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The soon-to-be-concluded Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is one of the most important inquiries this country has ever witnessed. Or, I hope, will ever witness.

 What triggered it is a ghastly stain of cover-up on our churches and charities. But it remains, in my view, a jewel in Julia Gillard’s troubled time in office.

Two points. I am fearful that, like so many past inquiries, any recommendations could be lost or buried, especially over a vital national redress scheme.

That is why I have lobbied for a joint parliamentary committee to be a watchdog, to make sure that whatever Justice Peter McClellan decrees is implemented.

It is why I have personal pledges from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to support such a committee, which they have agreed I shall chair, and I will be introducing the matter at the next sitting of Parliament in May.

But, having heaped that praise on the commission, I have also written to Justice McClellan requesting that he reopen his public hearings and correct what I believe is a serious flaw in those hearings. We have seen interrogations of Catholics, Anglicans, the Salvation Army, Hillsong. What about Islamic schools and Muslim institutions?

A child bride is child rape. The mutilation of a girl’s vagina is a sexual violation.

I’ll pass on his response.

***

Going back to that issue of female genital mutilation. More than 30 years ago, I went to Africa to report on women being ostracised in their villages because they suffered from fistulas (Google it) and were victims of female genital mutilation.

I’m going to be crude here to explain why FGM is so putrid, so violent, so cruel, as it is performed on innocent children.

Let me point something out: men were originally circumcised to prevent health problems. Girls are brutally circumcised to prevent later adult pleasure.

When young girls are circumcised in Africa, this is what happens: A child is held down, usually by her mother. A crone with a knife hacks off her clitoris. The child then has cow dung smeared on the wound to cause infection and form a scab. And her legs are tied together while that happens.

That’s the stark truth. The practice still goes on in Australia. As well as the Islamic and Hindu tradition of little girls being offered up as child brides.

FGM is illegal in Australia. So is raping a young girl as a “bride”. Parents should be prosecuted. So should the person who performs the ceremony.

That’s why I say the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has, sadly, dropped the ball by not investigating Islamic institutions. That’s why I wrote to Justice McClellan.

***

It was good to see this week’s Turnbull-Dutton crackdown announcement on 457s even though we had predictably snide remarks about goat herders. It puzzled me how Bill Shorten had brazenly been making hay out of the issue when his confetti-like issuance of 457s while in office had led to McDonald’s and KFC exploiting the system.

It shouldn’t have surprised me. Nick Xenaphon and I were savaged by the CFMEU and union Twitter trolls for “giving Aussie jobs to 457 visas” when, in fact, last year we had forced Building Code and Australian Building and Construction Commission amendments that made it compulsory for Australian bosses to show cause and advertise nationally before a 457 could kick in.

I did succumb though and tweet:

***

The budget speculation is in full swing, and government ministers, as well as backbenchers, are running things up the flagpole to see who salutes. Super for first-home buyers. Pension breaks for downsizing seniors. First bad, second good.

It took me back to my childhood days of the walnut-veneer radiogram. We’d hear the Hit Parade Top Ten only once a week on a Sunday night after the Sunday morning “hospital request session” where people who were dying would hear You Will Never Grow Oold. Every week. And many of them wouldn’t grow much older. Which wasn’t the intended message.

What’s the budget connection? On that same radiogram, my Dad would play his favourite LP (as we called them). Billy Russell’s On Behalf of the Working Classes.

The best line, and I remember it well: “Promise them everything, give them nothing, and before you get it they take it off you.”

Sound familiar?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-In-Chief of Crikey

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