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I have previously ranted on the subject of now former MP, Bronwyn Bishop, and some of her highly questionable expense claims.

The short version – some years back, along with her mate Tony Abbott, Bishop attended the wedding of former parliamentary colleague, Sophie Mirrabella. Abbott was caught out in late 2013 for having used his political entitlements to claim all travel and accommodation expenses for he and his wife to attend the wedding in Wangaratta, Victoria. His subsequent excuse was quite pathetic. He insisted that as he had been Manager of Opposition Business at the time (or some other grandiose title) he was entitled to assume the invitation had been to the office he held rather than to he, the individual. (more…)

This one slipped right past me at the time. Last December the Australian Bureau of Statistics  confirmed that it shall in future be retaining all names and address from each Census, for further, wider use. In support of this, the ABS conducted a “Privacy Impact Assessment” which may be found here. This makes for interesting reading of a sort, as part of it is a complete load of bullshit, a seemingly deliberate fabrication. (more…)

In Australia last week, the Federal Government announced the setting up of a Royal Commission to investigate child sexual abuse. This was a surprisingly prompt Governmental response in the wake of a New South Wales police officer going public with his concerns and allegations about the extent of the Catholic Church hindering investigations into allegations of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy. There was a significant public outcry calling for some realistic action at last.

The Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, generally referred to as the most senior member of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia, was quick to cry foul. His reasons over time for claiming any investigations of the Church would be unfair have variously included that they are already investigating such claims themselves, that they are already taking it seriously, that it is nowhere near as bad as claimed but a beat-up by the media and other interested parties, blah blah. Consequently Pell made a pious plea for any Commission to be more wide-ranging than just targeting the Catholic Church.

Not surprisingly, the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, a former seminary student and ardent supporter of the Roman Catholic Church, also supported the call for something far more wide-ranging than examining the Church. I am left with the opinion that the resulting Commission, the specific parameters of which are yet to be finalised, has been made far wider than the Church thus pandering to the likes of Pell.

In the wake of all of this, last Thursday Pell came out with the startling public statement that he believed the majority of Australians supported or at least had no problem with the way that the Church was handling matters of alleged child sexual abuse.

My immediate reaction was what bloody planet is Pell actually living on?

I was hardly surprised when the results of the latest Nielsen poll were publicised yesterday, Monday November 19th. According to that poll, 95% of Australians supported the establishment of this Royal Commission. Now even if you allow for the margin of error that is inherent in any such poll due to the very small population sample size that is utilised, that is still a majority of Australians by any definition. Does Pell really believe that the majority of that majority are supporting the establishment of this Commission while at the same time being so supportive of the Catholic Church? What’s going on – do we have about 20 million schizophrenics running around Down Under?

The reality of course is that any right-minded person is not happy with the actions of the Roman Catholic Church. Over the years we have seen strenuous denials of what was becoming blindingly obvious, investigations going nowhere, ‘civilian’ former employees of the Church revealing damning information such as direct knowledge of Church officials (ie clergy) deliberate hiding incriminating evidence where it would not be readily found etc etc. If the Church was, as Pell insists, taking matters so seriously, then why has it insisted it should be allowed to continue with its own internal investigations rather than being open to external criminal investigations that would happen pretty much anywhere else in the country? Why is the Church so vehemently opposed to being held accountable?

One of the real obstacles facing this Royal Commission when it comes to investigating the Catholic Church is the convoluted structure of the whole mechanism. The legal status of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia was strenuously tested in the Courts with an unsurprising finding in 2007 that the Roman Catholic Church cannot be held accountable for anything in Australia for the simple reason that there is no single entity as such. Every diocese (I believe there are something like 34 of these) are set up as individual, legal entities, entirely self-contained. There is no single point of accountability. The closest to such is the national Council of Bishops but that is still an unincorporated organisation hence the lack of any actual, legal national entity that may face prosecution or be sued. Then there are the various other Catholic enterprises that are not even accountable to any diocese or Church authority in Australia but instead report direct to the Vatican.

This entire structure is quite unusual and it is hard to see this serving any other purpose than to make it so very difficult to ever pursue any part of the Catholic Church for anything. There is a heap of at least anecdotal evidence of trying to take civil action against dioceses only for them to cry poor because their funds have gone to ‘the church’. Except, yet again, there is no entity to account for anything beyond that specific diocese. Pell was recently in the public eye over this as well. A particular Catholic organisation that allegedly has an outrageously high incidence of allegations of child abuse being made against it, received a large sum from the Church in Australia – specifically where from is unclear, yet again, due to that convoluted structure. Insiders have since reported that this fund was required to pay off people making such allegations. Pell denied this, claiming that the funds were required to ensure that organisation’s financial viability. Unfortunately the two are not mutually exclusive. But then Pell did a Pontius Pilate with the metaphoric washing of his hands – he insists that they have no knowledge of that entity’s internal dealings or authority over them as they are accountable direct to the Vatican. So, we can only assume that some vague, indeterminate body that somehow represents the interests of the Catholic Church in Australia had no problems with handing over large sums of money without any actual details of what is was really for or any accounting for how it was used. No, I don’t believe that either.

I am not anti-Catholic as such. Some of the loveliest human beings I have ever known have been products of the Roman Catholic Church. When I was in a hard place, I had some people from the Society of St Vincent de Paul come to my aid. But those sorts of people are not the ones that are the targets of these heinous allegations. They are not the decision makers who appear to go to ridiculous extremes to hinder investigations. They are not the ones trying to keep the Church free from any form or sense of socially and legally acceptable accountability.

The more we hear of this obscene situation, the nastier it is looking. The way I see it, judicial authority has to rule damned quick that no interference with the Commission or other legally instigated investigation is to be tolerated by any member of the Roman Catholic Church; that any person interfering with any investigation is to be subject to the full extent of the penalties of the law; that any person taking actions such as deliberate hiding or even destruction of relevant records is to similarly face the full legal penalties.

Finally, if George Pell is genuine in saying the Church as (informally not legally) represented by him is genuine about not accepting any child abuse within its ranks, then all he has to do is stand back and let it a proper external investigation go ahead without continually trying for the attempted pity vote by crying foul.

Sadly, judging by past experience, Pell and the rest of his bishopric mates will continue to propagate a system that holds itself above genuine accountability, especially for the destruction of young lives that has resulted.

Somehow, this aspect of the Christian Church, supposedly abiding by Christ’s teachings, seem to be ignoring the admonishment “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” But, Georgie-boy, don’t let your spiritual leader’s insistence that you be accountable to the temporal stop you from continuing to be as convoluted and uncooperative as possible and continue to deny any sense of legality, justice or even basic human decency.

Is it any wonder that for many people, the Roman Catholic Church is not so much a religion as it is a shining example of disgusting hypocrisy.

 

 

 

 


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Ross C. Hamilton – author and reviewer

Ross is a compulsive writer and reader. He never seems to be far from either something to read or something to write with. His other writing includes his blogs Words by Ross, Funny Shite and Ross’s Rant. www.rosshamilton.net.au
He is the author of the award-winning novella It Hides In Darkness and Conversations with Myself
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When to shut up – please!

Posted: September 29, 2012 in Uncategorized
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The death of ABC employee, Jill Meagher, has had a very sorry ending with the discovery of her raped and murdered body. The good news, if there is such a thing in these circumstances, has been the charging of Adrian Ernest Bayley, 41, for those offenses, provided that he is the actual rapist and murderer.

Where matters have a distinct possibility of coming unstuck is the amount of anti-Bayley social media commentary that has been so prevalent that it has lead to Victorian police calling for people to basically shut up. And I agree with them.

All of us have a fundamental right to a fair trial. A foundation stone of a fair trial is that a jury hears your case, free from prior mental contamination. Once something has become seen widely enough in a negative sense against the party facing trial, the process can become contaminated to the point that the courts decide a fair trial cannot occur and matters are dropped.

Possibly the most infamous case of this was when Derryn Hinch used his then-television program to publicly name and shame a pedophile who was facing a trial for abuse of minors. Hinch was clearly warned by the Court not to do so. But he shot his mouth off andwas  subsequently found guilty of contempt of court, serving weekend detention. Hinch has made plenty of mileage out of that episode over the years, insisting it demonstrated his personal conviction etc. But what was the real outcome? An apparently known pedophile, facing a pretty strong case against him, had his charges dropped because of the contamination of potential process. I fail to see how Hinch’s actions were anything more than a PR stunt that saw all sense of justice denied to all concerned.

The truly guilty should never be able to walk free simply because people refuse to shut their mouths. Are we entitled to our opinion? Yes. But if we really want the guilty to face the consequences of their actions, then we need to be careful how and where and when we express such opinion if it could provide a means of cases being dropped. If Adrian Ernest Bayley is guilty of the rape and murder of Jill Meagher, then while he deserves a fair trial, Meagher deserves to be remembered by her assailant paying for his crimes. Her family and friends deserve the degree of closure that a guilty verdict may provide. But should her rapist and murderer, Bayley or otherwise, walk free because people cannot shut their mouths, then it would be incredibly deceitful to her memory and an insult to her family and other loved ones.

So please, people, please – just shut the hell up about what you might want to do to Bayley and let judicial process take its course.

R U OK?

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Today is R U OK? Day This is an Australia national day of action on the second Thursday of September (13 September 2012), dedicated to inspiring all people of all backgrounds to regularly ask each other ‘Are you ok?’

So why has this venture been put in place? As it explains on their website, by raising awareness about the importance of connection and providing resources throughout the year the R U OK? Foundation aims to prevent isolation by empowering people to support each other through life’s ups and downs.

The end result of the sort of isolation being considered here, all too often can end in suicide. I know. Been there, done that twice. First time I simply didn’t know what I was doing and it didn’t work. Second time is still hazy but someone found out what I had done and called an ambulance. All I knew was that I came to in the local hospital Emergency ward, being copiously sick.

I was fortunate in that my attempts, for whatever reason, did not work. The great love of my life was not so fortunate as she took her own life back in 2004. I won’t go into all the details but frankly I was not in any shape to be able to do anything meaningful, being pretty much a mental jellyfish at the time. My bastard employer sent me that way and I still consider them responsible for it all, including her death.

R U OK? is about simply being nice to people. Even if they say they are fine when they aren’t, the right approach can mean more than you realise. That little positive can mean the difference between being depressed and in need of help, and that of doing yourself in.

Depression is a form of mental illness. And that is what it is – an illness. Just like a cold or the flu but unfortunately with greater ramifications for treatment.

In a previous post I reflected about bullying and someone I had once bullied, turning that around toward the end of my high school years to make sure I just gave him a friendly greeting when I saw him. That teenager had been depressed and previously counseled for a suicidal mindstate. Just to have someone give him a friendly ‘g’day’, calling him by name as they walked past gave him a visible boost. Admittedly I started doing so because of guilt over my treatment of him several years earlier. But in my advancing years I realise that it really can be that simple – be friendly, show some friendly concern.

You might just be saving someone’s life.

Now if you have an opinion on what I’m blathering about or even just feel like saying hi, then don’t be afraid to leave a comment or post something to me via Twitter or Facebook. I don’t bite – at least not always. Or even follow the blog by email.

“Why, thar’s a couple of blacks wanting to marry th’selves in our church! I’s telling you Pastor, them’s blacks ain’t coming near our church!!”

Now you could probably understand such sentiments being expressed in Mississippi of 1860. Maybe even 1960. But in 2012??

It is being reported in the media that Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson, a black couple, had set the date for their wedding at the predominantly white First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs and posted the invitations. Yet the day before their happy day, the church’s pastor, Pastor Stan Weatherford, had to turn them away, claiming “a small number of church members had virulently opposed holding the event at the church, and he faced being sacked if he went ahead with it.” Pastor Weatherford compromised by marrying the couple at a nearby church which had a largely black congregation.

What makes matters even worse (if that were possible) is that Te’Andrea was already a member of the flock at the Crystal Springs First Baptist Church.

Apparently, no black couple has ever married in the white First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs since its founding in 1883 and clearly these narrow-minded bigots calling the shots were going to make damned sure that record wasn’t going to be broken on their watch. Of course if they had the slightest scrap of brains between their ears, they would have seen that this was in fact an opportunity to end that relic of Confederate jingoism, acting in the true meaning of the Christian faith by loving thy neighbour.

So far it seems that this small number who appear to be opposing the fact the Confederates lost the Civil War, let alone the successes of the Civil Rights movement, are now keeping their heads down. So all we can do is imagine what they must be like. Now if they had the power to ensure sacking of Pastor Weatherford, then they had to be in a position of authority with that particular church, perhaps the congregation’s Elders. It is not difficult to imagine them being older, still missing the good old days when those ‘black varmits knew they’s place’ and possibly with a pillow case or two laying around their homes, complete with eyeholes cut out. And once they discovered their precious record was about to be broken, shocked telephone calls and secretive meetings going on so they could stop that heresy! And I don’t care much for Pastor Weatherford’s future there either as he would fall into the KKK’s definition of a ‘nigga luva’. And even if those leaders of  the congregation aren’t members of the KKK, they sure as shit are acting like they were.

In fairness, a member of that Crystal Springs congregation has been reported as stating she and the bulk of the congregation were unaware of this stunt, stating they were ashamed of the decision. If so, then now is the time for the apparently silent majority of that congregation to stand up to this incredibly bigoted minority, sending them on their way.

Now there are those who might be uncomfortable with an Australian, with our less-than-stellar record of treating indigenous Australians, now criticising treatment of African Americans. But should a church here turn a couple away merely because of the colour of their skin, there would be hell to pay in our modern society. And yes, I am well aware of the (unjust and unfair) irony that they can turn people away because of their sexuality. But if this sort of act, so terribly reminiscent of an era best left way behind, is allowed to stand, then we are sure as shit never going to progress!

I have said it before and I shall say it again. Sometimes one really has to wonder if the human species is indeed worth saving. Well it seems that while the rest of us are grabbing our snorkels and heading to the hills to escape the oceans rising from global warming, there is a group of Christian elders at the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs who should be left behind, firmly tied down on the beach.

Here endeth the rant… for now.

Now if you have an opinion on what I’m blathering about or even just feel like saying hi, then don’t be afraid to leave a comment or post something to me via Twitter or Facebook. I don’t bite – at least not always.

Picture: Glenn Barnes

Something has just struck me a blinding mental blow.

It has become almost something of a national past-time to ridicule and make fun of Australian billionaire mining magnate, Clive Palmer. But we’ve been entirely wrong to do so.

Now Clive has been anything but reticent in making all sorts of press statements in recent times. To mention just a few:

  • Picture: Lisa Clarke Source: The Courier-Mail

     he was giving up on Wayne Swan’s seat and instead going after independent, former National Party, hat-wearing, gun-toting, redneck Bob Katter’s seat (despite Katter’s stranglehold that ain’t gonna be broken in a hurry – watch out Clive – Bob might just start loading mining-magnate-gauge shot)

     But now the penny has just dropped. Clive Palmer clearly has a quite big picture plan in mind.

    Obviously the grim spectre of the CIA really is controlling our not-so-little corner of the Antipodean world, with President Obama about to declare us the next State within the Union – and Prime Minister Jul-i-ah can do a reprise of her tearful speech to both houses in the US about how the US can do ‘anything.’ And we’d almost certainly lose all that which is great and good about Australia – cricket and football. And we can’t have that, can we! Although perhaps one of the US’s super-smart-missiles might be just what we need to regain the Ashes.

    Then adding to the disaster, we’ve been dodging the pieces of the sky that are now falling in all over the place following implementation of the Carbon Tax so clearly we are definitely in need of saving.

    The key to fixing these terrible disasters is obviously a free press. And now our dear, philanthropic Clive, will come to the rescue with his own online newspaper!

    “Oh no,” I can hear you all cry. “Won’t the terrible CIA just take that over as well?”

    Fear not, dear friends, because philanthropic and saviour-of-all-that-is-great-provided-it-benefits-him Clive has the answer there too. You see, that is where the new Titanic comes in – Clive will dump all his former Fairfax journos on the ship and sail them gleefully around the world and keeping them out of the clutches of the US spooks.

    See – all we need to do is keep a clear and open mind about things and they all make sense, don’t they?

    Now if you have an opinion on what I’m blathering about or even just feel like saying hi, then don’t be afraid to leave a comment or post something to me via Twitter or Facebook. I don’t bite – at least not always.