The Catholic Church has dismissed recommendations designed to prevent further child sexual abuse by priests and members of religious orders. In its final report delivered on Friday, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended the church break the confessional seal of confidentiality on matters of child sex abuse, and make the vow of celibacy voluntary for religious practitioners. Melbourne archbishop Denis Hart and Sydney archbishop Anthony Fisher quickly refused to consider the recommendations, with Fisher saying that compelling priests to report child sex abuse they hear in confession to police “would be a real hurt to all Catholics”. In a statement, the Holy See said the final report “deserves to be studied seriously”, but made no indication on specific recommendations. Survivors of abuse in the Victorian city of Ballarat reacted angrily after parishioners of St Patrick’s Cathedral cut hundreds of ribbons, symbolising those affected by child abuse, off the church’s fence after the report was released.
Treasurer Scott Morrison will unveil the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook today, confirming that Australia’s gross national debt has fallen by $23 billion since the May forward estimates. Morrison is expected to outline government plans to cap the number of annual university places to recover a further $2 billion a year from the university sector, against the warnings of Universities Australia. The Greens have called on the government to include a 4 per cent pay rise for junior public servants in the MYEFO, with Greens treasury spokesperson Peter Whish-Wilson saying the raise would act as a “circuit breaker” to counteract Australia’s “growing wages gap”.
Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle has stood aside for a month after being accused of sexual harassment and indecent assault by a female council staff. Councillor Tessa Sullivan resigned on Friday, with the council saying “herself and other women had experienced repeated sexual harassment which had made their workplace intolerable”. City of Melbourne chief executive Ben Rimmer said he had “commissioned an independent external investigation” into claims of “sexual harassment, indecent assault and misconduct” against Doyle, including groping Sullivan’s breast and making explicit comments. In a statement, Doyle said he found “ the allegations detailed to me by media outlets thoroughly abhorrent”, saying he would “co-operate fully to clear my name”.
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association has struck a secret pay deal with supermarket giant Woolworths that hides workers’ pay rates from public scrutiny. Fairfax reports that workers in so-called “dark stores”, distribution centres to handle online orders, are being paid up to $3000 a year less than employees doing similar work in regular Woolworths stores. Details of the deal were revealed from emails between Woolworths executives and Fair Work Commission officials that were obtained by journalists and activists from the rival trade union, the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union.
And Liberal John Alexander has been returned to Parliament after winning the Bennelong byelection. While former Labor NSW Premier Kristina Keneally achieved a swing of more than 5 per cent, it was not enough to overcome Alexander’s 9.7 per cent margin. Both parties spun the result as a victory, with Alexander telling a visibly relieved Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that it was “a renaissance of your leadership”. Manager of opposition business, Tony Burke, said “it would have been a very special sort of Armageddon if [Alexander had] lost the seat” on Saturday, pointing to the swing to Keneally as evidence Labor was on track to win the next election.