Tony Abbott is standing by his extremely controversial decision to back George Pell following the cardinal’s conviction last week, saying that he is “not a fair-weather friend”. It’s entirely possible that charming old saying doesn’t quite cover when your good mate is found guilty of child sex offences, but hey!
Abbott showed up on Ray Hadley‘s radio show this morning, telling the host that Pell “has been a friend of mine for a long time, and at a time like this you’ve got to feel for people”.
He thinks that we should feel bad for the people upset about Pell’s conviction in the same way we feel for victims of child sexual abuse:
You’ve got to feel for the victims, who have been dreadfully betrayed by an institution they should have been able to trust, you’ve got to feel for the people who are dismayed at this verdict against someone they put up on a pedestal.
You might recall that last week Hadley – a right-winger known for his tough law and order stances – roasted the coterie of Australian conservatives who immediately lined up to defend Pell. In his segment last week, Hadley said that those defending Pell before the appeal goes to court showed “a complete lack of understanding” of the victims of paedophiles.
Abbott has received his fair share of heat for his defence of the disgraced cardinal, which comes right before he needs to fight for an uncertain political future in a seat which is drifting away from him.
When Hadley asked Abbott whether he had been approached to give a reference for Pell, as John Howard was, the former prime minister became hazy on the specifics.
“Look, Ray, I honestly don’t know if I was asked to provide a reference or not,” Abbott said.
“I have no recall of providing a reference but, just, when it comes to the phone call, look, I’m not a fair-weather friend. This was someone who was obviously going through a very, very bad experience.”
When Hadley asked if Abbott felt “compromised” thanks to one of his dear friends being convicted of child sex offences – especially after he backed the royal commission into child sex abuse – Abbott said no:
Well I don’t believe so, Ray, I supported the royal commission because I thought it was the right thing to do. There’s a verdict that’s been delivered, a damning verdict against a friend of mine. It is subject to appeal, but I absolutely accept that the courts and their judgment are the best means we have of coming to the truth.
Abbott went on to agree with Hadley that victims has been “disbelieved for far too long”. Hadley immediately interjected, saying, “And it appears one is being disbelieved by some here as well, Mr Abbott!”
Of course, as in the case with all of these people coming out of the woodwork to defend a prominent and powerful man convicted of child sex crimes, Tony is being very, very careful to avoid explicitly calling the witness in this case a liar.
Obviously, everything he and his allies are saying in this case strongly implies that the person who accused Pell of sexually abusing them is a liar, but they’re not quite ready to openly say that. Wonder why!