Thursday, April 02, 2020

More accusers come forward against Pell

Two men have come forward publicly for the first time to accuse George Pell of sexually abusing them when they were young boys housed in a Catholic orphanage. In allegations to be detailed in the ABC's Revelation program tonight, the men say Pell, then a priest in the diocese of Ballarat, indecently touched and groped them on multiple occasions in showers and swimming pools. Bernie (surname withheld) said he did not report the allegations for years as he feared he would not be believed. “Who's gonna believe a little boy from a home against that conglomerate,” he said. “You know, against that bloody goliath?” Victoria Police contacted Bernie as part of a 2016 investigation of historical sexual abuse allegations against Pell that were subsequently withdrawn. Pell, who says he is innocent of all sexual abuse allegations, is currently in prison awaiting the outcome of an appeal to the high court.

More than 40,000 former doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists whose registration has lapsed in the last three years will be eligible to apply for work next week, so they can enlist in the fight against COVID-19. Registrations are also being fast-tracked for newly graduated medical students and internationally qualified doctors, nurses and pharmacists already living in Australia.  Meanwhile, New South Wales Police will seek military helicopter support to fly doctors onto eight cruise ships stranded off the NSW coast to test more than 8000 people, according to The Australian ($). Australia’s COVID-19 death toll stands at 21 after the death of a person in Orange yesterday.

The Fair Work Commission has proposed ($) changing 103 of the 122 industrial awards to give unpaid “pandemic leave” and additional annual leave at half pay to workers, ensuring they are able to self-isolate when needed. In other news, Guardian Australia reports that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has called for real estate agents to stop offering “unhelpful and unsolicited financial advice” by suggesting that tenants consider withdrawals from their superannuation if they are struggling to pay rent. Meanwhile, authorities in Victoria and New South Wales have walked back public health orders that banned romantic couples from spending time with each other unless they live in the same household.
In the United Kingdom, a new record of 563 people died from COVID-19 in a single day, taking the country’s total to 2352. The crisis has seen a number of major events called off in the country, with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival cancelled, and the Wimbledon tennis tournament abandoned for the first time since World War 2. In addition, the entire grass-court tennis season has been cancelled.


“And into the vacuum pour folk remedies and fake news, apocalyptic messages from religious extremists, hate speech and xenophobia from malign actors in the far right, all manner of scams that trade on fear, as well as reassurances from authorities, which in turn are unbelievable because they don’t accord with the lived experience of the populace. As Bruns says, the infodemic can be deadly.”


“For exercising national security journalism, Assange has recently been shuttling between Belmarsh prison and Woolwich Crown Court in the United Kingdom, fighting extradition to the United States to face espionage charges. On March 26 his legal team applied for Assange’s bail, citing his poor health. This was briskly refused by the same district judge who sat on his extradition case, Vanessa Baraitser, who asserted that he would be likely to abscond again, and dismissed the ‘high risk’ posed to him in Belmarsh by COVID-19.”


“Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific island nations are all highly vulnerable and poorly equipped to respond to an outbreak. The federal government’s recent Pacific ‘step-up’ strategy, designed to curb China’s influence in the region, must now be replaced by an urgent effort to ensure that Australia’s northern neighbours have basic food and medical supplies.”


“Regional newspapers interstate and overseas have been shutting down over the past weeks and, today,  The Bunyip – first published in 1863 – announced it would close ‘indefinitely’ due to losses caused by the pandemic … Also today, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp announced it would suspend the printing of 60 ‘community titles’ in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia from April 9.”


“Government advertising spending has dropped dramatically in the past five years across country newspapers. This had represented a major chunk of their revenue. Instead, government advertising funds are often redirected to social media ... Such communication strategies overlook the fact the local printed newspaper is still an essential service for many in local communities, particularly the elderly who are arguably most at risk from COVID-19.”


“The entire NRL population could be relocated to a tropical island and brought back to the mainland for games, a rugby league great has suggested. In a plan that has been forwarded to NRL bosses, Chris Johns says that players, team staff, match officials and media could all be housed at Tangalooma Island Resort, on Queensland's Moreton Island. They could then be ferried back to the mainland to play games … It is a variation of an earlier plan to house NRL players at a vacant FIFO mining facility.”

Max Opray
is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.