The Queensland politician, The late, Hon. Russell Hinze was involved in controversies surrounding racing, Jupiters Casino, etc. had a favourite saying, "Never hold an inquiry unless you know what the outcome will be".
Julia Gillard’s knee-jerk announcement of a Royal Commission following a sudden media beat up about child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church by Fairfax is the right thing to do, for a number of reasons. But it is inadequate.
As to the good parts – first and foremost and of the greatest importance, it will awaken Australia to the permanent pain suffered by the victim children.
Secondly, it will open the way to establish on a permanent footing a proper rehabilitation program within health departments for the victims. Though the question will be asked – why is there none now?
Without that program the Commission will be as effective as a milkshake in hell.
Thirdly, it will reveal to the utter astonishment of the media and those who still have some belief in their integrity that four major inquiries – at the national level – were conducted between 1997 and 2005 focussing on the problem and that there have been twice as many State inquiries – including the Wood Royal Commission over fifteen years ago.
They won’t get it.
They are a mile behind the times. That horse has bolted.
All Catholic and other Church dioceses, in NSW at least, have a process for sexual abuse cases. They already comply with the mandatory reporting requirements – have done for years. The media seems ignorant of the fact that there are legal requirements in place and that the Church is compelled by law to report to Police, the Ombudsman and other child protection authorities. Even altar boys have to have a background check.
The Church itself strongly advises any victims to go straight to the police. If they won’t, the Church itself reports all the details to the police leaving out only the name of the victim. Victims often don’t want police involvement as they have a real fear about making statements, medical examinations, a trial process.
If one tenth of the stories of sexually abused kids could be told, the world, not just Australia, will be sickened.
Just one story – here in the Shoalhaven. A mother and her defacto brought their young daughter to parties of like minded perverts and used her for sex. They took off when things got hot, changed schools, changed names, kept up the practice. The story of how the child first had sex would gag a maggot. They were caught in the end and got 16 years prison between them.
But this sort of story will not be told as for some reason, known only to the PM, the Royal Commission will not deal with the outstanding principal place of child sexual abuse.
Inside the family.
About thirty years back a mother and grandmother allowed their daughters to be abused by the tenants of their boarding house. The kids went to the police at Manly. The police took them home and told mum she had better have a word with the kids they were saying the most outrageous things. Of ourse, they copped a belting and the practice went on.
No real blame to the police. In those days nobody could believe that people could do such a thing. It was unbelievable by the general population. This goes a long way to understanding why it has taken so long to come out.
That is the problem with Gillard’s Commission.
By telling the world that there has been sexual abuse in institutions they are telling one fifth of the story. The public will think that something is being done about child sex abuse. It will die down. And the practice will go on.
Why was it restricted to institutions?
That’s what casts doubt on Gillard’s motives, or her common sense, or her ignorance.
Right thing to do? Right cat, wrong tree?
Wrong approach? a hands tied commission? Maybe a few pollies have been involved?
When the Royal Commission reports on what the Church is doing, how it has been working with police for years, on how the ‘cover up’ is often at the request of the victim, everything will be buried in a few paragraphs. There will be grumbles from the Sydney Moaning Harold that it went on too long. It will wag its finger at the Vatican.
But the furore today, and headlines about secret sex files, and the frothing at the mouth by Carlton and his ilk about Cardinal Pell will not be repeated.
The media has the population convinced that the Catholic Church has been inadequate in its response to the issue. The Royal Commission will establish whether they have or have not.
But it will come at a terrible cost as attention is drawn away from the widespread nature of the child sexual abuse inside families as the media goes looking for someone to hang.
Instead of apologising for their rabid, one-sided, perverted handling of the issue.
And, abdicating their responsibility to children.
Jim McCrudden is a retired lawyer, an avid admirer of Dickens, Shakespeare and many others. He lives on the NSW South Coast, has a keen interest in politics and sits on local government.