Book Review: “Fallen: The inside story of the secret trial and conviction of Cardinal George Pell” by Lucie Morris-Marr

I read this book in three days, which, by my standards is very, very fast. That’s because it is a gripping story, even though, like just about everybody in Australia, I knew the outcome.

This is a scorching condemnation of the Catholic Church hierarchy but also of contemporary Australia where vested interests seek to determine who and what is given publicity, which convicted criminals deserve empathy, and when the law should be respected or undermined.

The most striking aspects of the whole saga, captured well by Lucie Morris-Marr, are:

  1. The way that powerful interests worked to initially suppress the news of the accusations against Pell, and then to discredit those involved, and finally and bizarrely to still sing the praises of the convicted paedophile. Pell was known for his right-wing social attitudes on a range of issues. I doubt the likes of Howard and Abbott would have been supportive of a priest such as Father Rod Bower (Gosford Anglican) if he had been convicted of the same offences.
  2. That News Corporation is a vindictive, biased organisation only interested in stories that support its worldview (but you knew that already, didn’t you).
  3. That the Catholic Church has a long, dark history of sexual abuse and of doing everything in its power to hide the abuse, putting its own reputation above the welfare of children.

Morris-Marr starts at almost the end – the day when the jury’s verdicts on the four charges against Cardinal George Pell, are to be announced.

She then goes back three years to the start of her involvement in the story, when she was working as a freelance reporter for News Corporation. She finds out that there is police task force investigating accusations of sexual assault of minors by Pell, and then that Pell is to be charged with the offences. Initially News Corp are delighted to have such a scoop, and splash it on the front page of the Courier-Mail. However, things quickly turn sour when Pell’s powerful connections, including Andrew Bolt, move to have the story squashed. Morris-Marr finds herself without a job and, by the sound of it, having a nervous breakdown.

However, she finds support from CNN and The New Daily, and is back on the trail of Pell. Despite a suppression order preventing publicity of the trials, she doggedly attends every day of the initial trial, which ended without a verdict, and the retrial. She takes us through Pell’s life from young sporting hero, to seminarian, to his meteoric rise to become the third most powerful person in the Catholic Church. At one stage he was even spoken of as a possible Pope.

Her account of his time in Ballarat, where he shared a residence with notorious paedophile Gerard Ridsdale is most revealing. It seems inconceivable that Pell was unaware of the horrendous activities going on in the same building where he lived. One victim says that while she was being raped by Ridsdale, a man, most likely Pell, walked past the open doorway and did nothing to intervene. There are also accounts of Pell fondling boys at the swimming pool, and of being warned off by a man who witnessed him standing naked in front of small boys.

She also recounts his handling of historical clerical sexual abuse for the Church, establishing the so-called Melbourne Response. Many victims of abuse were deeply dissatisfied with, even traumatised, by the way in which they were treated by the Church under Pell’s management.

But Pell was not on trial for turning a blind eye to abuse, nor for his alleged involvement with boys at a swimming pool. He was on trial for assaulting two choir boys in the priests’ sacristy at Melbourne Cathedral. One of the boys committed suicide as an adult, before the assault came to trial. It is the evidence of the second boy, whose name has been closely guarded, which formed the main case against Pell. This evidence was presented only to the jury and no transcripts were released. There is thus an unavoidable gap in the story.

The picture of Pell presented here is of an ambitious, determined, conservative man with very powerful friends. The book also presents a picture of a legal system within which the wheels of justice grind slowly but relentlessly towards a resolution.

Pedant alert. The book was rushed out in the wake of the guilty verdict. Inevitably there are typos and other grammatical errors (in my ebook edition at least) which hopefully will be fixed in later editions . e.g. “Tony Abbot”, “in other incidences”, “juggling an eggshell”, “the cardinal just put his dead down”, the quotation from Howard’s letter not put in quotation marks.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2019

Book Review: “No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison” by Behrouz Boochani

No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus PrisonNo Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amongst the many shocking and astonishing things about this book, is that Boochani wrote it secretly in Farsi on a mobile phone which he had to keep hidden from the prison guards. He sent thousands of PDF files using Whatsapp to his translator Dr Omid Tofighian.

Perhaps even Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton would have to agree that it is miraculous that the end-result is such a cohesive, detailed, persuasive, poetic narrative. But then again, if Morrison and Dutton ever read books, this one would be bottom of their list, because it is a damning indictment of their immigration policies and their inhumanity.

Boochani is a Kurd. He was a member of the Kurdish Democratic party which is outlawed in Iran, and of the National Union of Kurdish Students. As a result he was watched closely by the Iranian authorities. The first part of the book describes Boochani’s time in Indonesia and then two attempts to come to Australia by boat, almost dying in the process. Boochani then gives a detailed, sickening description of what he calls the Kyriarchal system imposed on the asylum seekers in Manus – a system built around domination, oppression, and submission. Everything that might give the asylum seekers any sense of humanity, dignity or self-respect is denied them. The system requires detainees to queue for hours or days for everything – food, cigarettes, telephones, medical attention, anti-malarials. The queues pit man against man. Generators are turned off in the intense heat to keep the men exhausted. The toilets and showers are like open sewers. Self-harm is prevalent. Fights break out regularly over minor issues. Huge mosquitoes feast on their exposed flesh. Any attempt to buck the system is met with brutality from the Australian security guards and even the locals, the ‘Papus’. In short, Manus is a living-hell.

There can be no justification for the way Australia treats asylum-seekers. To drive men mad in these conditions, with the supposed justification that it will prevent others from risking their lives at sea is a thin cover. In reality, ever since John Howard, the Australian Government has exploited racism in Australia for electoral advantage. Asylum seekers are a convenient distraction from the corruption and nepotism that the Government gets away with on a daily basis. The Australian media, even the ABC, is mostly a cheerleader for these policies.

The words “important book” have been bandied around a lot recently, but this really does deserve that nomenclature. Surely nobody who reads it can ever again support Australia’s asylum seeker policies.

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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2019

Caution – Rabbits hitch-hiking

Near Ridge Park, Adelaide is a traffic sign, which used to warn of elderly people crossing. For some weeks now, the sign has been upside down (see above). It’s on Glen Osmond Road, near the bottom of the south-east freeway. It would be one of the first things people driving from Victoria see on arriving in Adelaide. (For non-Australian readers, there is a fair bit of animosity between Victorians and Adelaideans). I often wonder what they might think of the sign, especially if they’ve looked at optical illusion pictures. On the other hand, they probably just see an upside down warning of elderly people ahead.

 

Caution – One-Eyed Rabbits Hitch-Hiking

Caution – One-eyed rabbits smoking cigars

Caution – One-eyed rabbits line-dancing

Caution – Abusive two-finger gestures ahead

Caution – Abusive two-finger gestures combined with A-OK gestures ahead

Caution – Abusive one-balled rabbits ahead

Caution – Elderly people helping each other across the road whilst doing head-stands

Caution – Elderly Inverted Line Dancers Ahead

Caution – Fancy cocktails with two straws ahead

Caution – One eyed rabbits drinking fancy cocktails ahead

Caution – One eyed rabbits spitting out fur-balls ahead

Caution – Double Fuck off back to Victoria

Caution – Bad shadow puppetry ahead

Caution – Rabbits cleaning their ears with Q-Tips

Hey Victorians:  Fuck off back to Melbourne and take your bloody one-eyed, one-balled, cigar-smoking, fur-ball-spitting, cocktail-drinking, line-dancing, hitch-hiking fucking rabbits with you.

 

Glen Osmond Road, Myrtle Bank


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Parliament House – Cleaning Contractor Report

Parliament House – Cleaning Contractor Report

August 24th 2018

Claim for Additional Payment

 

Our monthly charge for cleaning Parliament House covers the items, areas and services recorded in our contract (CC2018PD345/13). This additional claim is submitted for the extraordinary work of cleaning and refurbishment on the evening of August 24th 2018, identified herewith:

  • Large bloodstained areas around, under and immediately behind the front bench.
  • Deep incisions in the furniture inflicted by several sharp instruments.
  • Blood spatter on walls. More than usual.
  • Several areas of severe soakage, some still warm (urine?), others cold (tears?)
  • Around the opposition benches, also areas of severe soakage (tears of laughter?).
  • Deep indentations on walls and the backs of seats, as if inflicted by members’ foreheads.
  • Extensive deep drag marks in the carpets leading to the exits, as if a body, maybe several bodies had been pulled, heels down, out of the building, to be disposed of.
  • Unusual amounts of rotten tomatoes, banana skins and crumpled ransom notes.
  • Several piles of vomit in the public gallery.
  • Most difficult to deal with are the heaps of excrement. They resemble those found at another of our clients, an abattoir, at the point where animals realise their fate.

We attach our bill for additional payment, in the amount of $22,000, due to the need to call in specialist staff and equipment to deal with the above, and to provide trauma counselling to those staff.

Yours Faithfully,

 

 

 

__________________________

F. Carpenter
Manager, Canberra Corporate Cleaning Pty. Ltd

 

 

 

 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Note to Australian Federal Police - this is a work of fiction
Special thanks to Rachael Mead for the workshop in which this was drafted.

Book Review: “The Rules of Backyard Cricket” by Jock Serong

The Rules of Backyard CricketThe Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a terrific read, gripping from start to finish. It describes the rise and fall of brothers who become two of the leading Australian cricketers. Serong says that the characters are not based on real cricketers, but he writes with an insider’s authority. The events are almost completely believable apart from some unlikely twists that stretch credulity.

The main characters, Darren and Walley Keefe, could almost parallel the Waugh twins – one dour and professional, the other a maverick. Serong extends the differences in personalities for the Keefe brothers, one becoming more of a Shane Warne character and the other a seemingly dour Bradman.

The book takes us inside the cosseted world of the elite sportsmen – the hangers-on, the corruption, the drugs, the media circus, the betting – as well as the excitement of the brothers progress from child prodigies to national figures.

The writing is of a high standard. Each chapter commences with a short update of Darren’s current predicament and then goes chronologically through the series of events which led the brothers to their current impasse. There are well delineated supporting characters, which add colour and credibility to the story.

Recommended, especially if you are or were into cricket and like a rollicking thriller.

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