• Debate speech regarding the Catholic Church and its history of child abuse

    ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

    Earlier this year I gave notice of a Motion condemning the Roman Catholic Church for its failure to protect children from abuse. The motion was rejected by the Government and will now be debated by the House. Below is my opening speech, in which I lay out the reasons of why I have chosen to target the Catholic Church. The debate has be adjourned so as to allow other Members to prepare.

    Some my ask why have I chose to raise this issue as it doesn’t have anything to do with animals? Firstly, it is an issue deeply personal to my heart as you will hear in my speech. Secondly, it reflects one of the core principles of the Animal Justice Party, that is, protection of our most vulnerable and giving a voice to those that either don’t have one or it is a voice that is not being heard.

    This post will be updated as the debate progresses.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I move:

    (1) That this House condemns the Roman Catholic Church in Australia for its abject failure to protect children from sexual abuse by members of its clergy and leadership, who either:

    (a) sexually assaulted children whilst they were in their pastoral care; or

    ( b) by omission, caused ongoing and aggravated suffering to child victims by failing to intervene and report these crimes to police in New South Wales and Australia over the past five decades, as evidenced before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

    (2) That this House conveys its utter disgust and profound disappointment in Cardinal George Pell for his ongoing failure to protect the innocent child victims of routine egregious sexual abuse who sought his help and assistance over many years.

    Members might wonder why a fellow member of the Legislative Council would call upon this House to support a motion such as this when a royal commission is on foot. I think it is time—and it is expected by the traumatised victims and outraged community—for the Parliament to speak out on behalf of those who have elected us and for those who are not yet old enough to vote. It is time for New South Wales parliamentarians to speak to the actions of the church. We have parliamentary privilege and can therefore elucidate on the evidence and concerns that the judiciary cannot because of limitations on admissibility of evidence.

    Childhood sexual abuse has blighted the lives of too many young people and for too long society has refused to see, hear or speak about their pain. It has caused premature deaths through drug and alcohol abuse, risk‑taking behaviours, self-harm and suicide. It occurs within families and within educational, sporting, health, cultural and religious organisations—in fact, anywhere where adults are in authority over children. Children have been sexually abused by their music tutors, Scout leaders, swimming coaches, foster carers, doctors and dance teachers. Most damningly of all, they have been abused by those who give instruction about the moral standards required to guide them through life: their religious leaders.

    These pastors, priests and teachers are accorded great reverence and authority by not just their own religious hierarchies and communities but also mainstream society. Imagine that authority, by means of a person vested with its power sermonising from the pulpit or lecturing in the classroom, groping your genitals or sexually penetrating your body. Imagine the secrecy, the shame, the pain, the confusion and the fear and terror of not being believed, of being damned to hell if you tell. Imagine the waking nightmare of having participated, however unwillingly, in breaking the very moral laws you have been told to live by. What moral compass then becomes the guiding principle of those people’s lives? No wonder so many seek solace in obliteration.

    Why has my motion singled out the Roman Catholic Church? In various commissions and inquiries we have learned that paedophiles have been active in other religions and denominations such as the Anglican Church, the Salvation Army, Judaism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and obscure religious cults to name a few. There are four reasons why my motion has singled out the Catholic Church. I formed my position even before an article substantiating it entitled “Child sex abuse: Restoration of trust key to survival of Catholic Church” by Chris McGillion and Damian Grace was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 19 September. The first reason for this motion is that it is important that the culprits are singled out and not allowed to cowardly seek refuge in the shadow of the more broad term “institutional responses to child sexual abuse”.

    The second reason for this motion is the sheer volume of offending in the Catholic Church. In evidence given at the 2012 Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations police figures showed that since 1950 there have been 10 times as many abuse cases in the Catholic Church as in the Anglican Church, which was the next largest group for rates of offending. Given that Anglicanism and Catholicism have historically been the two largest religious denominations in Australia, at 17 per cent and 25 per cent of the population respectively, the massive difference in prevalence is compelling evidence of a serious problem within the Catholic Church and is indicative of its failure to protect children.

    The third reason is the culture of clericalism in which the church leadership believes it is only answerable to itself. Obedience to canon law is of more importance than submitting priests to the secular criminal law system. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has stated, “The bishop has a duty to treat all priests as father and brother.” Patrick Parkinson, Professor of Law at the University of Sydney and a specialist in family law and child protection, argues that this has been interpreted by some as an obligation to protect priests and religious brothers from the criminal law.

    Examples of the impacts of clericalism include: transferring alleged offenders to other parishes or schools between parishes, interstate or overseas; permitting international trips for priest to undergo spiritual formation amidst child sexual abuse allegations; persuading complainants, victims and families to remain silent; ignoring schoolteachers’ repeated requests for action against alleged child sexual abuse offenders; and not intervening after inadvertently discovering offenders in the act of child sexual abuse.

    The final reason for this motion is the position of power and privilege that the Catholic Church has within society. The Catholic Church started out on the margins of Australian society. It was the spiritual home for Irish outcasts, political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. With the declaration of World War I, the church battled against the State in fighting against conscription. As the decades passed, however, the leadership of the Catholic Church aligned itself with the conservative establishment—fighting communism, socialism and upholding rigid standards of sexual morality as secular society became more permissive.

    The conservative establishment has been happy to provide support and protection from oversight. In August 2002 then Archbishop George Pell was stood down during an investigation into sex abuse claims against him. During the course of the investigation Prime Minister John Howard contacted the archbishop to offer his support, and later publicly stated that he believed Dr Pell was innocent. In 1996, as public outrage grew over the failure of the Catholic Church to adequately respond to child sexual abuse, then Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett said:

    I was reassured that George said ‘yes’, he’d get stuck into it … I was told that he had put together a response … it’s not for me to sit in judgment … of whether the response was adequate or not.

    Cardinal Pell is on record as saying that he set up the Melbourne Response in 1996 after Mr Kennett told him, “Now you clean this thing up and there won’t be a royal commission.” In his essay “The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell” David Marr said:

    For twenty years, in the face of growing public anger about paedophile priests, political leaders had backed the Catholic Church. Despite protests from victims, their parents, Anglican bishops, lawyers, academics, child protection advocates, a number of Catholic priests, newspapers and police, the business of cleaning up the mess of child abuse had been left to the churches themselves. When Pell provoked an outcry by walking the paedophile Gerald Ridsdale into court in 1993, Jeff Kennett hosed down calls for a royal commission. When Pell was accused himself of abusing boys, John Howard blocked calls for a royal commission.

    The evidence uncovered by the media, whistle-blowers, as well as commissions and inquiries, has shown that the church cultivates an aura of untouchability. Through strategic relationships, it has been able to keep a lid on the scandal of its systemic failure to hold perpetrators accountable for abuse. One example of a disturbing collaboration between the police and the church is the activities of the Professional Standards Resource Group [PSRG]. The Police Integrity Commission investigation, known as Operation Protea, was established after the ABC’s Lateline program reported in 2013 that the church had an agreement with police to allow it to withhold information about paedophile priests. The investigation found that the police failed to act on multiple allegations of child sexual abuse raised in the PSRG meetings, a clear breach of their duty. This was done through a process of “blind reporting” where the names of alleged victims of child abuse and other details were deleted from reports to the police.

    Only recently, it was reported that the Catholic Church has finally agreed to cease blind reporting to police. Hundreds of child sex abuse cases going back decades may be reopened as police finally have access to the names of suspected paedophiles. So let us examine in more detail the failure of the Catholic Church to protect children from sexual abuse: In the words of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart in his evidence to the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse:

    The Catholic church failed to act on the “horror story” of paedophiles in its midst. There was knowledge and a failure to act.

    Royal commission data shows that since 1980 the church had received child sexual abuse complaints from 335 people against 84 priests, covering the period 1950 to 1989. Campaigners say the true number of abuse victims could be as many as 10,000 children. Counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness, SC, stated that under “Towards Healing” the largest number of complaints were made against the Christian Brothers, Marist Brothers and the De La Salle Brothers—all Catholic. In all, 2,215 victims had come forward and 1,700 people commenced the process, although not all claims were pursued or substantiated. The most complaints, 43 per cent, were made against religious brothers, 21 per cent against diocesan priests and 14 per cent against religious priests. Most of the abuse happened between 1950 and 1980 in orphanages and schools.

    As evidenced by both the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations and the royal commission, time and again, over many decades, church authorities concealed the crime from the police, civil authorities, parishioners and Catholic school staff, pupils and their parents within the diocese. Archbishop Hart spoke about a “failure to act”, but that is not quite accurate. Church officials often did act, but in the worst possible way. Sexually abusing priests were frequently transferred to a new parish or a new school, where they continued to offend.

    The damage to the victims was immense. The breach of trust, secrecy and silence frequently caused deep psychological pain and disrupted a victim’s schooling or personal development. Victims felt hurt by knowing that their offender was being protected by the church. Many victims went on to live broken lives, struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, unable to form adult relationships or pursue stable employment. Sadly, many died young as a result of damaged mental and physical health. Police reports have detailed the suicides of at least 40 people sexually abused by Catholic clergy in Victoria.

    When I was only 16 years of age and in year 10 at Marist Brother High School, Hamilton, Newcastle, New South Wales, I witnessed Brother Patrick and Brother Romual walking up and down the aisles of the classroom and stopping near “desired” boys, placing one hand under their robes on their penis and masturbating it while running their other hand down the pants of boys and rubbing their bottom and genitalia. I observed these boys freeze in fear and confusion. At the beginning of each term we could select a new seat and desk in the classroom. The perimeter desks were up against the left and right walls. Boys would arrive as early as possible so they could clamour to a seat adjacent to a wall because they knew that this would position them too far from the Brother for him to be able to molest them. I reported those Brothers to another Brother who I respected. He tried to help, but nothing happened and he soon left the Brotherhood.

    The evidence is overwhelming that the leadership within the church looked the other way. This encouraged the church’s offenders to continue committing similar crimes. The offenders knew that their church status would protect them from being arrested and convicted. It was only through the incredibly brave and tenacious campaigning by the families and victims themselves and groups such as Broken Rites that the true scourge of clerical abuse became a matter of public knowledge and outrage. Over the past 30 years we have seen the scandal within the Catholic Church unfold. Some perpetrators were finally brought to justice. A number of priests were convicted and jailed. It took decades for their child victims to be believed and to experience vindication. In many other instances, charges could not proceed due to lack of evidence or due to the death or incapacity of the accused.

    And what was the response of the Catholic Church when these priests came before the courts? Who can forget the image of Cardinal, then Archbishop, Pell walking side-by-side with the notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale as they entered the court precinct for his trial. The message that Archbishop Pell and the Catholic Church signalled to the Australian community was, “We place the might and majesty of the church against these child victims.” Cardinal Pell has been subject to rigorous cross-examination before the royal commission about what he knew and when. At all times he seems to have not seen, not heard and not spoken out. In his own words: “It’s a sad story and it wasn’t of much interest to me”.

    As a Prince of the Church, it is clear that the investigation of sexual abuse of children by its servants is a low priority. Let us look at Gerald Ridsdale—just one example of what the church knew and what it did. At Ridsdale’s 1994 trial it was claimed that as early as 1971 he had been sent to a psychologist for treatment for his paedophilia. At Inglewood in 1973 a parent complained that Ridsdale had molested their son. A police officer spoke to Bishop Mulkearns, who promised to deal with Ridsdale, but he moved him on instead. Ridsdale was sent to and moved from five more parishes until he was sent overseas to New Mexico. He returned and was appointed chaplain at St John of God Hospital in Richmond, New South Wales, where he was finally arrested. He was charged with 30 counts of indecent assault against nine boys aged between 12 and 16 between 1974 and 1980. He was then convicted and sentenced in 1994 after pleading guilty to 46 charges of abusing 20 boys and one girl between 1961 and 1982.

    Given that the Catholic Church has portrayed itself as a moral pillar and has been accorded significant social status for its stance on sexual behaviour and moral authority, it beggars belief that its leaders would place themselves at arm’s length from the actions of those who carried the authority of the church into day-to day-life.

    The Catholic Church has failed abysmally to protect young people in its care. The leadership of the Catholic Church has consistently and deliberately, over many decades, prioritised the reputation of the Church and the protection of paedophile priests over the safety of children. Cardinal Pell may compare the Church to a transport company with the odd dodgy truck driver but in doing so he exposes the hypocrisy of an organisation that has fought to maintain the illusion of moral authority.

  • Notice of Motion-Racing NSW Horse welfare fund

    RACING NSW HORSE WELFARE FUND

    (1) That this House congratulates Racing NSW for its decision to establish a Horse Welfare Fund which will be financed predominantly from a 1 per cent levy on all racing prize money paid in New South Wales.

    (2) That this House commends Racing NSW’s commitment that all New South Wales thoroughbred horses will be appropriately cared for outside of their racing careers and that this includes ex-racehorses as well as those thoroughbred horses that have never made it to the race track.

    (3) That this House notes that Racing NSW will provide resources for the care, retraining and eventual rehoming of all New South Wales thoroughbred horses by:

    (a) appointing a dedicated team of staff to manage the program, including a Horse Welfare Veterinarian;

    (b) establishing partnerships with riding schools, pony clubs, local agricultural societies and other equestrian organisations to promote the rehoming of thoroughbred horses;

    (c) expanding the current Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Program with additional re-trainers to vastly increase the capacity for new horses; and

    (d) raising awareness for thoroughbred welfare and undertaking training days for their new owners.

    Motion agreed to.

  • Notice of Motion congratulating Virgin Australia

    REHOMING OF COMPANION ANIMALS

    (1) That this House congratulates Virgin Australia and Jetpets on entering into a partnership with companion animal rescue charities, Australian Working Dogs Rescue, RSPCA and Pet Rescue to:

    (a) provide free transport for companion animal adoptions and rehoming throughout Australia; and

    (b) assist in the relocation of surrendered greyhounds requiring rehoming as a consequence of the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Act 2016.

    (2) That this House notes that every successful rehoming of a companion animal removes a dog or cat from death row in council pounds and RSPCA shelters.

    Motion agreed to.

  • Notice of Motion to commemorate William Shakespeare and his work

    On Tuesday the 9th of August I gave a Notice of Motion to not only commemorate William Shakespeare’s work but to acknowledge his bravery in questioning the morals and ethics of the society his was witness to, certainly a thinker ahead of his time. The particular piece that I quoted tells the story of hare being hunted, a fitting story given the systemic live baiting of the greyhound industry still today in 2016.

    That this House:

    (a) commemorates William Shakespeare’s death four hundred years ago, which was certainly only the shedding of the genius’ mortal coil;

    (b) notes that his brilliant and unparalleled crafting of words and rhyme through drama, poetry and song will live on forever;

    (c) acknowledges that he was a wordsmith whose oeuvres very few artists have ventured anywhere near and not one has surpassed;

    (d) acknowledges that through the instrument of his art, humankind has enjoyed insights and revelations into its own complex being and indeed all of the mysteries of nature, including the voiceless, that is, but only to our recognised tongues, animals; and

    (e) notes that this great man gripped his quill to reveal the plight of a hunted hare, the words forthwith so apt for a controvert nigh before this House:

    And when thou hast on foot the purblind hare,

    Mark the poor wretch, to overshoot his troubles

    How he outruns the wind and with what care

    He cranks and crosses with a thousand doubles:

    The many musets through the which he goes

    Are like a labyrinth to amaze his foes.

    Sometime he runs among a flock of sheep.

    To make the cunning hounds mistake their smell,

    And sometime where earth-delving conies keep,

    To stop the loud pursuers in their yell,

    And sometime sorteth with a herd of deer:

    Danger deviseth shifts; wit waits on fear:

    For there his smell with others being mingled,

    The hot scent-snuffing hounds are driven to doubt,

    Ceasing their clamorous cry till they have singled

    With much ado the cold fault cleanly out;

    Then do they spend their mouths: Echo replies,

    As if another chase were in the skies.

    By this, poor Wat, far off upon a hill,

    Stands on his hinder legs with listening ear,

    To hearken if his foes pursue him still:

    Anon their loud alarums he doth hear;

    And now his grief may be compared well

    To one sore sick that hears the passing-bell.

    Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch

    Turn, and return, indenting with the way;

    Each envious brier his weary legs doth scratch,

    Each shadow makes him stop, each murmur stay:

    For misery is trodden on by many,

    And being low never relieved by any.

    mark-pearson-william-shakespheare-hunting-poem

  • 10/03/2016: Wool industry debate

    Motion by the Hon. MARK PEARSON agreed to:

    (1) That this House commends the 80 per cent of Australian wool growers who are:

    (a) breeding sheep to be resistant to flystrike by breeding out skin wrinkles; or

    (b) using pain relief when mulesing sheep.

    (2) That this House calls on the remaining 20 per cent of wool growers to begin breeding sheep to be resistant to fly-strike, and in the interim, providing pain relief to sheep when mulesing.

    (3) That this House congratulates Dr Meredith Schiel and the Australian Wool Growers Association for developing and promoting Tri-Solfen, an economical local anaesthetic and antiseptic gel spray for use on lambs to provide pain relief following mulesing, which also reduces blood loss and infection to improve wound healing.

    (4) That this House commends Laurence Modiano, a leading European wool-buyer and distributor for facilitating the uptake in the textile industry’s demand for non-mulesed wool and for encouraging the Australian wool industry to move towards pain relief.

    (5) That this House congratulates world renown fashion designer Count Zegna for, in the past two years, awarding his prestigious Wool Trophy for the best superfine Merino fleece to wool growers who have bred out the wrinkles in their sheep and adopted other management practices and therefore ceased mulesing their sheep.


     

    Many years ago the economy of Australia was built on the back of the merino sheep through the development of the wool industry. It grew and became the fundamental platform of the first major economy for Australia. The industry, which has an important and interesting history, is now alive and robust but it also has the attention of the world. This motion calls upon the House to commend various activities conducted by people in the wool industry and various growers. The motion is about a win-win-win situation. The view of the Animal Justice Party is that it is a win for the almost 23 million lambs that are born every year in Australia. Many of the lambs undergo a surgical procedure called mulesing, which is the removal of skin and subcutaneous tissue around the vulva, tail and breech area of the animal.

    Twelve years ago I filmed this procedure and I sent the footage to organisations around the world so that the true story behind the production of wool in Australia could be observed. It was not exaggerated or highlighted. The document showed a procedure that is common in Australia. Over the past 25 years the Federal Government has appointed standing committees on animal welfare which have reviewed this procedure. Those reviews have resulted in the industry, through the research of the Australian Wool Innovation, addressing the mutilating procedure that is performed on animals without any analgesia or pain relief. As a result, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in Australia was required to include a provision to exempt sheep and lambs from this particular procedure where a prosecution would otherwise have been brought for unnecessary, unjustifiable and unreasonable cruelty to an animal. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then.

    The second win would come from this House commending the work of proactive and progressive growers, people in the industry and retailers who want to introduce a change in the industry. The world is now looking at what we do in our backyard. Buyers such as Abercrombie and Fitch, Zegna, Armani and Hugo Boss are looking at what we are doing with our animals when producing various products such as wool. There was an international crisis when consumers and retailers of Australian wool became alarmed and concerned about what they saw. I will give an example. I was in London attending a meeting between the Australian Wool Growers Association and a senior executive of Armani. The conversation was critical. The Australian Wool Growers Association representatives were trying to convince a senior executive of Armani—a major importer of Australian wool—that mulesing is necessary for the wellbeing and welfare of the animal. That is the complexity of this issue.

    It is not like the argument about battery cages for hens where the cage is an instrument of cruelty. The procedure of mulesing is about preventing flystrike, which results in the lingering and painful death of an animal. However, the procedure is invasive and it is a mutilation. Veterinarians and wool buyers are highly critical of the procedure when it is performed without pain relief. The Australian Wool Growers Association representatives were trying to explain this point to a senior executive of Armani when he said, “Stop. I am a wool buyer. I have customers. Beautiful soft merino wool for my beautiful suits—bleeding horrible wound. Stop it. Fix it or I go to Spain or South America.”

    The message was clear. Our problem is flystrike. Armani’s customers do not want blood on the Armani label. The argument has moved to a new chapter. We have to fix the problems associated with the necessity for mulesing. It will continue to occur, but if changes are made by growers to breed out wrinkles so that after 18 months or two years the animals no longer require mulesing to avoid flystrike, then that will be more acceptable to buyers around the world. The motion calls on this House to commend the work that will result in a win-win-win situation: a win for the animals; a win for the wool growers who are progressive and visionary and, therefore, taking the industry forward in the world; and a win for Australia’s economy and world image. We will not be condemned or attract criticism that creates a crisis for the industry because we have not caught up with world’s best practice and acknowledged that animals must be protected.

    This motion is not about condemning the industry; it is about moving the industry forward. A recent petition signed by 38 wool buyers from around the world—from China, Europe and America—showed that wool buyers fear that wool from lambs that have been mulesed without pain relief will be mixed with wool from lambs that have been mulesed with pain relief when it is being washed, spun or knitted in China or other countries. This will cause serious blight and risk and liability to the wool industry in Australia if we do not give an absolute guarantee to wool buyers that we will make pain relief mandatory. That guarantee is important to wool buyers, particularly Count Zegna, whose company is at the upper aspect of the wool-buying industry. When Count Zegna was in Australia a couple of years ago he said that a trophy would be given to a wool grower not only on the quality of their wool but also on the basis that the wool grower was using pain relief or had stopped mulesing.

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