Speaking on radio, Hadley – who is generally known for taking a strongly right-wing perspective on issues related to law and justice – said that the pair of former prime ministers displayed “gross errors of judgment” in offering defences of Pell. While arguing his respect for both men, he slammed them for a failure to understand the case and for disregarding the victims.
“This is not over, there is an appeal process,” he said. “For someone as prominent as Mr Howard to basically say the victim’s a liar and Pell’s not, is not what it should be about.”
Hadley called Howard’s character letter reference for Pell “way over the top” in its praise of the cardinal. “There’s no mention of any victim’s in Mr Howard’s reference and I think that doesn’t bring any great credit to the former prime minister,” he told his audience.
Mr Howard is someone I respect hugely, but this gushing reference, in my opinion, was over the top. He obviously believes Mr Pell and thinks the victim to be a liar. I really am struggling to get a grip on it.
Hadley also pointed to Abbott’s upcoming battle to retain his seat of Warringah, saying that the backbencher’s electorate would be “scratching their heads” looking at his comments about Pell.
“Mr Howard and Mr Abbott, in my opinion have shown a complete lack of understanding of victims of paedophiles. Not just in the case we’re talking about now, but generally,” he went on to say.
Hadley’s invocation has exposed something of a split in Australia’s conservative establishment. In a move that has shocked many, right-wing luminaries like Howard, Abbott, Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine immediately responded to the Pell verdict by defending the convicted cardinal, and either explicitly or implicitly suggesting the victim is a liar.
It’s worth contemplating the fact – as I did here – that there is more at stake for a lot of these people, who are finding one of their ideological heroes convicted of one of the worst crimes imaginable. Hence their denials. It’s possible that Ray Hadley, who is both openly extremely anti-paedophile and slightly less involved in the higher-minded culture wars bullshit, has less to lose by condemning Pell.
As it stands, Hadley is the only high-profile conservative to really speak out against his political allies for openly defending a convicted child sexual abuser. It will be interesting to see if any follow.