The facets of Australian fascism: the Abbott Government experiment (Part 28) – By Dr George Venturini

By Dr George Venturini*

Testing the thesis . . . Rampant sexism (continued)

Of all Australian women aged 18 to 24, 23,584 reported they had experienced sexual assault in the 12 months prior to the survey. Twice as many women in this 18 to 24 age bracket experienced sexual assault, compared to all women. (‘Violence against women: key statistics’).

Presently, Australian police are dealing with 5,000 domestic and family violence matters a week. That is one every two minutes. It means that every day Australian police would deal with 434 domestic violence matters, on average:  264,028 per year, and an increase of 7 per cent from 2015.

The figures point to an increase in victims letting police know about violence, rather than a real-world increase in violence, according to Ms. Mayet Costello, the acting chief executive of ANROWS.

The Australian Government has been working towards providing better data about domestic violence but it is estimated that the process of setting up national data collection and reporting will not be complete until 2022.

So far the data available on police intervention are the following:

 
  Date range Number 12-month change
Vic 2015 74,385 9%
Qld 2014-15 71,777 9%
NSW 2014-15 65,120 2%
Tas 2014-15 4,410 8%
WA 2014-15 16,461 9%
ACT 2014-15 2,876 -13%
NT 2015 3,970 -6%
SA 2016 25,029 20%
Aust   264,028 7%

 

(C. Blumer, ‘Police handle 5,000 domestic violence matters a week, up 7 per cent’).

During the last decade of the twentieth century and the first of the present, allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia, particularly by officers of the Roman Catholic Church, but also in a number of other confessional and non-confessional institutions – mainly but not exclusively private schools. Some of the allegations relate to incidents which had occurred during the 1950s, others in more recent times. Some allegations, when prosecuted successfully, led to a number of convictions. But such trials and convictions were few, lengthy and costly. In most cases the perpetrators could rely on ‘protection’ offered by their superiors – many of them in most cases equally guilty. Calls for a Royal Commission had began in the late 1990s.

On 12 November 2012 Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that she would be recommending to the Governor-General the setting up of a Royal Commission. On 19 November 2012 federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and Acting Minister for Families Brendan O’Connor released a consultation paper seeking input into the Commission’s scope of the terms of reference, how the Commonwealth and the States and Territories would work together, the number of Commissioners and suggested areas of expertise, the proposed timetable and reporting requirements.

Archbishop Hart, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, stated that he welcomed and promised co-operation with a Royal Commission broadly to investigate child sexual abuse in institutions across Australia. George Pell, Cardinal-Archbishop of Sydney, stated that he hoped the Royal Commission will stop a “smear campaign” against the Catholic Church. During a press conference held on 13 November 2012, Cardinal Pell voiced his support for the Royal Commission and welcomed the opportunity to help victims, to clear the air and to separate fact from fiction.

On 11 January 2013 Governor-General Quentin Bryce issued Commonwealth Letters Patent appointing six Commissioners and designating the commission’s terms of reference. The Commissioners were directed “… to inquire into institutional responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse and related matters …”

Each State was also requested to issue Letters Patent, or their equivalent Instruments of Appointment, which allow the six Commissioners to conduct an inquiry into institutional responses to child sexual abuse under their respective laws. The States proceeded. Both the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are officially administered under the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Commonwealth Letters Patent covered their jurisdiction.

Also on 11 January 2013 Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the setting up of the Royal Commission and the appointment of six commissioners with The Honourable Justice Peter McClellan AM, a Supreme Court of New South Wales judge, a former chair of the Sydney Water Inquiry, and a former assistant commissioner at Independent Commission Against Corruption as its head. The other commissioners were to be: Mr. Bob Atkinson AO APM, a former Police Commissioner of Queensland who oversaw police reforms following the Fitzgerald Inquiry; The Honourable Justice Jennifer Coate, an appointee to the Family Court of Australia, a judge of the County Court of Victoria, and a former president of Children’s Court of Victoria; Mr. Robert Fitzgerald AM, a Commissioner on the Productivity Commission, convenor to the Indigenous Disadvantage Working Group, and a former commissioner on the NSW Community and Disability Services; Dr. Helen Milroy, a consultant psychiatrist with the Western Australia Department of Health specialising in child and adolescent psychiatry, and director of the Western Australian Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health; and Mr. Andrew Murray, a former Senator from Western Australia and advocate on issues surrounding institutionalised children.

The setting up of the Royal Commission was supported by the then Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott and by the Greens, as were the terms of reference and the choice of commissioners.

Hearings were and are still being conducted in every capital city and a number of regional centres across Australia.

The federal government requested an initial report from the Commission not later than 30 June 2014 as well as a recommendation for the date for the final report not later than 31 December 2015. But the work of the Commission required an extension, and on 13 November 2014 Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove amended the Letters Patent extending the date for submission of the final report to “not later than 15 December 2017.”

An interim report was released on 30 June 2014 and included “the personal stories of 150 people who shared their experience of abuse by coming to a private session or providing a written account.” At that time there were still around 3,000 more sessions on a waiting list to be heard. In June 2015 the Royal Commission released a report, prepared by the Parenting Research Centre, which assessed the extent to which 288 recommendations from 67 previous, relevant inquiries have been implemented. Following the conclusion of each public hearing, case study reports were released on findings and recommendations for each of the abovementioned cases.

Still, a male-dominated parliamentary system – at all levels, whether federal or state – is reluctant effectively to recognise the right of women to decide on matters which relate exclusively to their own body; an anti-abortion attitude, solid under all circumstances, is maintained by parliamentarians of the major parties.  Simultaneously, a subtle homophobic attitude pervades the view of those parties. Of course, it is not declared, because that may have serious electoral consequences. Both behaviours, anti-abortion and homophobia, are grounded on the ‘traditional values’ of a society which proclaims itself founded on Judeo-Christian principles and, at the same time, wishes to be seen as ‘secular’. That is a maladroit attempt at having things both-ways – and damned the inconsistencies. Only those who know nothing of the essential Philistinism which pervades Australian society would find that glaring example of cognitive dissonance easy to believe in – and respect.

There is educational inequality: education of women is second best in a system which already is not at the internationally competitive top universally respected, and is blocked in the opportunities that real education could open.

A Fascist regime is essentially ‘virile’: domestically it sells beer, abroad it fights wars; its institutions lie – often with impunity as they take advantage of fear, credulity and superstition of the populace.

Tomorrow: Testing the thesis (continued) . . . A controlled mass media

GeorgeVenturini* In memory of my friends, Professor Bertram Gross and Justice Lionel Murphy.

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975 he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra. He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.

Part 27

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