charge Pell and initiate his prosecution.

    Anyone living in Victoria would know that the atmosphere against Pell was toxic. This was fed by Victorian Police by frequently leaking to selected media in the months leading up to Pell’s arrest. The ABC’s reporting throughout this period and subsequently was constantly prejudicial. Loise Milligan’s book, published hurriedly by MUP before the trial, simply added to this toxicity (https://www.mup.com.au/books/cardinal-paperback-softback–2). It is not, as claimed by Derryn Hinch et al, a “forensic” document. The fact that the the book received awards is a simple reflection of the fact that Pell was tried and found guilty by a substantial selection of the media before his arrest (https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/cardinal-review-louise-milligans-case-for-the-damnation-of-george-pell-20170602-gwj4mg.html).

    Pell had been through the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry and the Royal Commission, where the commentary by the media and by the ABC reflected a belief in his guilt. I followed both closely and watched his interrogation by Gail Furness, counsel assisting the Royal Commissioner. Despite her best efforts she couldn’t lay a glove on him, and during her interrogation betrayed a remarkable lack of understanding of the society at the time all the alleged events she was pursuing occurred. She suggested Pell, who was a young priest in Albury should have known about the appalling abuse going on in Mildura, the adjacent Parish. In fact it was not adjacent. The Parish of Robinvale, where I lived and went to school in the sixties, separates Albury and Mildura. She inferred that “gossip” must have occurred between the two cities, forgetting that at the time STD telephone conversations were timed and expensive so that means of communication was not an open pathway for gossip. There were no significant sporting or other social interactions between Mildura and Albury at that time. In fact officers of the Victorian Police were, along with Bishop for the Ballarat Diocese, Ronald Mulkearn, complicit in covering up what was happening in Mildura. Pell could not have been involved.

    Given the nature of the commentary throughout these events within Victoria I firmly believed at the time that it would be difficult to form an impartial jury for a trial. I remember well, saying to my sister, that it was almost certain that Pell would be convicted, but acquitted on appeal. I honestly thought at the time this would happen but, despite the abject weakness of the case against him, his appeal was dismissed on a split decision of the 3 judges. Fortunately the High Court judges were more objective in their examination of the decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal and delivered a unanimous acquittal.

    Even so the ABC’s series Revelation, compered by Sarah Ferguson, screened the week before the High Court handed down its decision. It regurgitated as “new “, allegations of matters that had already been thrown out during the proceedings against Pell. Subsequently the ABC removed this episode and is re-editing it. I await with interest to see exactly what results but the ABC is still arguing via Craig McMurtrie the national broadcaster’s editorial director, that its coverage of Pell has been fair and balanced (https://www.abc.net.au/news/about/backstory/news-coverage/2020-04-11/why-the-abc-reporting-of-the-pell-case-was-not-a-witch-hunt/12137620).

    Within a week of the decision of the High Court, Victorian Police leaked to the Herald Sun that they are investigating yet another allegation of an historical offence in the 70’s this time by a man who is now in a “professional” occupation. The next day the NSW Poice “visited” Pell in Sydney and the radio and twitter sphere started buzzing in anticipation. Louise Milligan tweeted “I am told there are complaints in more than one jurisdiction. That is, not just Victoria. And they are more recent”. Subsequently, NSW Police announced that NSW Police’s Counter-Terrorism Squad had spoken with Cardinal George Pell in relation to security threats he had received since arriving in Sydney. Members of the Counter-Terrorism Squad visited Cardinal Pell at Good Shepherd Seminary in Homebush to speak to the Cardinal about threats he had received via social media. The NSW police squad’s visit to the seminary was unrelated to any police investigation involving Cardinal Pell, contrary to claims made by some of the media.

    There is no doubt the Royal Commission’s report, once redaction is removed from its comments concerning Pell, will be critical of him. The line of questioning followed by Gail Furness made that entirely predictable. It is also likely that some of its comments will now be redundant because of the way the subsequent legal proceedings have evolved. But the “get Pell” mentality that pervades in Victoria will lead to civil prosecutions against him. What is also highly likely is that he will be dead before these are finalised.

    I grew up in the Ballarat Diocese, and know from personal experience as an altar boy that there were some very dangerous priests within the diocese. But I never heard Pell’s name mentioned in connection with any of them.

    • Andrew says:

      Problem with your terrific analysis Peter is that complaints had been made against Pell decades before this Task Force you refer to was established. See the link Chris W put forward….

      By the by, out of curiosity, do you still attend mass?

      • Peter S says:

        Andrew,
        That isn’t a problem at all. Pell has been a target for decades too.
        The only time I ever attend a mass since I turned 20 is for weddings, deaths and to assist ailing friends. Other than fulfilling social obligations I simply am not interested. But I still maintain an interest in seeing justice done. I was opposing the sentencing of Lindy Chamberlain well before many others.

  • Chris Warren says:

    You cannot convict someone if the evidence does not stack-up. This does not mean they are innocent outside the court processes (where they are presumed innocent).

    A worthy maxim is: I’d rather see 100 guilty men go free, than see an innocent man hang from the gallows.

    maybe there is more to come – just keep an eye on the BrokenRites website.

    • beththeserf says:

      The evidence did not stack up.

      • Andrew says:

        In the eyes of the jury and 2 of the 3 Court of Appeal justices it certainly did.

        He got off this one…..that’s the system, for better or worse.

        Much more to come.

        • BB says:

          You probably don’t remember me after all it was decades ago but the police have approached me to accuse you of sexual assault. They have assured me that I don’t need anyone to backup my story. So I should expect the police to be visiting you soon. You should hope that you don’t live in Victoria because if you do you are toast and headed to jail. The Department of prosecutions tell me they see me, hear me and believe me.

          • Andrew says:

            Are you a comedian BB?

          • BB says:

            This is not comedy it is serious the police decided Pell was guilty then they sought evidence and accusation. There were 26 charges all but one fell over. That one was one person without any corroboration. My comment is what is possible in Victoria no longer do you need evidence. The High Court is the only saviour. So no not funny very serious if it had stood no Victorian would be safe from jailing on the accusation of one. Those who argue the High Court was wrong do so from emotion. They are ignorant that this could put them in jail.

  • Stu says:

    John Stankovich wrote “As to watching the ABC show – Catholic bashing – we are in 2020 not 1900. For some reason in Oz if you are a Catholic you were always 2 nd division so to speak where it was fine to abuse and physically attack them. The ABC is full of Catholics with a massive chip on their shoulder eg Kerry O Brien, Kevin Rudd etc.
    Pell is the scapegoat because he is a Catholic.”

    Once again please forget the ABC bashing for a minute (but I am intrigued by your ABC catholic mafia angle) just watch that episode of the show Revelations. Part of it was sickening. It is hard to imagine why that guy, who never complained or went to the police, was so upset by even the name Pell, it was gut wrenching. Clearly based on the timing of events it had nothing to do with Pell upsetting the catholic mafia in the Vatican with his moves. There have been too many stories over the years, including the admission that the Vic police (similar in Newcastle) were complicit in the cover up. But I am sure they will find an ageing nun or priest with poor memory to attest to the innocence of Pell as was the case in melbourne.

    Finally there are plenty of examples of other faiths being pursued on this matter. It is just that the number in the catholic sphere stands out. So perhaps the role of celibacy and confession has a bit to answer for.

  • BB says:

    Long of the short of it. Pell was convicted on the evidence of one without corroboration. So all of you who claim the High Court got it wrong consider this. I see you down the street driving a car I say you were speeding under that principle you are convicted. It is just I that has seen you I don’t have any other corroboration no one else has and yet you are fined. It is not about Pell it is about us all establishing such a principle as the Victorian police and judiciary did is unconscionable. Was sent to me also Don in Victoria a single judge would have also jailed Pell. For that opinion I rely on the appeals court in Victoria. The Victorian system is greatly flawed and the Premier of the State does not see a problem.

    • Neville says:

      BB I think you’re wasting your time with these fools and here’s a more truthful version of your observations.
      We know that you have had past mental health issues and say I was with you when you thought the driver was speeding and told my mother that the driver definitely wasn’t speeding.
      Alas then I died and the accuser then tells the court that I also said the driver was speeding. Oh and the street was filled with hundreds of other people and yet no other person has come forward to also claim that the driver was speeding at that time.
      Even 2 other drivers on the road closely observing the accused were sure that there was no speeding by the driver.
      BB don’t waste your time with these fools and look at Bolt’s coverage plus his critical timeline for that morning and don’t forget that the High Court’s judgement was 7 to nil to free Pell.
      On the real factual evidence they couldn’t make any other decision, unless of course they preferred hearsay, fantasy and fairy tales. And boy do they lap it up.

    • Stu says:

      The High Court decision is final, game over. However I find the analogy used by BB is rather simplistic and way off target. I am not a lawyer but BB’s example strikes me as one of hearsay. The evidence witness J gave was not hearsay, it was a first person account. That is quite a difference.

      And I understand some of the charges levelled at Pell (other cases) were not thrown out of court, they were withdrawn because they were superfluous once he had been convicted of the other charges.

      • Boambee John says:

        Stu

        “not a lawyer but BB’s example strikes me as one of hearsay. The evidence witness J gave was not hearsay, it was a first person account. That is quite a difference.

        And I understand some of the charges levelled at Pell (other cases) were not thrown out of court, they were withdrawn because they were superfluous once he had been convicted of the other charges.”

        The living complainant also gave “hearsay” evidence about the second choir boy, hearsay which that boy had denied to his mother earlier.

        The first trial was held in camera to avoid prejudicing a proposed second trial, supposedly involving the Revelations “new” complaint. The Revelations complainant withdrew from the process before that second trial went ahead.

        • Stu says:

          BJ, “The Revelations complainant withdrew from the process before that second trial went ahead.”. Yes he did. Did you see him say why and see the emotion about the whole sad story? He must be a bloody good actor or he is telling the truth. I gather you are in the former camp.

          • Boambee John says:

            Stu

            Then let the case go to court, see how his performance stacks up against J’s.

          • Peter S says:

            Who knows what his motives were. Most of you are sounding off expressing your own personal prejudices. None of you have any idea of the the truth and what it entails. Time to shut up and move on.

        • John says:

          I would be interested to know the law under which a serious criminal charge can be withdrawn because “the charges are superfluous” following a conviction for different offences. Criminal charges cannot be withdrawn because a complainant no longer wishes to “press charges” ( a common misconception arising from US legal dramas). My understanding is the DPP did not wish to proceed because the evidence was not as strong as the case the police mounted by way of summons rather than charges being laid by the DPP. PLs correct me if I have got this wrong.

      • Peter S says:

        Stu,
        They weren’t withdrawn. The weren’t allowed to proceed.

  • Kneel says:

    “nothing but a subjective choice in my opinion.”

    Is it?
    Motive. Means. Opportunity.
    At least two eyewitnesses, in undisputed and unrefuted testimony removed opportunity.
    “Ah”, you say, “they’re Catholics – why wouldn’t they support a leader in the church?”
    Yes – Catholics who presumably feel they need to obey the commandment “thou shall not bear false witness” after swearing on their most holy book to tell the truth “so help me God”. Surely it is reasonable to believe that the higher they are in the church hierarchy, the more thoroughly they believe this – that it is a mortal sin to bear false witness.
    Does this not introduce a “reasonable doubt” – two for, one against.
    When the complainant stumbled, VCA said this tended to support his truthfulness.
    When the defense witnesses stumbled, the VCA said this tended to undermine their truthfulness.
    Not certainty to be sure – but reasonable doubt. The defense “story” was possible and reasonable and had eyewitnesses testify as to its veracity. The complainant had no other witnesses, parts of his story were demonstrably false, other parts changed between the defendant being charged and the case itself.
    Can it not be said that failure to see all this as “reasonable doubt” was an error?

    • Andrew says:

      “At least two eyewitnesses, in undisputed and unrefuted testimony removed opportunity.”

      Now that is pure fantasy. We are talking 20 odd years after the event – no single witness said they definitively placed Pell anywhere – they ALL relied on what was the general “protocol” and that Pell was a stickler etc etc.

      Potter – who had well documented cognitive issues by the time of the trial and Portelli whom the VCA majority said:

      “”the jury were entitled to have reservations about the reliability of Portelli’s affirmative answers under cross-examination when they were viewed in the light of his answers in examination in chief and re-examination.”

      Undisputed and unrefuted? Hardly. Reliability versus veracity….

      But love the cheer leading. Keep it up.

  • Andrew says:

    “Yes – Catholics who presumably feel they need to obey the commandment “thou shall not bear false witness” after swearing on their most holy book to tell the truth “so help me God”. Surely it is reasonable to believe that the higher they are in the church hierarchy, the more thoroughly they believe this – that it is a mortal sin to bear false witness.”

    Tell that to all those abused (now) men…..

    What a joke of a thing to say.

  • Kneel says:

    “What a joke of a thing to say.”

    Really? Certainly no more of a joke than suggesting that their loyalty to the church hierarchy outweighed their duty to God’s commandments – which, in context, was the point.
    Are you suggesting the witnesses lied to protect the church? Certainly seems so.
    The complainant must be believed, even without evidence, yet the defendant is to be.. what? Assumed guilty and required to prove innocence? Have eyewitnesses that exonerate him discounted by assertion instead of evidence?

    “I believe you”? No. I trust you, but I require verification before I remove a man’s dignity, reputation, career and freedom.

    Presumably, you have no answer to the rest, which is in any case the meat of it.
    Two witnesses, in undisputed testimony, removed opportunity from the prosecutions case. If that is not “reasonable doubt”, then what is? HCA certainly seems to think it should create reasonable doubt in the minds of reasonable people. I agree with that.

  • Kneel says:

    “Now that is pure fantasy. We are talking 20 odd years after the event – no single witness said they definitively placed Pell anywhere – they ALL relied on what was the general “protocol” and that Pell was a stickler etc etc.”

    The complainant also had similar issues – he wasn’t sure about a lot of things. It’s still 2 to 1 at least.

  • Boambee John says:

    The saddest tting about this thread is the sectarianism displayed by some commenters. I had hoped that Australia had left that behind from some time in the 1960s. Sadly, it seems not.

    • Stu says:

      You left out secularism, was that deliberate? It is quite prevalent these days, or does your sectarian view blind you to that? And pedophiles are scum whatever they might believe, it is just that in the catholic world they can go to confession and then move on to the next victim unencumbered, brilliant system. Or do I have that all wrong?

      • Boambee John says:

        Stu

        Ridsdale, a notorious pedo, stated that he never confessed his sins/crimes.

        The usual injunction is “Go and sin no more” (see the parable of the adulterous woman). That is a far cry from “go to confession and then move on to the next victim unencumbered, brilliant system.”

        So, yes, you do have that all wrong, which is quite common with you. Perhaps a bit of study before rushing into print might help you?

        And there is no reason that secularists cannot be sectarian.

        • Stu says:

          “Ridsdale, a notorious pedo, stated that he never confessed his sins/crimes.”. Perhaps, but the Bishop knew and so did Pell when moving him around. What did Pell say the other night, something like “i was not interested in his activities”? Activities! Please.
          But thanks for showing your hand, appreciated.

          • Peter S says:

            Stu you are an ignoramus.
            Pell was never responsible for moving Risdale around. Get your facts right before sounding off.

          • Boambee John says:

            Stu

            And if Pell knew, so did Bongiorno, but the latter denies absolutely knowing about Ridsdale’s activities.

            Do try to keep up with the publicly available evidence.

            Nothing more to say on secularism?

          • Stu says:

            Peter and BJ

            “Cardinal Pell’s evidence contradicted a statement from a Ballarat diocese priest who told the royal commission in December that Ridsdale’s sexual behaviour was raised at a high-level church meeting in 1982.

            Father Eric Bryant said problems managing Ridsdale were raised by Bishop Mulkearns at the meeting of seven priests, including Cardinal Pell.

            Father Bryant said Bishop Mulkearns told the priests: “We’ve got a problem with homosexuality in the diocese.”

            He said it was later decided to shift Ridsdale from the parish of Mortlake.

            Cardinal Pell said he had no recollection of Ridsdale’s sexual behaviour being raised at any high-level church meeting where it was decided to shift him from the parish, enabling him to continue offending for decades.

            The inquiry heard Cardinal Pell’s cousin, Father Henry Nolan, knew Ridsdale had the boy there and raised concerns it was inappropriate and had him taken away.

            Survivor David Ridsdale, who was also molested by his uncle Gerald Ridsdale, voiced his frustration at the cardinal’s evidence.

            “It beggars belief that he could have said he wasn’t interested in hearing about the crimes of my uncle,” Mr Ridsdale said.”We are speaking of moral leaders of towns and cities, and for them to have no interest in such behaviour seems remarkable.”. SMH reporting on the Royal Commission.

            Perhaps the unredacted report will shed some light.

          • Peter S says:

            Stu,
            How much would you remember about a meeting held over 30 years ago? Probably little of the content and even who was present. Given the time it is hardly surprising that there are inconsistencies in the evidence of different people.

            The unredacted report is unlikely to reveal anything new. But it will be critical. That was clear in the line of questioning by the Counsel Assisting the Commissioner, Gail Furness. In particular Pell’s interaction with the Catholic Education Office is very likely to draw criticisms and inferences. But don’t expect any new criminal charges to emerge.

            You said: ““Ridsdale, a notorious pedo, stated that he never confessed his sins/crimes.”. Perhaps, but the Bishop knew and so did Pell when moving him around. What did Pell say the other night, something like “i was not interested in his activities”? Activities! Please. But thanks for showing your hand, appreciated.”

            Which bishop are you referring to? Mulkearns or Little? Pell never had any authority to move anyone when he was in Ballarat, nor when he was first in Melbourne. When the infamous photograph of him accompanying Gerald Risdale to court was taken Pell was Auxillary Archbishop. Little was the boss and it was Little who was up to his eyeballs in protecting pedophile priests.

            What Pell knew and didn’t know is a matter of conjecture and I am sure the RC report will include considerable conjecture. What most people who are critical of Pell constantly overlook is that once he became Archbishop of Melbourne he sacked Peter Searson, one of a number of pedophile priests protected by Little, and had to resist pressure from the Vatican to reinstate him. Pell also established the Melbourne Response, the form of which was no doubt also intended to minimise costs to the church whilst giving victims some redress. My guess is that would have been on legal advice, which is also normal practice in all secular institutions, companies and public bureaucracies. But this response was the first in the world.

            Pell’s behaviour, once he had the power, is in my mind is inconsistent with allegations made against him.

            In any event he has been acquitted of all charges made against him.

          • Andrew says:

            @ SD,

            I would think you should do some homework and check out the pedigree of the 7 HC justices before you run with this line of argument.

          • Peter S says:

            SD,
            Ferguson is not a criminal lawyer either.

          • Boambee John says:

            Stu

            “Cardinal Pell’s evidence contradicted a statement from a Ballarat diocese priest who told the royal commission in December that Ridsdale’s sexual behaviour was raised at a high-level church meeting in 1982.”

            Two people with different memories of an event nearly 40 years ago?

            Repeat after me “Innocent until PROVEN guilty”. It is a fundamental principle that you seem to take rather too lightly.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Andrew, do you have a comparable point of admitted incompetence by any of those seven HC judges?

            It’s one thing to point and infer but when they admit to incapacity it’s a completely different story.

          • Boambee John says:

            Stu

            You wrote

            “Father Eric Bryant said problems managing Ridsdale were raised by Bishop Mulkearns at the meeting of seven priests, including Cardinal Pell.”

            Was Fr Bryant present at5the meeting? If so, did he report these discussions to the police? If not, why not?

            If he was not present, his statement is hearsay, and needs actual supporting evidence.

  • BB says:

    To all those that argue Pell is still guilty just come up with any corroboration there is none there is only the witness of one. If it had stood we were on the road to hell. The High Court decided on the side of the law not so much on the side of Pell. This was an attempt by the Victorian legal system from top to bottom to break our legal system. An emotional response which does not rely on any evidence greatly diminishes anyone who argues that way. You know who you are you are fool’s and the enemies of an orderly just legal system.

  • Colin Davidson says:

    The High Court is the highest court in the land, and superior to the Supreme Court of Victoria. (This happened in 1986 during the Hawke government. See the link to the Privy Council in an above post.)
    It unanimously concluded:

    ” … 3. Set aside order 2 of the orders of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria made on 21 August 2019 and, in its place, order that:
    (a) the appeal be allowed; and
    (b) the appellant’s convictions be quashed and judgments of acquittal be entered in their place.”

    In other words one is not now entitled to claim that Pell was ever found guilty – he was not. Instead, in accordance with the High Court’s ruling, the records of the second trial and of the Victorian Court of Appeal trial should now show that he was acquitted.

    No-one is entitled to claim that Pell is not innocent. He is, by definition innocent (“innocent until proven guilty”).

    • Andrew says:

      thanks for the history lesson Colin.

      It’s semantics – the facts remain the facts.,

      1. A properly constituted jury unanimously found him guilty and

      2. A Superior Court (Court of Appeal) backed that finding.

      Why do we have a jury system?

      The jury’s advantage

      27 Traditionally, of course, the jury in a criminal trial had what McHugh J in M
      described as the ‘incomparable advantage’ of seeing and hearing the witnesses for
      themselves.27

      By contrast, the appeal court had recourse only to the transcript of the
      evidence.

      Thus, in Whitehorn v The Queen (‘Whitehorn’),28 Dawson J said:

      In particular, a court of appeal does not usually have the opportunity to
      assess the worth of a witness’s evidence by seeing and hearing that evidence
      given. Moreover, the jury performs its function within the atmosphere of the
      particular trial which it may not be possible to reproduce upon appeal. These
      considerations point to important differences between the functions of a jury
      and those of a court of appeal. A jury is able, and is required, to evaluate the
      evidence in a manner in which a court of appeal cannot.29

      28 Subsequently, in Chidiac, Mason CJ said:

      The constitutional responsibility of the jury to decide upon the verdict and the
      advantage which the jury enjoys in deciding questions of credibility by virtue
      of seeing and hearing the witnesses impose some restraints upon the exercise
      of an appellate court’s power to pronounce that a verdict is unsafe. 31

      29 More recently, in R v Baden-Clay (‘Baden-Clay’),32 a unanimous High Court said:

      It is fundamental to our system of criminal justice in relation to allegations of
      serious crimes tried by a jury that the jury is ‘the constitutional tribunal for
      deciding issues of fact’. Given the central place of the jury trial in the
      administration of criminal justice over the centuries, and the abiding
      importance of the role of the jury as representative of the community in that
      respect, the setting aside of a jury’s verdict on the ground that it is
      ‘unreasonable’ … is a serious step, not to be taken without particular regard
      to the advantage enjoyed by the jury over a court of appeal which has not
      seen or heard the witnesses called at trial.33

      And later:

      In those circumstances, what remains of the jury’s ‘incomparable advantage’?
      This Court does not, of course, ‘perform its function within the atmosphere of the
      particular trial’.38 And there are other important differences which are likewise
      unaffected by the appellate court’s ability to view recorded evidence and participate
      in a view. The first is that jurors hear the witnesses in an unbroken sequence and are
      able to undertake continuous evaluation of the evidence — both individually and
      collectively — as the case progresses.39 The review of evidence by appellate judges
      is, by contrast, both fragmented and elongated and, for the most part, done
      individually.40

      36 The second difference is that the experience of viewing oral evidence in a
      courtroom is superior to the two-dimensional view of a witness seen on a video
      recording. While we were in the same position as the jury in relation to A’s evidence
      and other recorded evidence, the jury had the advantage of seeing and hearing, at
      close quarters, almost all of the opportunity witnesses.41

      37 The third difference is that of collective deliberation. Each juror engages with 11
      others whose only common attribute is that each has been present for the entirety of
      the evidence, the final addresses and the judge’s charge. Related to this is the effect
      of the requirement for unanimity (or a very high majority).42 As Heydon J said in AK
      v Western Australia:

      It cannot be easy to obtain unanimity or a high majority amongst quite a large
      number of decision-makers reflecting the diversity of the sections of the
      community they belong to, the diversity of human personality and the
      diversity of human experience. The process must tend to generate its own
      discipline — cause a careful scrutiny of the evidence, a dilution and sloughing
      away of individual prejudices, a pooling and sharing of human experience, a
      solemnity of decision-making.43

      This from the Court of Appeal majority. More later.

      • Boambee John says:

        Andrew

        Interesting stuff from the Court of Appeal, rendered somewhat moot by the High Court judgement.

        For our benefit, perhaps you could post the opinions of the dissenting Court of Appeal judge on this subject?

        • Andrew says:

          I’ll get to it BJ. Moot you say?

          I’d say assessing the respective arguments is what drives our legal system – rather than reaching a conclusion and massaging the assessment stages to suit that outcome?

          • Boambee John says:

            Andrew

            Unless you wish to restore appeals to the Privy Council, once the High Court has ruled, the opinions of the Court of Appeal become moot.

            “reaching a conclusion and massaging the assessment stages to suit that outcome”

            Isn’t this what you are doing?

          • Andrew says:

            You’re just trying to be cute now BJ. And quite frankly, a tad boorish.

            I’ll comment more later, revisiting the VCA decision.

          • Peter S says:

            Andrew,
            “rather than reaching a conclusion and massaging the assessment stages to suit that outcome?”

            Isn’t that precisely what you are doing?

          • Boambee John says:

            Andrew

            Not trying to be either cute or boorish. (Challenging you is boorish? Sensitive little petal, aren’t you?)

            The question remains, is it not moot once the highest court has made a determination?

      • Peter S says:

        Andrew,

        Thanks for your dissertation about the roles of Juries, the VCA and the HC.

        And yes – the facts remain the facts but you conveniently left a couple out:

        1. Jury 1 could not arrive at a verdict and therefore a retrial was ordered.

        2. Jury 2 reached a unanimous verdict of guilty and Pell was sentenced accordingly. This jury saw only a video of the evidence of witness A.

        3. The Victorian Court of Appeal upheld this verdict 2 to 1. The dissenting judge Weinberg produced his judgement in great detail – over 200 pages.

        4. The High Court overturned the decision of the VCA in a unanimous verdict. It judgement bore a considerable relationship to that of Weinberg.

        I have to admit your arguments quite puzzle me and suggest there is something deeper behind them than you are prepared to reveal. My conjecture.

        Am I to assume that you think the High Court should not hear such appeals?

        Am I also to assume that you believe Lindy Chamberlain should still be in jail? After all, she was found guilty by a jury. The pathway to her incarceration was certainly more convoluted, but the decision of the Royal Commission into her prosecution and convictions included an interesting comment.

        The purpose of the royal commission was to enquire into and report on the correctness of the Chamberlain convictions. In reaching the conclusion that there was a reasonable doubt as to the Chamberlains’ guilt, Commissioner Trevor Morling concluded that the hypothesis that Chamberlain murdered Azaria had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. Although the commission was of the opinion that the evidence afforded considerable support for the dingo hypothesis, it did not examine the evidence to see whether it had been proved that a dingo took the baby. To do so would, in the words of Commissioner Morling, involve a “fundamental error of reversing the onus of proof and requiring Mrs Chamberlain to prove her innocence” (at p. 339 of the report).

        A touch of deja vu perhaps.

    • Chris Warren says:

      Colin Davidison

      You are correct but that does not mean that Pell did not abuse young boys in the sacristy.

      Our legal system is such that you can kill someone and yet be found not-guilty of crime in court proceedings.

      This is based on the principle that it is better for a hundred guilty men go free than to see one innocent man hang from the gallows.

      This could be the situation with Pell, David Eastman, and OJ Simpson.

      • Andrew says:

        “Yet, whether it meant to or not, the signal sent out by the High Court was hardly likely to encourage victims of child sexual assault to come forward for justice. The accuser was, in many respects, a classic victim, if one of particular courage and coherence. His story was tested over days of cross-examination and not shaken. He was believed by a jury, and by two experienced judges, who saw, heard and read his evidence, as well as exhaustive descriptions of its alleged inadequacy from Robert Richter, probably the best criminal advocate in Australia.

        But seven judges, who seemed to make a virtue of the fact that they had not seen, or heard, or even closely considered his account decided to substitute their own verdict, on account of a greater weight they attached to some evidence of ritual and usual practice inside the cathedral. That the reaction of many people, including politicians, to the acquittal was to reaffirm belief in the accounts of victims, and dedication to their getting justice, was very telling. The uncommonly plain language of the judgment (my guess is that that the first draft and continuing skeleton came from Patrick Keane) will be much quoted; if rather more to make successful prosecutions in skilfully defended sexual assault cases much more difficult.

        Even juries might find it difficult to summons much enthusiasm, aware that until the court loses its newfound zeal for interfering in cases where they have a suspicion of a wrong result, their work will be regarded as of little account.”

        Need I say more.

        https://johnmenadue.com/jack-waterford-prosecution-as-an-obstacle-race/

        • Peter S says:

          Andrew,
          Your agenda is not clear. But I suspect my conjecture is correct. Take care.

        • Peter S says:

          Andrew,
          You persist in denigrating the judgement of the High Court. Despite your legal training as to the legal processes. Again might I suggest you have much more invested in this than you are revealing. Take care.

      • Peter S says:

        Chris
        Meanwhile you ignore the evidence as to possibility.

  • Boambee John says:

    Stu

    For tge superiority of secularism, follow this link.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-19/victims-launch-legal-action-against-education-department/7857178

    A sample

    “Ten men abused as children by a paedophile teacher at a Melbourne government school in the 1960s and 70s have launched legal action against the Victorian Education Department, arguing it knew of the abuse but failed to act.”

    • Stu says:

      Such a pity that there is no hell for all these guys to go to, no heaven either come to think of it. So the only justice is during the life of the perpetrator. That sometimes happens, more often not because the victims are too traumatised to subject themselves to the inquisition in court. Just look at the hard time rape victims have, but that is another whole story. Om.

      • Boambee John says:

        Stu

        Regardless of your view on the existence of Helo or Heaven, there is no evidence that Cdl Pell does not believe in their existence.

        PS, you previously used the full incantation, not just “Om”. Do you follow Zen Buddhism? In a secular fashion, of course?

        • Boambee John says:

          Hell, not Helo!

        • Stu says:

          I am sure he does, poor man. With a few exceptions Buddhism does seem to be the most gentle and least lethal of all the forms of delusion regarding supernatural forces shaping our lives. While catholicism can lay claim (along with the greeks maybe) to being the “original” christian doctrine it does have a slight credibility gap regarding Nicaea, the timing and the ditched gospels etc. But people are free to follow whatever ideas they like and if it brings comfort to them great. The problems arise when they try to inflict it on others e.g. abortion, attitudes to homosexuals etc. Each to his own would work well, but we seem to have passed that point sadly. May your god bless you and keep you safe at this time. Seriously.

          • Boambee John says:

            Stu

            “Each to his own would work well, but we seem to have passed that point sadly.”

            For a while from the 1960s/1970s that attitude had a bit of traction. Then militant athiesm came along, treating all who did not accept the tenets of that particular “religion” with complete disdain, and attempting to drive religious people from the public square.

            Keep safe.

            Seriously.

  • PeterD says:

    On John Menadue’s site, Pearls and Irritations, these comments occur:

    Jack Waterford wrote: “Pope Francis seemed to compare George’s sufferings to Jesus; on this one, my guess is that Jesus was, as usual, on the side of the little guy.”

    Frank O’Connor wrote: “The High Court has adjudicated an Appeal on (a selective view of) the evidence rather than an analysis of the law … which makes a jury trial utterly redundant in this country.”

    Anthony Fowler writes: ‘I don’t like Pell much as a personality but I know that sacristy and others, and after mass is the least likely time that anyone would do anything remotely wrong in there.”

    Francis Sullivan: ’let go of the obsession with Cardinal Pell … focus on the urgency of reform in the Catholic Church.”

    Former priest and District Court Judge, Chris Geraghty, wrote: “It has not been proven that he[Pell] did not do what is alleged by the complainant. He goes free because the Crown could not prove to the satisfaction of the members of the High Court (only to the members of the jury and the majority of the three justices of the Victorian Court of Appeal) that the members of the jury were thinking straight when they decided on the evidence that they entertained no reasonable doubt and that George was guilty.”

    My own view is that Craven, Bolt & Henderson’s agenda to blame the ABC should be strongly resisted. I don’t have much time for Sarah Ferguson’s hectoring, school-marm type of interviewing style but I heard Louise Milligan speak at the Sydney Writer’s festival some years ago and she has, I believe, journalistic integrity and a positive memories of a Catholic education. Like the ABC, she gives a voice to the powerless, to victims, to those on the margins. Of course, if the IPA had its way, the ABC would be privatised and we’d live in a Fox-type world based on this idiotic type of transient thinking – https://twitter.com/TheDailyShow/status/1246146713523453957?fbclid=IwAR3FKZDATcTEnI-nOV3-v0NAJJCglvmqDq59lVRjRm_o19VOHQ1LnyNZqlk

    Geoffrey Robertson’s point – that the trial should not have been a secret one – has some validity.
    Cardinal Pell’s initial response had been dignified, without rancour; forgiveness is part of the essence of being a Christian; furthermore, It’s Easter time – ‘ours were the sufferings he bore.’ Easter themes of victim and sacrifice hovered. Butt then, exposed to Bolt, the witness Pell speculates if the victim was ‘used’ and many wonder now whether he will seek some form of compensation. All this very interesting because Jesus at Easter time went before the Sanhedrin and pleaded his own case simply and humbly and received injustice, ; whereas Cardinal Pell does not testify (although the police interview was made available), is supported by a high-charging QC and gets justice. Ironical?

      • Peter S says:

        Andrew,
        You still have not responded to questions I raised with you about your involvement in this issue.
        I will take your silence as an acceptance. Take care

        • Andrew says:

          PeterS,

          “involvement”? Be more specific? Worked on the case or the Royal Commission or the like? No.

          Annoyed/disgusted that a bunch of demented men were able to hide behind a collar of faith for so long to abuse so many? You bet.

          And whether Pell got off this one or not, the guy was in the thick of things one way or the other.

          • Boambee John says:

            Andrew

            “And whether Pell got off this one or not, the guy was in the thick of things one way or the other.”

            Indeed he was.

            As soon as he got into a position to do so, he started removing the malefactors from the priesthood and the seminaries. He also set up a response system, probably not as generous as some might have wanted, but also probably the best of its kind at the time.

            But, are you making specific allegations against him? If so, you should go to the police, not drop dark hints here.

          • Andrew says:

            That’s good spin there BJ, albeit facile.

          • Boambee John says:

            Andrew

            Do you deny the accuracy of my comments, or are you just hoping that no one else will notice them?

            If you have specific complaints take them to the police.

    • Peter S says:

      Peter D,
      I read John Menadue’s blog too. Your citations simply illustrate the community divide that exists regarding George Pell. None of them are more creditable than those of a counter view. I have said before that the environment surrounding George Pell, particularly in Victoria, is toxic. Twitter is particularly venomous.

      I agree with your dislike of Sarah Ferguson. But perhaps mine goes back further to a Four Corners attack piece on Matty Ryan following a Sixty Minutes Episode that was designed to “rehabilitate” his commentating career following the exposure of misbehaviour of the Canterbury Bulldogs team in New Zealand. She was disingenuous and patently dishonest, a behaviour shE has constantly exhibited throughout her career.

      I disagree with your assessment of Louise Milligan. I presume you have read her book, published in haste before Pell was charge. Louise is on a mission, but her work has been sloppy and replete with errors, which when pointed out by Gerald Henderson she refuse to answer and instead deflected them to her publisher who in turn refused to answer. And the High Court has quite clearly consigned all the allegations in her book to the dust bin.

      And I am nowhere near as blase about the ABC’s role in the demonisation of George Pell. You just have to read the tweets of their staff after his acquittal to realise how deeply invested they all were in damning him to hell.

      But the ABC staff were not the only media so deeply invested. Others certainly were – David Marr, Lenore Taylor etc etc.

      The point is that no longer can the media refer to George Pell as a “convicted pedophile” as so many gleefully did so. The High Court decision has scotched that.

      But I don’t expect this will be the end. There is too much hate amongst the persecutors of George Pell for this to end. In my experience haters are very poor loosers.

      • BB says:

        This goes a whole lot wider than Pell. In Victoria they are setting up a legal framework where a person who assumes sexual victimhood is the arbiter of truth. They assume the role of police investigation, judge and jury. Institutionalised injustice. If it stands we do not need any more the legal system in this case. If someone says you are guilty you are. Those that argue this is a good thing are mentally deficient and I hope many of them become victims of it.

        • PeterD says:

          Hullo PeterS

          It’s true that there are camps of supporters and opponents around Cardinal Pell: so, yes, Bolt, Henderson, Frank Brennan, bishops etc and on the other hand, David Marr, Lenore Taylor, Sarah Ferguson, Tim Minchin etc. It’s not in these clusters that one is likely to encounter most objectivity.

          Your expression ‘deeply invested’ suggests the ABC was almost actively pursuing his conviction and seeking to quash the appeal. In contrast, I see the ABC as a necessary thorn on some national issues: on compassion for refugees, on climate change, on the marginalised, on some ALP/Greens ‘left’ agendas etc In fact, it is a necessary counterpoint to News Ltd where coverage of these issues would be remarkably different if the Murdoch Press had a monopoly.

          I have different views about Louise Milligan. You write that “the High Court has quite clearly consigned all the allegations in her book to the dust bin”. It’s still logically possible that the guy at the swimming pool [not a religious persona as I understand it] told Pell to clear off and stop excessively cavorting naked in front of young people. If another case such as this one, did emerge, for example, the assertion in your sentence would become invalid.

          So in general, there are a lot of excesses on both sides around the Pell case. My general interest is in the media and I think New Ltd has some threadbare journalists whose ideology and idiocy [especially in the US with Hannity, Laura I etc; cry out for some counter-balance and the ABC, despite its flaws, has a valid role and most Australians value this, despite the poisonous malice of the IPA.

          • Boambee John says:

            PeterD

            “most Australians value this,”

            But not enough to watch/listen to it? Check the viewing figures.

          • Peter S says:

            Hello Peter D.
            In my experience the supporters of our ABC tend to be people who accept the same world view and the prejudices that go with that.

            Personally I believe that the ABC was actively invested in destroying George Pell. If you read the twitter feeds of the staff you could not come to any other conclusion.

            You have different views about Louise Milligan. So be it. But despite your protestations to the contrary, and your wishes it would be otherwise, the High Court has definitely consigned her book to the dust bin. Milligan is an opportunist who has been largely undone – prejudicial documentation without adequate corroboration ultimately leads to loss of respect.

            I find your defense of the ABC rather interesting. In my experience those who defend the ABC are closely aligned with the chimera that infects the ABC staff. You accept whatever rubbish they promulgate unwaveringly because it conforms with your mindset. That is perfectly understandable.

            Of course what goes with this is a hatred of the Murdoch Press. Despite the fact that the News Limited Papers present a far more diversity of views than the ABC. Time to get real and admit where the real prejudices lie.

      • BB says:

        I just recalled what this is a close parallel to. I am a Star Trek fan and in the series of Deep Space Nine there is a civilisation called Cardassian. It’s legal system is that an accusation means you are guilty and what the court decides is what your sentence is going to be. That is very much like what is going on here.

        • PeterD says:

          Boambee John

          Ok so the figures are lower than I thought but it still comes back to a choice: In a media world dominated by New Ltd do you want to just listen to one hand clapping, to uncontested thinking of this type of nonsense – https://twitter.com/TheDailyShow/status/1246146713523453957?fbclid=IwAR3FKZDATcTEnI-nOV3-v0NAJJCglvmqDq59lVRjRm_o19VOHQ1LnyNZqlk – or are you prepared to have a thorn in your side that will present unpalatable, uncomfortable views on many topics of national interest – admittedly with some extra ideological stirring by ABC figures such as Sarah Ferguson, Tony Jones, Fran Kelly but with generally sound journalistic underpinnings. Listen to ABC RN Background Briefing on Sunday, have a look at ‘Mystery Road’ tonight, country networks, music, stuff for kids etc. Give the ABC credit. I read ‘The Australian’ on the weekend and it presents pockets of good reading but there are far more hacks and blinkered ideological nags in the News Limited stable than there are in the ABC, and dare I say it, on much higher salaries. So my view is value diversity and different spectrums of thinking but avoid the manure at the extremes.

          • Boambee John says:

            PeterD

            The difference is that you (and anyone else) can choose whether to spend your money on the Australian or any other Murdoch, or Fairfax/Nine, newspaper. Don’t like what they print, don’t buy.

            That choice does not apply with the ABC. For that reason, the ABC must avoid any perception of “some extra ideological stirring by ABC figures such as Sarah Ferguson, Tony Jones, Fran Kelly”. The ABC should not push an agenda that might not be shared by at least a significant majority of those who fund it through their taxes.

            I would be quite content to see “ABC RN Background Briefing on Sunday, have a look at ‘Mystery Road’ tonight, country networks, music” available as a subscription service, with the taxpayer funded ABC providing only news (with no commentary) and kids shows.

          • spangled drongo says:

            PeterD, do you think that a taxpayer-funded news site such as the ABC who have a charter to observe, as opposed to a privately funded news site such as News Ltd [who are entitled to please themselves] might have a balance of views and employ a few conservatives and allow their views to be heard in line with the voting numbers.

            Just as they have such a disproportionate number of females.

            Yet they [and you] ignore these very obvious imbalances.

  • BB says:


    From 9 News https://www.9news.com.au/national/vic-trials-to-be-quicker-less-traumatic/dae75863-b3f9-4bc3-b7d0-5f2caab10074:

    An overhaul of Victoria’s jury system is expected to slash the length of criminal trials and reduce trauma to victims.

    The state government will on Tuesday introduce a bill aimed at simplifying the raft of judge’s directions given to a jury.

    Labor says complex and “confusing” explanations about evidence, credibility and reasonable doubt will be clarified, to ensure fair trials and deliver faster verdicts.

    Sexual assault victims will be better protected under the changes, because the trial judge will no longer be required to cast doubt on their reliability.

    Attorney-General Martin Pakula says simpler directions will ultimately reduce the number of appeals and retrials, protecting victims and their families from further anguish.

    The Jury Directions Bill 2015, which will go before Victorian parliament, was developed after consultation with the legal fraternity.

    This is a total corruption of the legal system. Who needs to be confused by such things as evidence, credibility and reasonable doubt. One can only hope those promoting this madness become victims of it.

    • Boxer says:

      It has been argued on this site that juries should be considered the gold standard for determining guilt or innocence, despite the fact that the two juries who assessed Pell’s defence did not come to the same conclusion. But Victoria is going to adjust the system to keep it nice and simple for juries in the future. This implies that up until now juries have not been up to the task, so there will be legislation to lower the standards required of them.

      Jury duty is founded upon worthy ideals, but like most human endeavours juries are not infallible. When we jurors retire to deliberate, we are not in possession of unusual levels of wisdom, we do not have special insight. In the main we are a bunch of people who want to be somewhere else, but try to do the best we can. If there are jurors in the room who are getting any sort of thrill from the jury duty, then they are the people who seek power and are least suited to wield it. Like so many meetings, personal dynamics and levels of testosterone may be more important than rational thought.

    • PeterD says:

      Hullo Spangled Drongo

      You’re looking for more balance on the ABC. On ‘Insiders’ today, there were two News Limited reps and one exNews Ltd. I have written criticising the ABC on more than 30 occasions over the last six years [Moreso when they had a forum for this] – progress slow, yes. Gender imbalance – yes; many other flaws – yes. But my basic point remains – where else in Australian life will views be presented – as an alternative to the Murdoch paradigm with commercial ads etc – that get up peoples’ noses, make them uncomfortable and has some basis in journalism. The old resonances of Easter: who will plead their cause? Your points I concede but please give me an answer to the big question and not worry too much about taxes, and all the rest of the rubbish in favour of privatising the ABC.

      • Peter S says:

        Peter D,
        Clearly you have an antipathy to the Murdoch Press. May I suggest you read their publications They even tolerate Peter Van Olsen and Graham Richardson. Point me to where the ABC provides similar diversity.

        • PeterD says:

          Hullo Peter S

          You cite the presence of Peter Van Olsen and Graham Richardson as an example of Murdoch Press tolerance. While I like Peter Van Olsen’s thinking, it’s laughable that you mention Graham Richardson. Why not, for good measure, throw in Garry Johns in ‘The Australian’ – both with former ALP links? I have read ‘The Australian’ for years {see my posting above – April 19, 3.19pm} and continue to read ‘The Weekend Australian.’ My antipathy to the Murdoch Press is much more associated with its supine support of Trump in the US but there is also muck at the margins in some of their Australian publications, especially the DT. As I mentioned above, I have written many times criticising the ABC and some of its journalists but I tend to differentiate – perhaps rather naively – between ‘News of the World’/Hannity and Friends type of ethos and the BBC/ABC which shows us better versions of what we might be as citizens/Australians but I clearly understand that some readers in this forum will vomit at such a thought.

          • Peter S says:

            Peter D,
            The think you and I are on different planets when it comes to discussing the positions of the various MSM outlets. But I have discussed this elsewhere.

            But I have a challenge for you. Name one conservative commentator with a significant profile on our ABC. Just one.

      • Boambee John says:

        PeterD

        ” – where else in Australian life will views be presented – as an alternative to the Murdoch paradigm with commercial ads etc – that get up peoples’ noses, make them uncomfortable and has some basis in journalism. The old resonances of Easter: who will plead their cause? Your points I concede but please give me an answer to the big question and not worry too much about taxes, and all the rest of the rubbish in favour of privatising the ABC.”

        Fairfax/Nine Newspapers? As with the Murdoch stable, readers can choose to buy or not. Perhaps the choices made in recent years say something that you do not wish to hear?

        Your comments about taxes and privatising the ABC make it clear that you want your preferred news source to be subsidised by others who do not use it. This is a very human position to take, though not an admirable one.

        PS SBS has ads, but seems less dogmatic than the ABC.

        • PeterD says:

          Hullo Boambee John

          Essentially this discussion is focussed on judicial/media treatment of events around Cardinal Pell’s recent successful appeal to the High Court around charges of sexual abuse of children. Media because Bolt, Henderson, Craven are castigating the ABC’s coverage.

          Someone like Francis Sullivan who attended all Royal Commission hearings is of the view that justice for victims is very difficult to secure in practice despite the overwhelming statistics, suicide patterns etc.

          When you see films such as ’Spotlight’, ‘Dark Waters’, ’Truth’ etc – films that show the challenges of truth to power issues, you realise that tenacity, strategy, resources, finance, media power are critical to contest these narratives.

          The fundamental question I posed was ‘Who will plead the cause of sexual abuse victims and indeed other causes when the power line-up is so stacked against them?

          People who bleat about taxes and money are surrendering their trust to News Ltd, big corporations, Big
          Churches etc., to the dominant narratives.

          It seems to me the first question is: is the issue important enough to warrant extensive and balanced coverage – child abuse, climate change, how to deal with refugees etc

          The second question is: are we receiving, or likely to receive balanced coverage?

          If the answer is No then I am prepared to pay for it. It is not a question of seeking admiration but it is a question of caring about significant human issues.

          Are we likely to get balanced coverage from News Ltd papers on Cardinal Pell or climate change? Not in my view.

          Are we likely to get balanced coverage from the ABC on Cardinal Pell or climate change? Not in my view.

          Together though, we get a dialectic, despite the flaws of both behemoths.

          • Boambee John says:

            PeterD

            “The fundamental question I posed was ‘Who will plead the cause of sexual abuse victims and indeed other causes when the power line-up is so stacked against them?”

            You have already listed by name many who do. I would note that both News Ltd and Fairfax/Nine papers have published stories taking the side of complainants.

          • Peter S says:

            Peter D,

            Personally I have no problems with the generalisations you are making in this particular post. It is a fact that gross abuses of children occurred within all the institutions examined by the Royal Commission. It is also very true that to obtain redress for crimes that in many cases were decades old is difficult, and indeed often impossible. Many of the perpetrators are dead. And there is a differential in the power of the institutions vis a vis the victims.

            But that doesn’t justify conducting a “trial by media” either, whether it be by News Ltd, the Nine news network or the ABC. And it is my observation that all 3 were involved in firstly focusing most of their attention on the Catholic Church and on a particular individual, George Pell.

            Even on 3AW, which sits somewhere in the centre of the spectrum of views on this particular case, there were individuals who quite clearly took great pleasure to referring to him, post his trial as “the convicted pedophile Cardinal Pell”, even though the process of appeal had not been concluded.

            I don’t know whether you reside in Victoria, but I do. The sight of the baying mob outside the courthouse was/is but an indicator of how toxic the atmosphere was/is.

            I don’t know how familiar you are with the twitter feeds of some of the media personalities who were heavily invested in their personal condemnation of Pell, but I am. And frankly many of the ABC staff betrayed their true positions over and over again via twitter. Twitter seems to be the social media people resort to after wine o’clock. I have always said twitter is for twits, and our media commentators demonstrate that time and time again.

            But I do agree that none of the MSM is balanced. In my experience the extent to which we judge their balance really depends where they appear to sit vis a vis our personal perspectives. My training is in science, and even within that fraternity, despite the methodology science is supposed to employ, dogma exists and is extremely difficult to oppose. Even more so today within our Universities.

            The MSM today is more about commentary than “news”. This trend is also evident in popular science magazines such as the “New Scientist” and the “Scientific American”. At one time the contributions to these publications were in the main written by scientists reporting on their own their colleagues work. Today they are written by “science journalists” who constantly insert their own opinions into articles they write.

            I agree. To get a dialectic one has to read widely. The problem is that most do not.

  • spangled drongo says:

    In the Herald Sun this week, Jeff Kennett demanded the resignations of the two Court of Appeal judges — Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Chris Maxwell — who went with the vibe, not the law, in rejecting Cardinal George Pell’s appeal:

    “I want to focus on the standing of the legal system in Victoria and the inappropriateness of our two senior judges occupying their positions any longer.

    By 1992, the standing of the application of law in Victoria was so low anyone involved in a serious commercial trial went to the courts of NSW to have their matter heard. We established Victoria’s Court of Appeal in 1994 to address that lack of confidence in our court system. Justice Jack Winneke was appointed president and, with his colleagues, rebuilt Victoria’s court reputation. They were highly respected legal people…

    …how could Victoria’s two most senior legal people sitting as the Court of Appeal get their decisions so terribly wrong? They should resign.”

    • Andrew says:

      Their decision was not horribly wrong at all.

      They gave more weight to the complainant’s testimony, less weight to several of the key defence witnesses’ testimonies.

      Fair enough.

      Weinberg did the reverse, then added his “compounding probabilities” ‘test’….. as new spin. Fair enough too.

      At least these three saw the recordings of the testimony!

      There was no dispute as to the issues at hand here and anyone who flew the flag after Saturday’s The Australian article (that one of the VCA majority admitted their criminal law inexperience) simply has no idea….

      And I still maintain that had the Applicant seeking special leave to appeal to the HCA been plain old Peter Smith, there would have been no HC case.

      • PeterD says:

        Hullo Andrew,

        How true your last sentence reads.

        As a parallel, Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network estimates that for every 1,000 rapes, 384 are reported to police, 57 result in an arrest, 11 are referred for prosecution, 7 result in a felony conviction, and 6 result in incarceration.

        Clearly legal processes need to have their own integrity and in Cardinal Pell’s case, any lessons learnt should be implemented. I believe in open rather than secret trials, for instance. But the facts are, given the passage of time and generally the lack of witnesses, convictions in these cases are elusive.

        In terms of justice, however, many people feel that Cardinal Pell has been a victim. I do not wish to comment on the specifics of his case, nor to be casting stones but I believe there are far more victims with unrequited justice than there are abusers who have been unfairly targeted. The biblical phrase -‘ours were the suffering he bore’ – is haunting but there are not many sacrificial victims putting their hand up today in christian circles. For many, it is about money, money, money.

        I taught in a Catholic high school for six years and when you know victims, it is not just a matter of legal technicalities. The trauma, overwhelming sense of violation and pain, suicides, depression etc; these are deeply embedded. In a Christian sense, New Testament values, the Beatitudes etc are not always orientated to the powerful, the rich, etc; quite the antithesis – the exhortations are about the poor, the marginalised, the widow, the powerless. You see in the US the inequalities of distributed wealth, tax support for the well-off, excessive preoccupation with money and commerce and the catch-cry is “Each one for themself, said the elephant, as it danced among the chickens.” Liberalism, freedom, IPA sovereignty, no subsidies from my pocket for social justice values.

        While I have insufficient knowledge to comment on Cardinal Pell’s case, his case study raises many issues, some worthy of legal reform perhaps. But when I see ex-VC of ACU, GregCraven, attacking the ABC, as well as the persecuted Andrew Bolt, I ask why don’t they focus on the cover-up, the obfuscation, the level of abuse, the need for reform within the Catholic Church. Where does the buck stop? – not cheap-shots at the ABC but a radical look at internal conversion, a metanoia, within the Catholic Church and indeed many religions that have been ensnared in decades of sexual abuse of children.

        • Andrew says:

          PeterD,

          Some fair commentary there, though when you say:

          “In terms of justice, however, many people feel that Cardinal Pell has been a victim.”

          I would say the majority of the wider community would not feel that way at all.

        • Boambee John says:

          PeterD

          “The biblical phrase -‘ours were the suffering he bore’ – is haunting but there are not many sacrificial victims putting their hand up today in christian circles.”

          Actually, if he is innocent, as 7 HC judges agreed, then Cardinal Pell “bore the suffering” for somewhat more than a year, without displaying any anger.

  • Peter E says:

    I’ve read some of the comments by Andrew above and find them mistaken. It was obvious from the start that Pell could not receive a fair trial. I am entirely unimpressed with what the second jury decided and the 2/3 decision of the court of appeal. It was plain to all at the time that the jury had failed to take into account the multiple accounts contradicting the complainant’s version and that there was, at the very least, reasonable doubt as to guilt. A man is innocent unless found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. A vile crime was projected onto an innocent man who then spent 405 days in prison for an offence that he did not commit. This has dire implications for all who regard the rule of law as sacrosanct. There has been a grave injustice and it cannot be ignored. The Victorian system of justice must be examined root and branch. We all know what the Premier of Victoria said. The whole thing stinks of a kind of Chinese communist corruption trial; a high ranking man is purged and pulled down to encourage the others. As Pell himself has now pointed out, this trial has more to do with the culture wars than the rule of law.

    • Andrew says:

      Peter E,

      You listened to A’s and the defence witnesses testimonies did you? No.

      Did the jury and the 3 judges of the Ct of Appeal? Yes.

      The 7 justices of the HC full bench? No.

      You have as little idea as me as to whether Pell did it or not?

      That the HCA found the way they did was a result of finding that there was a significant possibility, in their opinion, on the evidence they saw, that he didn’t do it.

      One example of how poor (in my opinion granted) the HC decision was that even in their spartan conclusion they are still referencing the issue of manoeuvring his vestments (without again inspecting the same) whereas the jury closely inspected the garb and quickly reached a conclusion that it was very possible….

      Enough from me on Pell, i’ll watch from afar, how things play out for George….

    • PeterD says:

      Andrew: Definitely – yes, I agree.

      • Peter S says:

        Andrew:

        ““In terms of justice, however, many people feel that Cardinal Pell has been a victim.”
        I would say the majority of the wider community would not feel that way at all.”

        Peter D:

        “Andrew: Definitely – yes, I agree.”

        Precisely my point. The question is how did this arise? You both know the answer, even if not prepared to admit it.

        Andrew you responded earlier:

        ““involvement”? Be more specific? Worked on the case or the Royal Commission or the like? No.
        Annoyed/disgusted that a bunch of demented men were able to hide behind a collar of faith for so long to abuse so many? You bet.
        And whether Pell got off this one or not, the guy was in the thick of things one way or the other.”

        No need for me to be more specific. Your involvement/investment is clear from your last sentence.

        Having been an altar boy in the Ballarat Diocese I perhaps have more reason to angry and bitter than you. But I am not. I have scant regard for the institution that is the Catholic Church and all the other institutions that covered up the crimes committed by a subset of their clergy, or in the case of the secular institutions, a subset of their leaders. The Royal Commission was set up to expose all of this and in general it has been very effective in doing so.

        But the fact remains, child abuse is more pervasive within the general community, some communities more so than others, and this continues today. Modern communications and transport technology is enabling pedophiles to share their perversions among themselves, facilitating the crimes.

        However, the behaviour within institutions is merely a reflection of behaviour within society as a whole.

        The Royal Commission has forced institutions to clean up their act, but there is no guarantee reversion to the same behaviour will not occur in the future. Pedophilia is a cancer that will not go away.

        • Andrew says:

          It almost reads as if you think it perverse that I am so disgusted?

          Now that is perverse!

          And if you think George is squeaky clean (whether directly or by way of complicity), you’ve rocks in your head.

          Over to Mungo…

          https://johnmenadue.com/mungo-maccallum-george-pell-and-the-faithful-choristers-at-the-australian/?mc_cid=703693bbf2&mc_eid=d4068760f3

          • Boambee John says:

            Andrew

            When Mungo is your last word, you should have stopped earlier.

          • BB says:

            Andrew you are extremely lacking. You continue to argue about the detail of the case that actually is not important. Witness A accused Pell of forcing him into a sexual act. This was not witnessed by anyone. He did say the other boy present also was so abused and witnessed it. That boy denied it to his mother and had since died. There is nothing else to corroborate it nothing. There is much factual evidence that it was unlikely to have happened. To maintain that it is reasonable to put people in jail on this basis is astounding. It seems you do not have the wit to understand it could be anyone that goes to jail. It could be you it could be your friends it could be anyone in Victoria. Either you are so obsessed with this you cannot see the consequences or you argue maliciously knowing full well what you ask for. Or is it you just do not have the intellectual capacity to understand?

          • Andrew says:

            BB,

            Very funny. What’s your background in the law?

            Talk about what you know, not what you think you know.

            Thinking you know stuff doesn’t cut the mustard….sorry.

          • Peter S says:

            Andrew,
            Your bitterness and hatred is evident in every utterance. Clearly you have much more invested in the case of George Pell than you are revealing.

            You have not addressed the questions I asked you regarding the relevance of the High Court in the legal system. You have asserted the primacy of juries whilst ignoring cases where they got it wrong e.g. Lindy Chamberlain. Indeed the whole system got it wrong.

            I think it rather sad someone could be so bitter that they are prepared to consciously misrepresent the legal system because of a very deeply ingrained enmity to one individual.

            The High Court in this case got it right. You have got it very wrong.

          • Andrew says:

            Cry me a river PeterS.

            Hold on, let me go and tune my violin….

            “bitterness and hatred”? I laughed aloud when I read that pearler.

            Did you get into the gin early today?

          • Peter S says:

            Andrew,
            Your response was not a unexpected. Whatever the reason for your bitterness and hatred – take care.

          • Andrew says:

            PeterS,

            Such prescience – terrific.

            Might I recommend Giniversity – Botanical.

          • Peter S says:

            Andrew,
            You constantly betray yourself. Take care

          • Peter S says:

            “Such prescience – terrific.

            Might I recommend Giniversity – Botanical.”

            Andrew I suspect you know that I know what is going on inside your head.
            Take care.

          • Andrew says:

            Peter S,

            I suggest you analyse your own self (thoroughly) before you endeavour to take on others.

            And also reflect on Occam’s Razor.

            You take care too.

          • Peter S says:

            Andrew,
            I do.
            I have no bitterness towards, or hatred of, anyone.
            Cheers

        • PeterD says:

          Hullo Peter S

          To clarify the point I was making: “In terms of justice, however, many people feel that Cardinal Pell has been a victim.”

          If you look at the postings in this forum in response to Don’s column, this statement might be true. It might also be true if you think that Andrew Bolt, Greg Craven, Frank Brennan, Gerard Henderson represent dominant perspectives in the media that are widely accepted.

          But if you look at how most Australians think [and this is not based on data] they would believe that the Catholic Church has been a disgrace in the way it has been dragged by the Royal Commission to address issues of sexual abuse. There are figures of course that show Catholics are walking away from the Church in significant numbers. This is reflected in other denominations and institutions.

          I was thinking of the first two readings of ‘many’ but when you look broadly – away from the insiders and the commentators – I clearly endorse Adams’s view that ‘the majority of the wider community would not feel that way at all.’

          You refer to the role of the Royal Commission: it has forced institutions to clean up their act, as you state, but there remains a lot more work to do on the Recommendations.

          • Peter S says:

            Peter D
            “But if you look at how most Australians think [and this is not based on data] they would believe that the Catholic Church has been a disgrace in the way it has been dragged by the Royal Commission to address issues of sexual abuse. There are figures of course that show Catholics are walking away from the Church in significant numbers. This is reflected in other denominations and institutions.”

            You may not be familiar with the history. To its credit the Catholic Church has made substantial progress in addressing its issues with sexual abuse. All the cases considered by the RC were historical. As counsel assisting Gail Furness SC told the royal commission: “The vast majority of claims (against Catholic clergy) alleged abuse that started in the period 1950 to 1989 inclusive.” She added: “The largest proportion of first alleged incidents of child sexual abuse … occurred in the 1970s.” That is, about four decades ago.

            George Pell set up the Melbourne Response to handle clerical child sexual assault in 1996. His fellow archbishops and bishops established Towards Healing the following year in the rest of Australia. This means the Catholic Church was addressing this crime about six years before the revelations in The Boston Globe about the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and about 16 years before prime minister Julia Gillard set up the royal commission.

            He also sacked an offending priest who had been protected by his predecessor Archbishop Little.

            The toxic atmosphere surrounding Pell personally, assisted to some extent by his demeanor, was generated by selected sections of the media, in particular in my opinion, the ABC. In Victoria at least there has been a long antipathy/enmity on the part of the protestant community towards the Catholic Church which has its origins in the 1800’s when large numbers of Scottish and Irish settlers arrived. Certainly up to the 1970’s that feeling was also evident in the Victorian police force, and I doubt if it has been totally eliminated.

            There is no question that Pell was targeted by the police. One of them said as much during his trial. In that sense he was a victim. There will always be those who will not accept the decision by the High Court. Especially those who were the victims of predator priests and brothers.

          • Boambee John says:

            PeterD

            “. As counsel assisting Gail Furness SC told the royal commission: “The vast majority of claims (against Catholic clergy) alleged abuse that started in the period 1950 to 1989 inclusive.” She added: “The largest proportion of first alleged incidents of child sexual abuse … occurred in the 1970s.

            This was a time when a self acknowledged pedo broadcast an interview on the ABC with 3 pedos, who described their abuse of young boys. The ABC later destroyed the tapes of the broadcast.

            The same period when the Chairman of the ABC stated in a newspaper article words to the effect that pedos should be understood, and that “men would sleep with boys”. The ABC has never repudiated either of these events.

            The past was a different era, when many institutions failed in their responsibilities. Few institutions were without sin.

    • PeterD says:

      Hullo Boambee john,

      Cardinal Pell’s initial response was dignified and without rancour; indeed forgiveness is part of the essence of being a Christian – even jail time is not excluded. Nelson Mandela’s life showed that not all jail time is wasted. With Andrew Bolt Cardinal Pell suggested the witness could have been ‘used’ and he was unhappy with the ABC’s coverage.

  • spangled drongo says:

    The Pell-haters just can’t accept that a HC 7-0 verdict in Pell’s favour is such an overwhelming indictment of Victoria’s notorious justice system and the attitude of Andrews and others for allowing it to exist that way.

    • PeterD says:

      Hullo Peter S

      *To its credit the Catholic Church has made substantial progress in addressing [historical] issues with sexual abuse.

      There are many more reform opportunities for the Catholic Church, especially at the Plenary Council, but there are strong reactionary/conservative forces at work that would like to return to pre-Vatican 11. Progress certainly, but insufficient in my view, because in its practice, teaching and doctrine there are certainly lessons to be learnt from the RC.

      * The Melbourne Response: good for the time, agreed, but not over-endowed with generosity and too many non-disclosure agreements in my view.

      * In Victoria at least there has been a long antipathy/enmity on the part of the protestant community towards the Catholic Church

      Yes, throw in Archbishop Mannix and B. A. Santamaria for good measure.

      * Pell was targeted by the police.

      I am unaware of the specifics of Pell’s case but Cardinal Pell himself urged that every complaint be investigated. What is obvious, though, is that in many cases in Australia local police collaborated with local clergy to avoid any targeting or bringing into the justice system predatory priests and perpetrators. Is our attention only on the big fish, not the minnows.

      * Those who will not accept the decision by the High Court….specially those who were the victims of predator priests and brothers.

      You raise here a substantial point. In a technical sense the decision is incontrovertible but of course for many victims it has been the right decision but a heart-breaking decision. They have equated this case with a trial of the Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse. The ABC’s Media Watch [20April] covered Cardinal Pell’s case in a fair way in my view but I understand, in our tribal forums, that this is unwatchable for some some people.

      • Peter S says:

        Hello Peter D,

        Sure there is much the Catholic Church can do to mitigate historical crimes committed by its clergy. A statement that equally applies to other institutions within which abuse continued past 2000. The point is that within n Australia the church moved much faster than its compatriots.

        Whatever your view of the Melbourne Response it was a vanguard response driven by Pell and very difficult to reconcile with the allegations he was assaulting choir boys at the same time. I find that very difficult to reconcile as should his accusers.

        You admit to not being familiar with the case. Perhaps you should research how many fishing expeditions such as Operation Tethering and its successor Operation Sano are general practice . There is no question that Vic Pol higher command were involved in a “get Pell” adventure. Their behaviour in the Lawyer X debacle exhibits a similar mindset.

        I watched Media Watch tonight. Sadly I disagree with your view. In my mind it was simply an apologia pro vita sua for the enormous bias of the ABC throughout this saga, including Louise Milligan who is persisting in defending her appallingly biased tome, now thoroughly discredited by the legal process leading to Pell’s acquittal. And despite Barry Cassidy’s best efforts to declare otherwise that acquittal is an declaration of innocence, despite what the commentariat may believe.

    • PeterD says:

      Boambee John

      I agree with your conclusion in the last sentence. It’s true that there have been dramatic changes in society, in values and thinking on many issues since the 1970s. I’m over 70 and would not have envisaged some of the changes in my wildest imaginings. So yes, your posting is very reasonable and I certainly would not want to protect the barricades for all that the ABC has said and done in the past, or even the present.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    Peter S: My views and yours are in some harmony. I strongly agree that we need the availability of differing points of view in the MSM, and I would not, for example, get rid of the ABC. One can read alternative points of view in The Australian, hear them on Sky News, and watch Andrew Bolt. I do think that Fairfax is a tad more balanced than the ABC on what I would call matters of conscience, and think we have considerable diversity now. I would like that to continue.

    • Peter S says:

      Don,

      On a completely different issue your blog works well on my PC’s and also on my iPhone although on the phone the thread structure does stretch the capacity of the screen. Curiously however the site refuses to scroll on my iPad. I have no idea as to why.

    • dlb says:

      As a public broadcaster the ABC should not see itself as a counter to Newscorp, as many on the Left want and probably many of its staff think. It should take a neutral view as much as possible and not run agendas. I would prefer a boring, but wise old Auntie that people tune into to get a dry, yet middle ground view that is about how the world is, not what it should be.

      I think they do a reasonable job of keeping politicians accountable, some may disagree.
      The programs they produce such as 4 Corners are commendable, but highlighting social justice problems can seem to verge on activism. They also provide a valuable service in educating rather than entertaining. Unfortunately there is a fine line between education and indoctrination.

      My partner says “Why to you watch the ABC when you complain about it so much?” I say because they are more serious than the commercial stations, but unfortunately their bias and pet topics irritate me.

      If I was a schoolteacher and was grading them I would give them a B minus – was a good performer, but now think they know more than the teacher.

    • PeterD says:

      Hullo Peter S

      “In Australia the church moved much faster than its compatriots.”

      You are much more easily satisfied that I am about the response of the Catholic Church. Credit, yes, but there is a lot more to be done. I don’t want to unnecessarily personalise our differences and I have made some postings on this in other forums and you can see I have had a consistent interest in further reform.
      i
      https://johnmenadue.com/peter-donnan-the-plenary-council-searching-for-australian-catholics/

      https://johnmenadue.com/peter-donnan-is-church-reform-supported-by-australian-catholic-media/

      I wonder why this forum discussion has generated such a high number of responses. As Paul Barry concluded on ‘Media Watch’ last night, it has left Australia divided. I notice you did not refute the following point: “What is obvious, though, is that in many cases in Australia local police collaborated with local clergy to avoid any targeting or bringing into the justice system predatory priests and perpetrators. Is our attention only on the big fish, not the minnows?” Cardinal Pell’s case is headline news but my argument is that every person’s case is of utmost concern and more fundamental changes in Church governance, teaching and practice are required.

      You invite me to extend my knowledge to Operation Tethering and more details of the case. I have no expertise in the law, nor do I want to make judgements, or cast stones at Cardinal Pell. Others are more qualified. I am inclined to accept Shakespeare’s advice: “Leave him to heaven etc If there are any stings of conscience that lodge within him, that is personal. Improvements to the judicial system may evolve, based on reviews of what occurred. thought it was puzzling that at least one of the trials was held in secret, for instance, but legal arguments were accepted on both sides, I understand.

      We have very contrasting views about ‘Media Watch’ and the ABC generally. Paul Barry presented a fair analysis of the events around Cardinal Pell’s story and most of it was factual. He defended the ABC but he did identify some shortcomings in their coverage. Many sexual abuse victims would praise the ABC and Louise Milligan for their reporting, for pleading their case, not judging it. The more the focus moves to scapegoating the ABC, the more the attention moves away from the real issue: urgency of reform agendas. I attend meetings of Concerned Catholics in Canberra, chaired by John Warhurst, and that is an ongoing, more critical process.

      • Boambee John says:

        PeterD

        “What is obvious, though, is that in many cases in Australia local police collaborated with local clergy to avoid any targeting or bringing into the justice system predatory priests and perpetrators. Is our attention only on the big fish, not the minnows?”

        Many complainant support groups and members of the public seem to have taken the line that “someone must take responsibility for the failings of the Catholic Church, and putting Pell in jail does that”. They want a scapegoat.

        On that basis, should Ashton be jailed to atone for the simultaneous failings of the police? As a scapegoat?

        • PeterD says:

          Hi Boambee John

          Scapegoats were accepted in ancient Israel, I believe, and some believe that Christ was crucified/sacrificed for the sins of many. In a contemporary legal sense, there in zero tolerance for scapegoating, but some practise it all the time. Trump rarely accepts responsibility, for instance, and I wrote this morning that many want to blame the ABC instead of looking at the need for further reform in the Catholic church and indeed other denominations.

          Ashton laughed off the idea that this was a vendetta: under no conditions should Cardinal Pell be targeted by police or tried symbolically for other failings in the broader Church.

          I have zero tolerance for the idea of ‘scapegoating’ and so for your final question you can deduce my answer.

          I might also add as a hypothetical, from the comfort of my arm-chair, that I would testify in court – no second amendments for me, buddy.

          • Boambee John says:

            PeterD

            It is good to know that you reject scapegoating, and therefore reject any suggestion that Cdl Pell should suffer for the sins of his fellow churchmen.

            Thank you.

            “Ashton laughed off the idea that this was a vendetta: under no conditions should Cardinal Pell be targeted by police or tried symbolically for other failings in the broader Church.”

            I believe that the Mandy Rice-Davies response would apply to that statement. It is not the usual practice to start an investigation by advertising for complaints against a specific individual.

      • Peter S says:

        Peter D

        I now see your link with John Menadue’s blog.

        As a lapsed Catholic I would like to see continued “improvements” in the Church too, if only for the benefit of its members. It would be nice to see it become more “christian” and less institutional. My point of course was that in respect to child abuse by church clergy it has made significant progress in changing that, but it is an institution steeped in tradition that has little relevance in the modern world. Not being involved gives me little incentive to argue for ” the lot more to be done.”

        Your articles are impressive and interesting. They made good reading.

        For your information reporting of both of Pell’s trials was restricted, largely because the Police wished to proceed to a second trial on charges relating to much older allegations and the Judge decided that any reporting of the active trial could prejudice the second trial. I any event the second trial was not allowed to proceed because he felt there would be little chance of a conviction.

        I didn’t refute the comments made about the role of the Victorian Police in collaborating with church leaders in Victoria in suppressing investigation of pedophile clergy because I know that to be the case. It was raised at the Royal Commission but common knowledge before then, particularly concerning a certain priest in Mildura. Remember I grew up in the Ballarat Diocese.

        I am happy to agree to disagree where our views differ. As far as I am concerned the ABC is a like the curates egg. When it is good it is very very good but when it is bad it is horrid. As I said the twitter feeds of quite a number of its staff are rather illuminating.

        Thanks for the exchange of views.

    • Boxer says:

      Don

      The ABC should exist, but the question is why should it be publicly funded while none of it’s prominent journalists or presenters are right of centre. It does attack both Labor and Coalition governments, but from a position over near the Greens. It would be ridiculous to contemplate a publicly funded broadcaster that normally positioned itself in the extreme political right, but it seems to be somehow acceptable to publicly fund an extreme left broadcaster. The far right does not have a monopoly on hate.

      I flipped on the ABC from personal experience. The Government department that employed me in the 1980s had a CEO who was known to be in the ABC’s sights because they misunderstood our CEO’s position on a conservation issue. The ABC used Four Corners to attempt to nail him. Our CEO filmed the ABC’s interview of himself, with the CEO’s cameras behind the ABC’s camera crew. The CEO’s record showed the journalist and all the ABC’s crew in a continuous stream for over an hour. The CEO then distributed the complete unedited film of the entire interview to all Departmental employees on a Friday, so that we could watch it over the weekend before the Monday night broadcast of Four Corners. However I watched the Four Corners documentary first because I worked over the weekend.

      It was a quite alarming experience. I have not bothered to watch Four Corners since, and I have watched virtually no documentaries on any topic for more than three decades. My alarm was not just that a journalist on the public payroll was so dishonest, but that with clever editing, it is possible for journalists in visual media to make lies and blatant misrepresentations so credible. There are so many tricks to editing film to create a credible misrepresentation, and if you are not looking for them, they pass over you completely. Even if you intimately understand the topic of a documentary, these tricks of interplaying image (using our primary sense – sight) and sound are very hard to spot. This struck me forcefully because I watched the Four Corners programme first, and I failed to pick most of the worst misrepresentations by the ABC. By watching the unedited version of events afterwards, it staggered me how badly the CEO had been misrepresented in ways I had not detected in the Four Corners programme, even though I knew the CEO personally and the topic of the documentary was central to my professional life.

      Before the age of documentaries, someone commented upon the twisting of statistics to suit an argument – “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics”. I think this should be “… lies, damned lies, statistics, and documentaries”. That such a tool is in the hands of a public sector organisation that is accountable to no one is of great concern. Float the ABC on the market, and let it operate in the private sector, where it can freely challenge the Murdoch press on equal terms and without the strange halo of public sector impartiality.

  • Peter S says:

    Don,
    I agree. But each deserve to be called out when appropriate. I do not advocate abolition of the ABC – much of its programming is excellent (I’m a fan of Landline, Australian Story etc) but I do believe its Board should be actively pursuing an increase in the diversity of opinion within the organisation. The existing staff collective is far too powerful.

    I have an associate who left the organisation to set up his own media business. His reason was that he couldn’t cope with the staff “mafia”.

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