Standing in parliament last October, less than two months after becoming prime minister, Scott Morrison was visibly moved as he delivered the nation’s formal apology to the survivors of institutional child abuse.
“Look at the galleries, look at the Great Hall, look outside this place and you will see men and women from every walk of life, from every generation, and every part of our land. Crushed, abused, discarded and forgotten,” he told a packed house of parliamentarians, survivors and their supporters, some of them holding back tears.
“The crimes of ritual sexual abuse happened in schools, churches, youth groups, scout troops, orphanages, foster homes, sporting clubs, group homes, charities, and in family homes as well.”
“Ritual sexual abuse”? This was not a phrase used by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse -- yet it had made its way the PM's historic address to the nation.
Why “ritual” abuse, and what does it mean?
Tim Stewart is a 51-year-old family man, Cronulla Sharks supporter, one-time operator of an online health food venture called Fruit Loop, a former bankrupt who came out of insolvency in 2015... and long-time friend of Scott Morrison.
Stewart is also a prominent promoter of the US-based far-right "QAnon" conspiracy movement that believes there is a secret "deep state" plot against Donald Trump and a cabal of Satan-worshiping paedophiles who rule the world and control politicians and the media. The FBI has identified fringe conspiracy theories, including those promoted by QAnon, as a domestic terrorist threat in the US.
Stewart’s wife is best friends with the prime minister’s wife, Jenny Morrison, a relationship which goes back to teenage years. The two women have been bridesmaids at each others’ weddings and, since August, Stewart's wife has been employed by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on the recommendation of the prime minister’s office, working at the PM’s Sydney residence Kirribilli House.