Politics

Conservatives Never Get To Lecture Us Again

They talk about defending children, but when faced with an actual example of child abuse, they defend the abuser.

Conservatives: George Pell, Tony Abbott, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt, John Howard

If you were to create a Venn diagram of high profile conservatives who campaigned for the No vote during the marriage equality postal survey, and those who are now defending convicted child sex offender George Pell, it would be close to a perfect circle.


Warning: this article discusses sexual and child abuse. 


The whole gang’s there; Bolt, Devine, Howard, Abbott, Shelton et al.

Conservative columnist Andrew Bolt was first out of the gates, hours after the suppression order on Pell’s conviction was lifted. Like many people, Bolt knew of the conviction when it was handed down two months ago, but was unable to comment publicly. Like everyone on this list, he could have used that time to carefully consider his position, yet he chose to immediately launch a spirited defence of a convicted paedophile.

Pell was a “scapegoat”, who had been falsely convicted, Bolt wrote without qualification.

Bolt insisted that “the man I know seems not just incapable of such abuse, but so intelligent and cautious that he would never risk his brilliant career and good name on such a mad assault in such a public place”. As though sexually assaulting a child is an act that could ever be carried out by a rational person.

Bolt’s stablemate, Miranda Devine was quick to follow up, saying she didn’t believe the verdict because of vague feelings that Pell is a good bloke.

“It’s devastating because I don’t believe that Pell, who I know slightly and admire greatly, could be guilty of sexually assaulting two choirboys in a busy cathedral after Sunday mass,” she wrote, while calling into question the entire Australian justice system.

Next out of the gate was Lyle Shelton, a man who’s never been particularly wedded to truth or principle. He spent most of this week tweeting and re-tweeting fellow conservatives, questioning whether Pell is innocent.

And finally, we had two former Prime Ministers who leapt to Pell’s defence, even after the conviction had been revealed.

Speaking on radio yesterday, Tony Abbott called the verdict a “tragedy” — not for the young victims, but for the Catholic Church and “friends of Cardinal Pell”. Abbott still considers himself amongst those friends, and declined to say if that would change even if Pell loses his appeal. He phoned Pell on Tuesday when the verdict was revealed publicly.

Rounding out this list of Bond villains is former PM John Howard, who wrote a glowing character reference for Pell’s sentencing hearing on Wednesday.

Howard said that he was aware Pell had been convicted, but that it did not “alter my opinion of the Cardinal”, adding that Pell is “a lively conversationalist who maintains a deep and objective interest in contemporary social and political issues”.

As though Pell couldn’t possibly be capable of holding down a conversation and orally raping two boys.

Save The Children… Just Not Those Children

One thing these people (with the slight exception of Bolt) have in common is how hard they campaigned for the No side during the marriage equality postal survey.

At the centre of their campaign was the supposed need to protect children from the forces of equality. They demonised trans and gender diverse kids, and fought tooth and nail to keep them in the shadows. They told us that same-sex parents were child abusers, and that their children would become the next Stolen Generation.

And now, faced with an actual instance of child abuse, they don’t even have the decency to stay silent.

Instead, what we’ve seen this week is a deliberate, coordinated effort from the most powerful conservatives in media and politics to defend one of their own. They are defending a paedophile.

All of them quite rightly said that Pell has appealed the conviction, and seem to believe it stands a good chance of being overturned. They may well be proved right. But at what point do we stop giving Pell the benefit of the doubt? I would have thought it was at precisely the moment a jury of his peers found he had molested two boys.

We should all remember this the next time conservatives try to lecture us on morality.

Bolt, Devine, Abbott, Howard and Shelton have all spent decades attempting to place themselves in the centre of our moral universe. They tell us they fight for just causes and protect our most sacred institutions.

But when faced with a choice between protecting children or one of their own this week, they chose the paedophile.