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Royal commission must not be an inside job

Crikey readers weigh in on the big issues of the day.

Royal commission into child s-x abuse

Steve Wilson writes: Re. “Why a royal commission into Catholic child abuse is necessary” (yesterday). Why has Barry O’Farrell (educated at St John’s Darwin) appointed Margaret Cunneen (Santa Sabina Strathfield) to investigate matters relating to their church without either of them making a declaration of interest?

Normally a person’s religion should be a private matter but in this case it is profoundly relevant. Let’s have a list of who’s a Catholic in the political response to the church’s abuse so we know where they stand. And let’s see independent commissioners appointed to investigate.

Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus or anyone without connections to the Catholic Church. Otherwise it looks like just another inside job.

Keith Thomas writes: One inherent problem with royal commissions is that their terms of reference prevent them from pursuing peripheral matters. The reach of the Catholic Church is so wide that potentially serious matters related to, but beyond any terms of reference, will come up.

It would be helpful if one of any royal commission’s terms of reference included recommending other investigations, and this term should be phrased to encourage any number of other issues to be explored including, should they arise, matters beyond Australia’s jurisdiction.

Australia is one of the few countries in the world that has all the criteria in place — forensic and legal skills, good governance, a reasonably free press, criminal justice system, counselling services — to do a thorough job, probably more than even the US or the UK where powerful establishments regularly intervene to protect their own.

With this in mind, any royal commission should be required to report publicly on all approaches to its officers by interested parties — such as a request for an off the record private meeting, after-hours telephone calls to their private homes — even where such approaches did not proceed to action.

Shirley Colless writes: I would welcome the establishment of such a royal commission, believing it is essential, but its warrant should not be limited to the Roman Catholic Church, though obviously it could start there. As a committed Christian, Protestant variety, I believe this problem extends beyond the Roman Catholic Church and an investigation, such as that that happened in Ireland, is desperately needed.

Essential polling

David Hand writes: Re. “Essential: Gillard pulls clear of a troubled Abbott” (yesterday). Why, according to Essential Research, do voters by an overwhelming margin support the ALP government policies, favour Gillard over Abbott by a large margin but favour the Coalition 52-48? Because Essential’s push-polling tactics generate the required result. Example:

The federal government are proposing to implement a number of reforms, which will require funding of billions of dollars. Which of the following reforms do you think is most important?

a) National disability insurance scheme
b) Extra school funding recommended by the Gonski Review
c) Increased resources for aged care
d) Returning water to the Murray River
e) Don’t know

So if you think getting rid of the carbon tax is important, “don’t know” is your only option. What about a review of Australia’s slashing of defence spending (which is “not on the AUSMIN agenda” har har) or even returning the budget to surplus?

These areas of reform don’t even make it into the Essential question. Nevertheless, Essential breathlessly reports that voters think Gonski’s increased spending is the most important reform. Likewise, Essential gleefully tells us that everyone supports Swan’s mid-year budget decision to reduce the baby bonus, when it failed to even include as an option the three Coalition policies that Treasury oh-so-responsibly costed for the information of voters.

Look, it’s a worry that Essential is the biased, union-backed, Lefty opinion manipulator that it has always threatened to be. But I think its pro-ALP propaganda, which is what Essential essentially produces, does not deliver the clarity an organisation claiming to do research should. Just don’t take too much comfort from the actual research because it is so heavily spun, a lot of you might be in for an unpleasant surprise come election day.

3
  • 1
    Ruprecht
    Posted Tuesday, 13 November 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    When curating a letters page, one colloquialism springs to mind as a handy tip to avoid self-serving drivel: Keep the Hand off it.

  • 2
    David Hand
    Posted Tuesday, 13 November 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Puprecht,
    It’s ok to say something constructive.

  • 3
    Carl Peterson
    Posted Wednesday, 14 November 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    The Church welcomes the Royal Commission and offers to cooperate because they know what will be the outcome – they will have a win. Furthermore they know that they will be allowed to play this by their own rules.
    For the majority of the people, when a man tells another man that he has engaged in child sex abuse this is a criminal admitting to his crimes and the person who was told has a moral obligation to stop this from happening again, namely by referring to the police. Not so with the Church. When a priest tells another priest under confession that he is a child rapist, this is all fine. The rapist is good to go and do it again and confess the same crimes next week, next month, and next year. Why? Because they are above the law. The Church and its hierarchy genuinely believe in this special entitlement, that they should be allowed to address their crimes internally, using their own rules. It is obvious that any system or procedure that the Church will devise and implement to address this issue will have one fundamental and primary objective: to protect the Church itself. It is not plausible to expect that these people will set up their own demise, because ultimately the responsibility of these crimes rests with the hierarchy, the same people who is looking after the system.
    When James Hardie was found responsible for the asbestos problems, the directors were the ones facing the law; they were fined, lost their jobs and were barred from practicing their profession. It was not the workers on the factory who made the product or the crews who installed it that were found accountable for the problems. Every time there is a problem with an institution, the people who are at the top of that institution are the ones who face the music.
    In this case of child sex abuse, even though the cover ups and the movement of the priests from one community to another was perpetrated and orchestrated by the bishops and the cardinals, there is not one of them that will face justice. This is still happening now; Georges Pell has just made it very clear that the Church will continue protecting the paedophiles if they admit to their crimes under the seal of confession, whatever that means. His total contempt for the victims makes him the first suspect and the one that should be locked up first.
    After nine years of a similar enquiry in Ireland not one senior figure of the Church was brought to justice, they are still there doing what they always did and the Irish tax payers were left to foot approximately 90% of the compensation bill. This is after over 30,000 victims came forward!
    You would have to say that’s another win for the clergy. And so will be in Australia.

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