Tag Archives: Amanda Vanstone

Presumption of innocence, or attacking victims & the legal system?

2 Jul

 

I’m somewhat baffled by the insistence of George Pell’s more vocal and public supporters that he is being unfairly treated. He has, they assert, been subjected to years of suspicion and innuendo and this, they argue, makes a fair trial impossible. Their opinion: he is the victim of a witch hunt and should not have been charged. The ludicrous conclusion of this argument is that nobody should be charged with anything if there’s been public commentary prior to those charges being laid.

I would like to see some proof of this claim of inevitable prejudice due to Pell’s profile, though I doubt there’s relevant data. What is interesting is that whilst Pell himself has welcomed the opportunity to at last defend himself in court, his Australian supporters seem hell-bent on declaring the process already poisoned. Obviously they aren’t respecting Pell’s desire for his day in court. So what are they doing?

Amanda Vanstone, former ambassador to Rome and Pell admirer, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald in May: how would you like to throw out your own right to a fair assessment of whether you should be charged in the first place together with the right to a fair trial if you are charged? Vanstone goes on to further question the integrity of the Victorian DPP (to whom she was presumably referring in the phrase “fair assessment of whether you should be charged in the first place”) and Victoria Police, and to rail against latte sippers in cafes who she claims deny Pell the presumption of innocence. Vanstone’s descriptions of those calling for Pell to be held to account include “a baying crowd” and a “lynch mob from the dark ages.” Inevitably, she includes victims and alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests in her derogatory commentary.

Then take Tasmania Archbishop Julian Porteous’ comments in the Hobart Mercury on Thursday, when police announced they ‘d charged Pell:

HOBART Archbishop Julian Porteous says he is “shocked and disappointed” his former colleague Cardinal George Pell has been charged with historical sexual offences by Victoria Police.

“I think it’s terrible these claims have been made against him. I don’t believe they’ve got any substance to them,” Archbishop Porteous said. [emphasis mine]

He said he was also worried about the impact the high-profile nature of the case would have on a fair trial.

“The possibility of a fair trial is compromised. I don’t know how a jury could proceed with a trial where [there is] so much media out there.”

Archbishop Porteous also referred to journalist Louise Milligan’s book Cardinal, published in May, which details some of the allegations made against Cardinal Pell.

He said media coverage and the book were “creating a very unfair environment for justice”.

Cardinal Pell, 76, the Vatican’s finance chief, was charged by summons today with several historical offences dating back to his time as a Ballarat priest and Archbishop of Melbourne.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney — where Pell was Archbishop from 2001-2014, and where Archbishop Porteous was an auxiliary bishop from 2003-2013 — released a statement saying the Cardinal was “looking forward to his day in court and will defend the charges vigorously”.

Archbishop Porteous said Cardinal Pell was “a man of absolute integrity”.

The Porteous and Vanstone reactions are little different from the reactions of some family members when one of their number is accused by another of sexual abuse. There is disbelief and scapegoating of the alleged victim, and blind defence of the alleged perpetrator. This is not presumption of innocence. It’s taking a side, and it’s prejudiced. It’s nothing more than opinion, and reveals the inability of the bystander to acknowledge any possibility other than his or her opinion.

Pell has welcomed the opportunity afforded him by Victoria Police to put his case in a court of law. His supporters must respect his stated wishes, and cease muddying the waters by attempting to manufacture cause for a trial to be abandoned. This is not presumption of innocence. It’s a denial of justice, both to Pell and to the complainants.

It is worth reiterating that nobody, not Vanston, not Porteous, not Paul Kelly, Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine or indeed anyone one of us can know the truth of this matter. None of us were present. Pell was present. The alleged victims were present. This matter must be left to the best process we have: the process of law. It is not presumption of innocence to deny that process to Pell, and it is not presumption of innocence to attempt to denigrate and undermine the institutions that, in this intensely scrutinised case, are all we have to administer justice.

 

 

 

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My tiny hands are bleeding: Vanstone on protest

6 Dec
The Exceptional Amanda Vanstone

The Exceptional Amanda Vanstone

 

In yet another piece of bellicose dross on the thoughtlessness of protesters, former Howard immigration minister turned ABC broadcaster and Fairfax columnist (via ambassador to Rome) Amanda Vanstone, yesterday unleashed her inner curmudgeon in this indignant rant titled “The ‘look at me’ narcissistic politics of the left.”

On reflection, her curmudgeon aspect is not that inner, but let’s not digress into personalities.

Briefly, Vanstone suffered trauma when as a young woman, indentured to the Myer group, she was forced to walk the streets of Melbourne bearing a load of something or other tied up with string that cut into her hands so badly she was obliged to make occasional stops in order to lay down her burden on the pavements and give her tiny hands a break.

One day, she was prevented from enjoying even this small relief by a crowd of “well-fed” protesters, upset about Australia’s involvement in the US war on Vietnam in general, and in particular, the napalming of Vietnamese children.

The utter selfishness of them, whines Amanda, in anarchically denying her respite from pain, and quite possibly preventing other people from going to the doctor or shopping in Myers. Yes, there’s no question. Napalm Vietnam to kingdom come, but what is really wrong here is that some Australians are inconvenienced.

This has been the aggrieved tone of almost every comment I’ve read and heard since some WACA activists glued themselves to the gallery in the House of Representatives last week in protest against our torture of and other criminal actions against those who legally sought asylum in our country.

Of course, those asylum seekers, now refugees, also inconvenienced Australians didn’t they, in the manner of their arrival and then sewing up their lips and dying and suffering the worst mental health outcomes per capita of any group in the western world. Now we have to bear global chastisement, and we still haven’t managed to get rid of them to a third country.

We speak often on the topic of American exceptionalism, but rarely do we mention Australian exceptionalism. It’s time to start.

Australian exceptionalism believes we ought not to be put upon by any of the world’s estimated 60 million refugees fleeing conflict and violence, for our sovereignty is of far more consequence than any human life, even those lives we have ourselves contributed towards endangering.  This is the meta level of Australian exceptionalism.

Australians who don’t care about refugees must not, under any circumstances, be inconvenienced by those who do and take to the street or parliament house to express their concerns at the actions of our recalcitrant governments.

This actually applies to public protest in general: there is a class amongst us who abhor protest, it makes their tummies tingle and all they want is to make it stop because they can’t stand a discomfort worse even than having parcel string leave weals on your palms.

This class puts their comfort ahead of every other human concern, and so we have Vanstone and her ilk believing they are deserving of greater consideration than napalmed Vietnamese children and tortured refugees.

It isn’t “lefty” concern and protest that’s the problem here. It’s entitlement, and an unfounded belief in exceptionalism, both national and individual, that is corroding public discourse and daily life. Nobody is entitled to a life free of all obstacles, be they large or small.

Being delayed or otherwise temporarily inconvenienced by protesters who are legitimately expressing their freedom to speak  on behalf of those who are silenced is a very small obstacle and for mine, those who cannot tolerate even this much without complaint are psychologically and emotionally dysfunctional, and they urgently need to get themselves seen to.

 

 

 

 

 

This song is for the survivors. Not nice enough for you? Tough

18 Feb

Pedophilia Catholic Church

 

 

If you haven’t already heard Tim Minchin’s excoriating musical appeal to Cardinal George Pell, I’ve linked below.

It’s called “Come home, Cardinal Pell” and it is everything you’d expect from a satirist and comedian of Minchin’s calibre.

Father Frank Brennan, Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer, has accused Minchin of damaging survivors with his song, and, wait for it, putting the entire Royal Commission at risk of ridicule.

This is, for mine, a bit of an hysterical stretch: the Royal Commission is solid, respected, honoured and about as far from being ridiculed as it is from the sun, so quite what Brennan thinks a satirical lyric from Minchin is going to do to upset that apple cart is a mystery.

It’s also emotionally manipulative: Brennan attempts to turn the tables by accusing Minchin of hurting survivors, when every survivor who has spoken on the matter has made it absolutely clear that they are being damaged by Cardinal Pell’s attitude to, and physical absence from, the Commission.

Philip Adams, ABC broadcaster and well-known lefty has criticised Minchin’s use of the word “scum” in the song, as well as finding it distasteful overall. “Scum” is, of course, a word usually employed to deride the lower classes: the middle-class are bound to feel initially unsettled when it’s used to describe a cardinal of the Catholic church. But hey, since the extent of pedophilia in that church came to light, the gloves are off. They’ve long since forfeited respect, and scum is exactly what too many of them have, unfortunately, proved to be.

Amanda Vanstone also flew to Pell’s defence, claiming he is being unfairly treated as he hasn’t been charged with anything. True, but the Royal Commission has the power to recommend charges be brought, with the agreement of victims, and as Pell has yet to be further questioned, we don’t know what the Commission’s recommendations will be.

The Project’s Steve Price was appalled that Minchin should personally abuse Pell.

And Gerard Henderson of The Sydney Institute says the song is “personal abuse set to music.”

To be honest, I find it difficult to conceive of any personal abuse of Pell that comes close to the abuses suffered by survivors, and those who have died, and all their families, as a consequence of sexual abuse by catholic priests. So I’m not losing any sleep over Pell being described as “scum.”

I can’t help but think that none of the above objectors actually have any real idea of what sexual abuse does to victims’ lives, or of the sheer magnitude of the catholic church’s offences against children entrusted to their care. A few mean words about Cardinal Pell whose role in the scandal is, at the very least, dodgy, and they’re outraged and offended?

It isn’t Pell who needs public support and protection. The sympathy is misdirected. Pell ought not to be shielded from the consequences of his actions, and one of those consequences is being described as scum and a coward. It doesn’t seem a very high price to pay for the luxurious life the Cardinal lives within the safety of the Vatican’s walls, while victims of pedophile priests suffer ongoing trauma, injury, and too often, death.

So suck it up, Father Frank, et al. Minchin’s song is an expression of popular feeling towards Cardinal Pell and the catholic church. If it isn’t worded as nicely as you’d like, tough. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to be rude and nasty, and sometimes rude and nasty are the only expressions that cut it.

PS: If you are interested in music, this analysis  in The Conversation of Minchin’s “pitch-perfect protest song” will give you great joy

 

 

 

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