The homily of the three wise men and the Royal Commission

And behold, a star shone in the East and it shone upon a manger which was called the Royal Commission into Child Abuse. Many rejoiced and gave thanks. And three wise men, Pell, Hart and Callaghan saw the star and journeyed towards it. (Actually one of them couldn’t be bothered journeying and appeared by video link). They did not bring gifts of gold frankincense and myrrh but rather evasions, legalisms and weasel words. And when they laid the gifts in the manger, even the animals turned it faces from them.

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See also Annabel Crabb

Excuses big enough to drive a truck through

More weasel words from George Pell

The insensitivity and arrogance of this man beggars belief:

Pell compares priests to truckers as victims given apologies

Apparently, George Pell is too busy to grace the Royal Commission into child sex abuse with his presence because he’s too busy looking after the Catholic Church’s money. As he did when he offered Christine and Anthony Foster, parents of abuse victims Emma and Katie, $50,000 compensation. The Fosters later won $750,000 in compensation from the Melbourne archdiocese. That’s 15 times the original offer. Pell’s view was that this was a good offer in the light of what other culpable organisations were offering.

Anthony and Christine Foster with daughters Aimee and Katie Both of whom were abused by a paedophile priest.. Emma took her own life at the age of 26

Anthony and Christine Foster with daughters Aimee and Katie Both of whom were abused by a paedophile priest.. Emma took her own life at the age of 26

But the most amazing and outrageous element of Pell’s defence, reported in The Age, is that the Catholic Church is like a ”trucking company”. If a driver sexually assaulted a passenger they picked up along the way, he said, ”I don’t think it appropriate for the leadership of that company be held responsible.”

After all this time, the evidence presented at enquiries, the testimony of victims, the conviction of paedophile priests, he still doesn’t think that the Catholic Church is at fault. And he certainly doesn’t think that he bears any responsibility as the head of the church in Australia i.e. “the leadership of that (trucking) company”.

He is still resorting to weasel words. Argument by analogy is always dangerous. In this case the choice of analogy is ineffectual and insulting to anybody with an intelligence above about 85. The church is not like a trucking company and a hitchhiker. He argues that the trucking company has no responsibility to the hitchhiker. That is, George, until the driver picks the hitchhiker up in the company track.

But the case of the church is different. It had a responsibility for the care and protection of the children who were abused and this is what makes Pell’s appallingly badly chosen analogy so profoundly insulting. He still doesn’t think the church bears any responsibility and he keeps reiterating this point in a tribunal that is getting national and possibly international coverage.

This man is a Cardinal, a prince of the church so we can only assume that his version is the official version and response of the Vatican to the allegations of child abuse, not just in Melbourne but everywhere: it’s not our fault, it was the truck driver

It is a pity that Cardinal Pell cannot be subjected to the legislation covering mandatory reporting of child abuse. He is safely tucked away in the Vatican where he presumably enjoys diplomatic immunity.

You wonder what the Catholic Church could possibly do to make things worse

UPDATE: George Pell’s truck driver analogy veers into hostile territory

The Age reported that Trucking association chair Noelene Watson hit back at Cardinal Pell: “Cardinal Pell must realise that he cannot solve these problems by insulting Australia’s hardworking truck drivers, who deliver the goods we use every day.”

The language of political denigration: Kevin Andrews and disability pensioners.

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews’ recent announcement that eligibility for the disability pension was to be tightened was a masterful demonstration of political weasel words.


Full marks to the speechwriter, it was a textbook example.

The first thing that Andrews did was to reclassify those on disability pensions. He did this by saying young people on the disability pension sat on couch all the watching television. The reclassification or label that comes with this description is “lazy” and this combines very nicely with “young”. So the new label is now “young and lazy.” It’s very easy for the idea of “young and lazy” to morph into the idea of “dole-bludger.” It’s also interesting to understand that and that the new labelling stresses the young and lazy idea and de-emphasises the idea of disability.

Once the re-labelling has been done it is necessary to construct a narrative to support it. This is Andrews’ narrative: Young people sit on the couch at home all day watching television because they don’t want to work. It’s seductively simple. The stereotype of lazy young people sitting around watching television resonates well with many prejudices.

The skilful thing about the construction of this narrative is it works so well to support the new labelling of people on disability pensions.

An alternative narrative would be: Because there is no work for them, young disabled people have nothing to do except sit at home all day and watch television.

The technique is quite simple once you understand it: always put the most important idea at the beginning of the sentence. Andrews places the emphasis on sitting at home all day watching television. The alternative narrative places the emphasis on the idea that there is no work for young disabled people.

The other great thing about the Andrews’ messages that fits into the wider context of the economic muscularity of Joe Hockeys’ heavy lifting message. These lazy couch potatoes aren’t doing their share of the heavy lifting.

Marius and Joe show how real men do heavy lifting

Marius and Joe show how real men do heavy lifting

The solution to the problem is to provide incentive for people to work by cutting their disability pensions.

This simplistic message shifts our attention away from the real nature of the problem. The first problem is that there is very little work available for people with disabilities. This is coupled with the lack of employers who are prepared to provide the workplace support necessary to employ people with disabilities. The second major problem is the lack of training for people with disabilities to fill specific jobs in the workplace.

It’s a complex problem and one that the simplistic approach of Kevin Andrews and the government he represents is unlikely to solve.

Tony Abbott, Humpty Dumpty, promises and weasel words

In my last post, I discussed how politicians use language and compared them to Humpty Dumpty’s famous quote in “Alice in Wonderland”


And then, on cue, Tony Abbott provides a brilliant example

“We are going to keep the promise that we actually made, not the promise that some people thought that we made, or the promise that some people might have liked us to make. I think Christopher [Pyne] said schools would get the same amount of money and schools – plural – will get the same amount of money.”

This means that the private school system in Australia will be  continue to be disproportionately funded compared with the state school system.

And that Tony Abbott will redefine his  “promises” whenever he feels like it.