Australian media forgets Pell’s role: Catholic Weekly. Corrupt Vatican officials would be delighted by the current woes of cardinal George Pell, says the associate editor of The Boston Globe (the paper featured in the Oscar-winning Spotlight) in an interview carried in the March 6 edition of the Catholic Weekly, which is the 160-year-old newspaper of the Archdiocese of Sydney (Pell’s old stomping ground).


“The corrupt old guard in Rome that takes care of its own, they live in mortal fear of Cardinal Pell,” John L. Allen Jr, one of the world’s leading writers on the Catholic Church, told the paper in its most recent edition. He added that he was puzzled by how this aspect of Pell’s responsibilities hadn’t been much discussed in the Australian media.

Since 2014, Pell has been in charge of the Vatican bank — which for decades has been the scene of scandal after scandal. Pope Francis vowed to clean up the bank, and Pell was the man he chose to do it. “George Pell over there is not the George Pell over here,” Allen said. “George Pell over there is the antidote to the old privilege. And it’s just interesting to me that never seems to factor into the Australian discussion.

“If George Pell goes down, it is not good news.”

This morning at the royal commission, Pell was asked if he felt he was the victim of a witch-hunt. “I must confess the idea has occurred to me,” the Cardinal said. — Myriam Robin

Vic gov sours on print ads. The Victorian government has vowed to reduce the $4 million a year it spends on job ads and public notices in Melbourne’s papers, in a move more likely to hurt The Age than the Herald Sun, as the Fairfax paper takes the lion’s share of state government advertising in Victoria.

Special minister of state Gavin Jennings wrote to ministers and department heads today with the new directive. “We are determined to ensure that all advertising activity is effective, efficient and good value and to that end are ending wasteful expenditure on job adverts and the like,” he said in comments to media. “Unlike the Liberals, we won’t waste public money on political advertising for shonky or imaginary projects.”

The issue of print advertising by governments has previously arisen in New South Wales, where, the Oz reported, senior Liberals last year discussed reducing the $2 million a year they spend on print recruitment advertising ads. The New South Wales government at the time denied any decision on the issue had been reached. However, it’s something of a live issue for state governments across the nation — in Queensland, the Palaszczuk government vowed to crack down on government advertising after accusing Campbell Newman’s LNP government of airing political ads in breach of the rules in the lead-up to the election.

The new Victorian Labor government has been something of a leader on this front, after its predecessor was canned for high ad spending. The Victorian government releases an annual advertising report, which showed the Napthine government spent $95 million in 2014-15 on political advertising. A fifth (22%) of this was to print newspapers, with another 2% to magazines. A quarter (26%) went to Victorian TV stations.

Despite the political posturing over it, total Victorian government media spend has been decreasing in recent years — it was $130.3 million in 2009-10 and has gone down, slowly, every year since. While it’s bad news for the media — particularly print papers whose ads seem to be the first targeted — it’s cheaper for taxpayers. And many state governments increasingly use their own job directory websites to list state government jobs. — Myriam Robin

Front page of the day. Well, this speaks for itself …


Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey