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Tag Archives: George Pell

Pell Arrives Back; Turnbull Hitches A Ride And Jeff Spills The (Coffee) Beans!

The ABC news this morning told me that Cardinal Pell had arrived back in Australia to face “historical sexual assault charges”. Now, I’m not commenting on the veracity of those charges because – as many people have pointed out – it would be wrong to deny the man a fair trial. Commenting on trials in progress is something that’s reserved for terrorism offences, but it’s the use of the word “historical” that has me bemused.

historical
hɪˈstɒrɪk(ə)l/Submit
adjective
-of or concerning history or past events.
-belonging to the past.
-(especially of a novel or film) set in the past.

Assuming we can eliminate the idea that the ABC is trying to suggest that this whole thing is a novel or film, we are left with two definitions both of which suggest that these are charges concerned with events that happened in the past.

Which is, of course, only fair because I’m sure we’d all have concerns if anyone was being charged with events that were allegedly happening in the future.

So, given anyone with half a brain and even members of the right faction of Turnbull’s government would presume that these were charges relating to things that have happened in the past, one wonders why the ABC feels it necessary to emphasise the “historical” nature of the events.

Do we get that with any other news?

“Youths charged with causing historical damage at detention centre”
“Liberals announce historical policy on marriage equality”
“Man charged with historical murder”
“Turnbull gets historical ride with Donald Trump”

Which reminds me, I meant to spend this morning writing about the great example Turnbull has set for saving money.Yep, he’s learned from Bronwyn’s infamous helicopter ride, and not only did he hitch a ride with Donald Trump, but he managed to get Macron to take him in the French plane by suggesting that because of the parlous position of Australia’s finances, both he and Lucy would be walking unless they could raise bus fare by passing round the hat, at which point the French president told him that there was room for an extra couple of passengers so long as he didn’t tell the story about how his good mate Donald gave him a lift from the hotel because everyone at the G20 had heard it at least twice.

As for his time in “the Beast” (which is the nickname for the US President’s car and not some strange initiation ritual a la David Cameron), Malcolm tells us that it was a great opportunity for some private conversation. Of course, given the famous “private conversation” where Donald was caught on tape giving his advice on “pussy” grabbing, one wonders whether it’s a wise move to accept a lift from from the Trumpeter. However, I do appreciate that the journey from the hotel to the venue would be plenty of time for both men to share all they know and to talk about the principles that they both hold dear.

But I digress… I was speculating about the use of the word “historical”.

I wanted to make it clear that I didn’t see it as an attempt by the ABC to make the charges seem less significant. Just as I didn’t mean to suggest that Miranda Devine’s suggestion that the police had made the whole thing up to distract us from the fact that there are crimes being committed as we speak, and they’re failing to catch and charge people with these historical crimes. Similarly, Andrew Bolt’s defence of George as a top bloke who historically did a lot of good historical things like launch the historical Melbourne Response just because someone needed to do something.

Jeff Kennett had a few words to say about the Melbourne Response in his column, by the way. According to Jeff:

“When evidence of pedophilia within the Catholic Church was getting increasing publicity in the mid-1990s, I invited the then archbishop Pell to my office for a coffee. It might be said that two robust individuals had a robust discussion. I suggested to the archbishop that it would be advisable if, as head of the Catholic Church in Victoria, he addressed the charges of pedophilia in a public and vigorous way.

“If not, I told him, the state of Victoria would. I did not want to take that action because I thought the church should address its behaviour and assist those it had abused, and it was not an area I felt comfortable that politicians could address. Fortunately, Pell accepted my invitation, went away and delivered what was called the Melbourne Response.

“Whether those initiatives were as complete as required, I do not know. But Pell was the first leader of any church or organisation confronted by pedophilia charges to act and he did so quickly and firmly. George Pell is innocent until found guilty of any offence. Until then he has my support and friendship.”

Now one of my nasty left-wing friends – and let’s be clear here, as Andrew Bolt tells us all left-wing people are nasty – had the temerity to suggest that the sentence: “It might be said that two robust individuals had a robust discussion” suggests that the Melbourne Response wasn’t something that George was all that keen on and that it was only with pressure from Kennett that he instituted something.

However, I imagine that the conversation was robust because they were both such robust characters.

“George, I’ve invited you here for coffee because I want to discuss your response to the accusations!”
“Jeff, I want to discuss my response!”
“Good, you do that!”
“I will!”
“SO WILL I!”
“I intend to respond strongly.”
“OK, BUT I THINK YOU SHOULD RESPOND ROBUSTLY.”
“I ALWAYS respond ROBUSTLY!”
“Great! Now, MILK?”
“PLEASE!”
“Sugar?”
“Definitely not!”

Or something like that. Anyway, what does it matter whose idea it was. It’s all historical.

Well, well, Cardinal Pell

It was reported yesterday that Cardinal George Pell is the subject of a twelve month investigation by Victoria Police over allegations of child sexual abuse, dating from the time he was a priest to when he became Archbishop of Melbourne.

Pell has issued a furious statement, demanding an investigation into Victoria Police leakages, and denying the allegations. The full transcript of this statement is in the above link.

In his statement Pell refers to an allegation of sexual molestation made against him in 2002, referred to as the Philip Island allegation. This series of alleged incidents with one complainant was the subject of a church inquiry, headed by retired Victorian Supreme Court Judge A.J. Southwell, who was selected and paid by the church to conduct the inquiry, within terms of reference set by the church. Southwell found that both Pell and the complainant appeared to be speaking the truth, and he could not find substantial grounds to proceed with the complaint.

Pell claims to have been “exonerated” by this inquiry, however a Sydney Morning Herald editorial saw it otherwise:

Mr Southwell’s conclusion is exquisitely balanced. He accepts “that the complainant, when giving evidence of molesting, gave the impression that he was speaking honestly from an actual recollection”. However, he says Dr Pell “also gave me the impression he was speaking the truth”. A significant part of Mr Southwell’s report concerns the standard of proof; because he considered what was alleged against Dr Pell as serious, he was inclined to apply a strict burden, akin to the “beyond reasonable doubt” of criminal proceedings. That helped Dr Pell. It also made Mr Southwell’s careful conclusion – that he could not be “satisfied that the complaint has been established” – rather less than a complete exoneration.

It’s not known if the allegations currently under investigation by Victoria Police include this one. They are referred to as “numerous” in initial reports, as well as having occurred throughout a considerable time frame, as Pell worked his way up the church hierarchy from priest to Archbishop.

Victoria Police have also issued a statement this evening, saying they do not comment on specific allegations.

In case anyone has forgotten how ruthless Pell has been in his pursuit of child sex abuse survivors who’ve attempted to obtain justice, it’s worth re-reading the John Ellis case in which Pell’s legal team managed to obtain the verdict that victims can’t sue the Catholic church (it doesn’t exist in law) or the trustees (who aren’t responsible for supervising priests) but only the offending priest (dead) or the offending priest’s supervising bishop (also dead). Pell also instructed his lawyers to pursue Ellis for costs.

Pell, confessor and mentor to sacked Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is now safe in the Vatican, beyond the threat of extradition treaties.

I wonder how those who leapt to Pell’s defence after Tim Minchin’s protest song are feeling right now.

Of course we can’t possibly comment on Pell’s guilt or innocence. It is interesting, however, that Victoria Police have seen fit to devote twelve months of their time so far, to investigating complaints.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep as Well, now Cardinal Pell, you’re beginning to smell…

 

The heart of Cardinal Pell

Cardinal George Pell certainly has a heart condition, one that has been apparent to even the most casual observer for some considerable time.

It could be thought of as heartlessness or a lack of heart in his attitude to survivors of sexual abuse by priests of Pell’s church. Pell has consistently placed victims and survivors second, third and fourth to the requirements and reputation of the religious institution that has fed, watered and lavishly nurtured him.

Yesterday, Pell’s lawyers advised the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse that Pell would be unable to appear before the Commission to be questioned as arranged, due to a heart condition that makes long-haul flight too great a risk to his health. Inquiry chair Justice Peter McClellan refused to accept Pell’s evidence via video link, instead postponing his appearance until March 2016 when it is hoped the heart of Cardinal Pell will have recovered sufficiently to allow him to travel from Rome to Ballarat.

It’s a measure of Pell’s character that this news has been greeted with scorn, derision, disbelief and contempt. If he is indeed seriously ill, nobody much cares, and few are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Pell is between a rock and a hard place. If he doesn’t appear before the Commission to answer hard questions, his guilt will be assumed and he forfeits an opportunity to exonerate himself. If he does appear, his alleged guilt may well be exposed as real. Either way, public opinion has so turned against the Cardinal that he has become a despised figure, of whom even some Catholics are deeply ashamed.

All of this is as nothing, compared to the destruction and pain wrought upon children by priests of Pell’s church, some of whom he publicly supported. Beside this, the Cardinal’s mental, emotional, spiritual and physical discomfort is as nothing.

It seems to me that a person’s character is defined by their willingness to front up and be accountable for their actions and inactions; never an easy experience, but what are we if we can’t or won’t do that?

Oh, and Pell was also confessor and mentor to failed Prime Minister and failed priest Tony Abbott (Just saying). (Not that it means anything). (Unless you want it to). (I’m done now).

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

What does the government want from George Pell?

What do the Pope, George Pell, George Brandis, Tony Abbott and climate change have in common? Quite a lot, suggests Vanessa Kairies.

I have been following the climate change issue for a couple of decades. I thought I had heard it all and seen it all, until now. I was recently having a discussion with a friend who showed me the most disturbing video regarding climate change. One, which I urge all Australians to watch. It is an interview on May 2015 with Professor Peter Wadhams. An eloquent man who has been studying the Arctic and Climate Change for 40 years. He is one of the world’s leading Arctic scientists.

In it he states:

“The volume of ice that remains in the Arctic in Summer is only a quarter of what is was in the 1980’s.”

“If that downward trend continues … then the volume will go on to zero in just a couple of years.”

“We are being very complacent about sea level rise … we ought to be realising that many coastal regions … will have to be abandoned.”

“This will have an enormous impact on the global economy and the lives of people.”

“The disappearance of ice in the Arctic is leading to warmer air masses.”

 

 

Obama got it, with the coastal regions of America to be drastically effected. He and most of the world have instigated the change towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their countries. They are turning away from fossil fuels in droves.

Last year, Professor Wadhams was among a group of leading climate scientists who gave a presentation to the Pope (and his advisors) about the threat of climate change. It must have had some influence, as in June this year the Pope released his encyclical calling for swift action on climate change in which he said:

“The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

“Climate change is doing most harm to the poor.”

“A very solid scientific consensus indicates we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.”

Then the family feud in the Vatican happened when a month later our very own George Pell, Financial Advisor to the Vatican, enstated by the Pope himself, came out with the objection that “the Roman Catholic church had ‘no mandate’ to lay down doctrine on scientific matters“, adding that “the church has no particular expertise in science”.

Personally, when it comes to climate science I prefer to take my advice from the professionals such as Professor Wadhams – people who have dedicated their lives to study and science. The Pope does too.

George, are you being used as a pawn in the game that is Australian politics? More on that later.

Then came the revelation that Pell met secretly with Attorney General George Brandis in May this year, a month before the Pope’s encyclical was released. I wonder what they discussed?

Did George Brandis do a deal asking for George Pell to debunk climate change? Was it an exchange, guaranteeing a more lenient time in the witness box at the upcoming Royal Commission into Child Abuse?

George Pell has made the headlines here in Australia for all the wrong reasons.

In 2004 before the election, Pell met with current Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Shortly thereafter Pell openly attacked the Labor Party’s education policies. Tony Abbott denied that this meeting took place, but later admitted that the meeting had in fact taken place because he had sought religious guidance.

To digress, here is an old favourite of mine . . .

 

Returning to the Royal Commission, there are a number of questions for Pell when he does appear which may include:

1.Did he try to bribe one of the victims?

2.Did he ignore other victims’ testimonies?

3. What was his involvement in moving serial child sex offender Gerald Ridsdale around to different parishes?

4.How much did he know about Ridsdale’s abuse of children?

5.Was he the priest that witnessed Ridsdale raping a child?

Was the family feud in the Vatican instigated by the Liberal Party and their need to debunk climate change? And if so, might it have been a bit too obvious if Tony Abbott had attended the meeting instead of George Brandis? Given Abbott’s track record, I think so. I’m now waiting for Pell’s statement opposing marriage equality. That one is a given.

According to the the 2011 Australian National Census, there were 5,439,257 Catholics in Australia, representing 25.3% of the population. That’s a big audience. I wonder how many of them vote Liberal? And I wonder how many of them are guided by every word from George Pell?

It’s fairly obvious to me what Canberra is up to . . . and what they want from George Pell, but what is the cost?

Note from author:

Readers are welcome to view my Indigenous artwork on climate change, which I hope you enjoy.

Stop climate change.

The great climate change denial.

 

Are we a secular state or a bunch of Pell pleasers?

According to Wikipedia, “a true secular state should steadfastly maintain national governance without influence from religious factions.”

Considering Australia is a supposedly secular state, religion plays not only an inordinate role in policies, it costs the taxpayer billions each year.

Charities are eligible for a range of tax concessions, including refunds of imputation credits, income tax exemptions, FBT and GST concessions.

To be a charity, all of your not-for-profit’s purposes must be charitable, except purposes that are ‘incidental or ancillary’ to (further or aid) the charitable purposes.

The law recognises many kinds of purposes as charitable.

The Charities Act 2013 (Cth) lists twelve charitable purposes:

  • advancing health
  • advancing education
  • advancing social or public welfare
  • advancing religion
  • advancing culture
  • promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals that are in Australia
  • promoting or protecting human rights
  • advancing the security or safety of Australia or the Australian public
  • preventing or relieving the suffering of animals
  • advancing the natural environment
  • promoting or opposing a change to any matter established by law, policy or practice in the Commonwealth, a state, a territory or another country, (where that change furthers or opposes one or more of the purposes above) and
  • other similar purposes ‘beneficial to the general public’ (a general category).

According to a Herald/Nielsen poll conducted in the lead-up to the 2010 federal election, 84 per cent of people surveyed agreed with the statement ”religion and politics should be separate”.

More recently, a worldwide poll conducted by Win-Gallup International, found that 48 per cent of Australians said they were not religious; 10 per cent declared themselves “convinced atheists”; and 5 per cent did not know or did not respond. Only 37 per cent were religious.  Yet the increasing influence and funding of religion in Australia persists.

Considering the vast array of differing beliefs and the disharmony that religion has caused throughout history, I fail to see how “advancing religion” is, in itself, “beneficial to the general public” when the majority of the public are not religious.

The Howard government outsourced a lot of social welfare to various religious organisations.  By shifting a costly and complex social responsibility to religious providers, the government also exempts them from anti-discrimination laws. This is particularly evident with faith-based aged care providers that are free to discriminate against gays and lesbians on the sole basis that religious ethos overrides the principle of fair and equal treatment of all people.  Faith-based schools can refuse entry to children on the basis of their religion, or lack thereof.

We also spend hundreds of millions on school chaplains for state schools.  This appears in contradiction to the separation of church and state.

Australia is one of only three countries in the world where even the commercial enterprises of religious organisations are granted tax concessions.  They are not required to report the breakdown of their charitable, business or investment activities.

Federally, these apply to income tax, fringe benefits tax, and the goods and services tax. State government exemptions cover land tax, payroll tax, stamp duties and car registration fees. Local governments provide exemptions from municipal rates. Concessions may also be granted for some water and power charges.

In 2008, the Secular Party of Australia made a submission to Treasury where they estimated the government’s financial assistance to religious institutions to be in the order of $31 billion annually.

They suggested that more accurate estimates of this kind could be obtained if the information was available, but it is not. It is standard budgetary procedure that the loss of revenue arising from exemptions, for example those applying to superannuation pensions, are listed in budget papers and can be quantified. It is anomalous that no such requirement exists for religious organisations, even those that may be involved in significant business and investment related activities.

Further anomalies occur in relation to the application of the Fringe Benefits Tax and the Goods and Services Tax. As the FBT is exempt to employees who are religious practitioners, eligible employers can provide remuneration packages that are biased wholly in terms of fringe benefits, thereby avoiding any income tax. This device can also create an unwarranted entitlement to social security benefits.

In relation to the GST, an anomaly occurs in relation to ceremonies for weddings and funerals. If performed by a civil celebrant, GST is payable, whereas if done in a church, it is not. Apart from being grossly inequitable, the situation is of doubtful legality in the light of equal opportunity laws that prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion.

The SPA made the following recommendations in their 2008 submission.

  1. We submit that the definition of “charitable purpose” be reformed to exclude “advancement of religion”, which would reflect the modern view that religious worship and indoctrination into any sect, cult or religion are not charitable activities in themselves.
  2. We submit that the activities of any charitable organisation, religious or not, should not be exempt from accountability or from taxation.
  3. We submit that the investment and business related activities of any organisation should not be exempt from taxation.
  4. We submit that only the bona fide charitable activities not connected with religious worship or indoctrination should be tax exempt.
  5. We submit that a Charities Commission be established for the purposes of regulating and making accountable the charitable activities of all non-profit organisations. This should include religious organisations, and ensure that tax exemptions are provided only in relation to bona fide charitable activities, and are not used to disguise religious worship or indoctrination.
  6. We submit that all not-for-profit and religious organisations should be required to submit annual reports that are audited, and publicly available in a manner similar to that for public companies.
  7. We submit that if religious organisations receive tax exemptions, these must be provided only to the extent that their activities are bona fide charitable. Where an organisation is involved in religious worship and indoctrination, their business activities, investment income and other taxable activities should be separated, either through an accounting division or through operational separation.

In 2012, the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) was established largely as a result of a 2010 Productivity Commission report that criticised the existing regulatory regime, in which charities were overseen by a combination of ATO, ASIC, and the states, as cost-inefficient and unnecessarily complex. Moreover, the Productivity Commission deemed the preexisting system as insufficient for ensuring transparency in the allocation of funds by charities.

In 2013, Pro Bono Australia, an independent information agency for the sector, conducted a survey of 1500 non-profits. The survey found that 80% of respondents supported the ACNC.  Despite this, the Coalition will move this year to abolish it and hand its functions over to the ATO.

Why would they ignore the overwhelming support from the NFP sector for the ACNC?

Fairfax Media reported that the Coalition’s plans to abolish the charity regulator, the ACNC, was in part due to “the lobbying power of church conservatives, the Catholic Church in particular, and the office of Sydney Cardinal George Pell, more particularly still.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the links to articles in the Age and the SMH about that story no longer work.

However another faith-based Not for Profit, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council has called on the Federal Government to abandon its ideological opposition to the ACNC.

“Rather than abolishing the ACNC, the Government would be well-advised to listen to the voices of the charitable and Not for Profit sector,” Chief Executive Dr John Falzon said. “The ACNC has built excellent relationships with the community sector in an effort to move towards a more supportive and less burdensome regulatory system. We are astonished to see the Government showing such strident opposition to the very sensible role of the ACNC.”

Community Council for Australia Chief Executive Officer David Crosbie said that a very broad range of people, other than some groups in the Catholic community, had shown support for the ACNC.

“For a long time people have been talking about the Not for Profit sector needing to have a voice and I think that yesterday it had a voice,” Crosbie said. “That can only be a benefit to the sector and that level of attention to our issues can only benefit the sector.”

“This is the kind of repeal you have when you don’t know what to do. The focus of this bill is solely to get rid of the ACNC. There’s no real plan, no real narrative or vision for what will happen when the ACNC is disbanded.”

Watch for a reintroduction of gag clauses to stop NFPs speaking out about funding cuts, banned by Federal Labor in 2013  but alive and well in Queensland and NSW.  Talk and we cut your funding.

This is now in the hands of SS Commandant Morrison who will no doubt ban all scrutiny, accountability or transparency citing “on-god operations”.

George Pell will be well-pleased.

 

A sociopathic lack of empathy

One thing I have tried to teach my children is that, when you make a mistake, tell the truth, apologise, do what you can to make up for it, and learn from the experience.

The example being set by our nation’s leaders makes it hard to reinforce that message.

According to Tony Abbott, the Coalition’s woes at ICAC are due to the Labor government making rules about donations from developers, implying it is the rule that is wrong rather than the breaking of it.

Likewise in the Bolt case – his conviction for vilifying groups in our society was the fault of an unjust law rather than any wrongdoing on his part according to his special friend, George Brandis.

Hockey’s defence of the revelation that he is paying off his investment property by claiming $270 a night accommodation entitlements is that it is “within the rules”, a defence also used by Malcolm Turnbull and many other politicians.  Nowhere is it questioned as to whether this is what was intended by the “away from home” allowance.

Abetz and Hockey have both used the “blame the media” excuse for things they have said.  I was misinterpreted, I didn’t finish my sentence.  Abbott and Pyne tell us that we misunderstood when they said they were on a unity ticket about education funding.

Twelve months into their term, the government seem unable to take the reins, constantly repeating the “debt and deficit disaster inherited from Labor” line, with absolutely no plan for the future.  Tony counts off on his fingers (an exceedingly annoying habit that he seems unable to function without), “We axed the carbon tax, the boats are stopping, we are building the roads of the 21st century, and we are getting the budget under control”.  There is no thought about what we will do about climate change or how we will help refugees or whether those roads are the best infrastructure investment or modelling on how the budget cuts will affect the vulnerable in our society.

But the prize for the best “pass the buck” comment must go to Tony’s mentor and spiritual advisor, George Pell.  When being interviewed by the Royal Commission into child sex abuse yesterday, Pell made the crass analogy that the Church should not be held responsible for the actions of its clergy any more than a trucking company should be held responsible if one of their drivers molested a woman they picked up on the road.

The last time I looked, trucking companies didn’t run schools.  They were not placed in positions of trust to care for the vulnerable in our community or to provide moral guidance.  I would also suggest that if the company was informed that one of their drivers had raped someone they would not try to bribe the victim to not go to the police.

In 2002, Pell told his audience of World Youth Day delegates that “abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people”, during a public religious instruction session.  In response to the outcry this caused, Pell said he was merely trying to point out that sex abuse by Catholic clergy had attracted attention to the detriment of other issues.

Anthony Foster, the father of two of the abuse victims, has said Cardinal Pell displayed a “sociopathic lack of empathy” when they met to discuss the case in the 1990s.

This lack of empathy is the most frightening part of the current government and the people to whom they listen.  Anyone who is not rich is to be blamed for not working out how to rort the system.  Single parents are made to feel ashamed of their situation which Kevin Andrews and Cory Bernardi tell us will lead to their “sons ending up in gaol and their daughters being promiscuous”.  Unemployed people are just not trying hard enough, the disabled are lazy, and we can’t afford to keep giving handouts to the sick and elderly.  Refugees are to be incarcerated and vilified for wanting a better life for their families, and all Muslims viewed as terrorists waiting to behead us at the first opportunity.

A sociopath is someone who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.  I’d say that just about sums it up.

Tin foil mitre

Increasingly in my investigations into climate change denial “experts” I am coming across the name of George Pell – yes – the Cardinal. Having looked briefly for his credentials in this area, I can only find studies in theology.  Regardless of this lack of any scientific qualifications, Cardinal Pell has been quite vocal about his…

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Who do you admire?

Image courtesy of loonpond.blogspot.com

Image courtesy of loonpond.blogspot.com

Who is your hero? Who deserves the credit for your success? Who is your role model? Who do you admire the most?

“You can tell a lot about someone by whom they admire”, says Kaye Lee, “It shows their priorities in life”. She asks, “Who does our new Prime Minister admire? Who does he go to for advice?”

Here Kaye examines the possible contenders.

An early influence was founder of the DLP party, Bob Santamaria. A staunch Catholic, who believed the Church had a role to play in governing the State, Santamaria was vigorously opposed to birth control and abortion and decried what he described as contemporary sexual decadence. He wanted to turn us into a nation of farmers and cottage industries, with women permanently barefoot and pregnant. He was convinced that Australia was under threat from Communism, warning people that communists in Australia were buying up arsenals and guns in preparation for the revolution, and likening the Vietnam War to a crusade.

In a speech in 1998 Tony Abbott described Santamaria as “a philosophical star by which you could always steer” and “the greatest living Australian”. Abbott has said that what impressed him about Santamaria was “the courage that kept him going as an advocate for unfashionable truths”.

And then we have Cardinal George Pell, the man who has been complicit in the cover-up of child sexual abuse for decades, actively assisting pedophile priests in avoiding prosecution. Pell told a World Youth Conference that “Abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people”. Like his spiritual advisor, Tony Abbott also assisted a pedophile priest to avoid punishment by writing him a reference.

In recent days, Tony Abbott again defended Pell’s actions saying “Cardinal Pell is a fine man . . . Cardinal Pell is one of the greatest churchmen that Australia has seen”.

In April this year, Tony Abbott expressed his admiration for Rupert Murdoch, the man whose media empire illegally hacks phones and bribes officials as standard practice. Murdoch has said power is his aphrodisiac and he revels in manipulation of public perception and his role in bringing down governments.

Abbott described Murdoch as Australia’s most influential businessman going on to say “Along with Sir John Monash, the Commander of the First AIF which saved Paris and helped to win the First World War, and Lord Florey a one-time provost of my old Oxford College, the co-inventor of penicillin that literally saved millions of lives, Rupert Murdoch is probably the Australian who has most shaped the world through the 45 million newspapers that News Corp sells each week and the one billion subscribers to News-linked programming”.

Tony also greatly admires Gina Rinehart, the woman who sponsored that fruitcake, Lord Monckton, to do a speaking tour on climate change denial. This is a woman who makes a million dollars every half hour but cannot afford to pay the mining tax, and who wants a special tax zone in the North so she can pay even less. At least nine Coalition MPs have declared in their register of interests that Ms Rinehart has supplied free travel, hospitality and accommodation and she donated $50,000 directly (and up to $700,000 indirectly) to Barnaby Joyce’s campaign to win New England.

As Tony Abbott said, “Mates help each other; they don’t tax each other”, and Gina must be well pleased with the fruits of her investment so far, with the mining and carbon taxes about to be repealed and the biggest coal mine in Australia getting fast-track approval already.

And let’s not forget John Howard. Tony considers himself Howard’s protégé and longs for us to return to those halcyon days. This despite the fact that Howard’s government has been identified by the IMF as the most wasteful ever, whose middle class welfare and tax cuts for the wealthy have saddled us with a structural deficit, and whose sale of assets cost us billions in future revenue. Howard lied to take us into a war that cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives. He lied to us about the children overboard affair. Eleven of Howard’s Ministers either resigned or were sacked for indiscretions and many more were forgiven for their conflicts of interest and rorting of entitlements, a practice which this government seems to also enjoy.

Tony Abbott told his former leader and mentor John Howard on election night that he was the only person he could turn to for real advice in his new role as Prime Minister. That may explain Tony’s view that climate change is crap and that we should spend whatever it takes to stop the boats.

On the international stage, Tony has expressed his admiration for Japan (don’t mention the whales), and Indonesia (doing a great job there in West Papua), and Sri Lanka (hey shit happens . . . what’s the odd kidnapping and torture between friends . . . need some gun boats?). He loves America and China so much that he wants their corporations to be able to sue us if we hurt their profits with health, safety, competition or environmental laws.

Add to that the fact that Tony’s Chief of Staff not only makes policy decisions, she now also dictates who the public will have access to and what they may reveal. I call it pleading the Morrison Amendment – say nothing that may incriminate you. And we have Tony’s chief strategist and PR guru entering the world of foreign affairs and diplomacy by comparing Indonesia’s Foreign Minister to an aging porn star. These are the people who run and advise our government – the Star Chamber.

So, in summary, our PM admires staunch Catholics, power, wealth, big business, climate change deniers and all world leaders with whom he can have a photo taken. He prefers the advice of advertising spin merchants and power brokers to that of experts.

If you care about other people, that’s now a very dangerous idea. If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. Maybe you can become rich, but you don’t care whether other people’s kids can go to school, or can afford food to eat, or things like that. In the United States, that’s called “libertarian” for some wild reason. I mean, it’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.”

  • Noam Chomsky “Business Elites Are Waging a Brutal Class War in America”.

Is George Pell a problem for Abbott?

George Pell: Image by The Daily Telegraph

George Pell: Image by The Daily Telegraph

Now that the dust has settled and Tony Abbott is our Prime Minister, there is renewed interest in his relationship with the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell and some speculation as to how that relationship will develop given that Pell is the man Tony Abbott regards as his spiritual advisor. It is entirely reasonable to suggest that George Pell would regard Abbott as a supporter of Catholic dogma and willing to uphold Catholic teaching across a range of sensitive, social issues. It is therefore reasonable to ask how we, the voters, can be assured that Cardinal George Pell is not going to become a silent partner in running the country and that Tony Abbott won’t become his lapdog.

The Church in Australia is desperate to regain some of its dwindling influence. Sixty years ago, in pre Vatican II times, 75% of Catholics attended church regularly. Today, that figure has slumped to just 13%.  Today, just 5% of Australians are practicing Catholics. That figure renders Cardinal Pell’s job of placing Catholic teaching high on the list of political issues almost impossible. Issues such as contraception, euthanasia and gay marriage are a matter of non-negotiable Catholic dogma, contrasting starkly with an increasingly secular Australia which has long since moved in the opposite direction. The forum of public opinion would suggest these issues are private and best decided by those involved. The Church, however, would have government uphold what it regards as Catholic teaching. Tony Abbott is a practicing Catholic and heavily influenced by Cardinal Pell.  So where does this leave Abbott?

Cardinal George Pell has clear and concise alternatives to the preferences of an increasingly secular world but he struggles to present then in a way that is palatable. His policies which come from the Vatican are not the policies that most Australians would tolerate. While we know Abbott takes political advice from another mentor, John Howard, what we don’t know, is how much spiritual advice he takes from George Pell. We accept that the advice he receives from John Howard is specific to the issues of political success. We can make a considered judgement about that. What we don’t know and therefore are unable to judge, is whether the advice he receives from George Pell is specific to our interests or to the temporal interests of the Catholic Church and the success of George Pell’s agenda for Australia.

Lately, Cardinal George Pell is showing all the signs of a man who just doesn’t get it. His press conference on November 15th 2012 following the announcement by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard of a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse was ample evidence of a man who had lost touch with reality. Pell’s main concern seemed to be that the Catholic Church was a victim of a media smear campaign. He seems to think that claims against paedophile priests are exaggerated. (Ref 6). His performance at that press conference was arrogant and half hearted to say the least.

Pell also has his detractors inside the church. Retired Bishop, Geoffrey Robinson recently said of him, “He’s not a team player, he never has been.” On the question of priests breaking the confessional seal to expose child sex abuse, Robinson added, “On this subject too, he’s not consulting with anyone else; he’s simply doing his own thing. I have to say, that on this subject, he’s a great embarrassment to me and to a lot of good Catholic people” (Ref 3). To his credit, Abbott distanced himself from Pell on the issue of the confessional seal when he made his position clear on priests’ responsibilities in this matter.  “If they become aware of sexual offences against children, those legal requirements must be adhered to. The law is no respecter of persons, everyone has to obey the law, regardless of what job they are doing, what position they hold,” he said. (Ref 6)

But now that Abbott is prime minister we are entitled to know on what side of the spiritual fence he sits. To say he is highly conservative and would not support gay marriage or drug law reform is obvious. But on what grounds does he not support these issues? To what extent are his views subject to Catholic teaching?  His plagiarising of old hat references such as Sir Robert Menzies’ “faceless men” and John Howard’s “ticker” and “who do you trust” and his call for the now Labor opposition to “repent” on the issue of the carbon tax demonstrate his lack of originality and his attachment, even reliance, on those he sees as his mentors and those to whom he looks for advice. Cardinal Pell is one such mentor. Pell’s conservative Catholic views are well known, not so Abbott’s. We are entitled to know what might be behind some of his policy preferences and in what way Pell has influence over him. When one looks closely one can detect some behavioural aspects that give us some clues.

Abbott’s callous comment ‘shit happens’ in reference to soldiers dying in Afghanistan (Ref 5) tells its own story. It demonstrates a lack of empathy with those about whom he makes such a reference.  Let us not forget that he did it once before in reference to the now deceased champion of the James Hardie asbestos campaign, Bernie Banton (Ref 4). The Catholic Church displays a staggering lack of empathy across a range of social issues, not the least of which has been its attitude to the victims of sexual abuse by the clergy and to the use of condoms in AIDS ravaged Africa.

In Parliament Abbott attempts to sound scholarly as does Pell when speaking from the pulpit, but when in the arena of the real world, Pell struggles when constantly interrupted and Abbott sounds robotic when reduced to the fifteen second time bite. He succumbs to metaphors and superficial comments that lack any real substance or meaning. Interestingly, both platforms have seen Abbott uttering some frightful gaffes about women.

Tony Abbott adds to the dilemma with his seemingly confused understanding of what is and is not, Christian. In one blunder concerning the boat people, Abbott said:

“I don’t think it’s a very Christian thing to come in by the back door rather than the front door . . . I think the people we accept should be coming the right way and not the wrong way . . . If you pay a people-smuggler, if you jump the queue, if you take yourself and your family on a leaky boat, that’s doing the wrong thing, not the right thing, and we shouldn’t encourage it.”

Human Rights activist, Julian Burnside commented:

“It is not surprising that Mr Abbott has a view about the moral dimension of refugee issues.

What is striking is that Mr Abbott could get the matter so spectacularly wrong, both as to the facts and as to the moral equation” (Ref 7).

Abbott’s comments that we are rolling out the red carpet for asylum seekers by releasing them into community detention (2), sends us a mixed message. Such comments appear, on the surface, to fly in the face of Christian compassion, therefore we can assume it is a political ploy; a vote winner. One might have thought that a devout Christian like Abbott would be more sympathetic. He conveniently fails to acknowledge the financial benefits that come with such a policy and appears to have no regard for the psychological damage done to those who remain in detention centres. However, all of that is secondary, it would seem, to the image that “rolling out the red carpet” conjures up in the minds of those who have been paralysed by the fear campaign his mentor John Howard began. Metaphorically speaking, the Catholic Church likes locking up people too; not their bodies but their minds. Their idea of a perfect world is to have everyone faithfully observing the teachings of ‘the one true church.’ One wonders if Tony Abbott’s liking for mandatory detention is the manifestation of a similar theology.

On the treatment of women there are other behavioural signs. It is easy to think the church has a fear of women especially if you were raised Catholic. Over many centuries of a male dominated hierarchy within the church, certain attitudes of superiority over women developed which church leaders conveniently allowed to be incorporated within its plethora of Mysteries. This eliminated the need for a detailed explanation. For them, the threat of women ever usurping the dominance of the male role was countered by excluding them, then de-valuing them. One could argue that they did this because they were afraid of them.

Tony Abbott’s foot-in-mouth tendency, his apparent brain-snap comments when dealing with women’s issues, might easily be accounted for when one factors in his close association with, and commitment to, Catholic Church teaching. The Church doesn’t teach fear of women, but it is implied in much of its dogma. It’s refusal to ordain women as priests and its refusal to permit priests to marry (unless you’re a married Anglican priest and want to defect to Rome) betray its attitude to women quite clearly. Its insistence that all sexual intercourse must be open to the creation of life is another put-down teaching that places the primary role of women as child bearers before anything else. Abbott’s foot-in-mouth comment about the previous Labor government’s lack of experience in raising children (Ref 8) also betrays this Catholic Church mindset.

So what is Tony Abbott’s theology? And what has shaped his Machiavellian view and perhaps we should ask who is encouraging him? Each one of us, particularly that twenty five percent of Australians who claim to be Atheist (Ref 1) need to know what drives him when deciding how his values and particularly his religious convictions will impact upon us.   And, should we also ask: does he view his own agenda within the corridors of power as more important than that of serving the best interests of the citizens of Australia.

John Kelly

References

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_Australia

  2. Canberra Times, 18/02/2012, Kirsty Needham.

  3. http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2012/s3632475.htm

  4. http://www.news.com.au/news/abbott-phones-in-banton-apology/story-fna7dq6e-1111114764079

  5. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-02-08/shit-happens-abbott-grilled-over-digger-remark/1935128

6.  http://www.theglobalmail.org/feature/restoring-the-faith/477/

7.  http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/abbott-slams-boatpeople-as-un-christian/story-fn9hm1gu-1226422034305#mm-premium

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2012/oct/23/julia-gillard-children-australia-video

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