Despite his conviction, two former Australian prime ministers are publicly supporting George Pell, & more in News in 5.

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1. Despite his conviction, two former Australian prime ministers have supported George Pell.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott called his friend George Pell after the cardinal’s guilty verdict on five counts of child sexual abuse.

Pell was found guilty in December of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting another after Sunday mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne in 1996.

The news of Pell’s crimes sent shock waves across the globe on Tuesday and on Wednesday he faced a County Court pre-sentence hearing.

Mamamia’s daily news podcast The Quicky will get you up to speed on what you need to know today…

Abbott told 2GB radio the crimes Pell was committed of didn’t “sound consistent with the man I have known”.

“I absolutely accept that this is a shocking result, a devastating result, but it is subject to appeal,” he said.

Host Ben Fordham asked Abbott to explain who it was a devastating and shocking result for.

He replied: “Certainly for the friends of Cardinal Pell, and as you say I am one, devastating for all who believe in the Catholic church, and I’m also one of those.


“This is a grim time, no doubt about that, but I also have faith in our system of justice and let’s see what the system of justice ultimately produces.

“Yes, he has been convicted, he has been found guilty, and as the Prime Minister said, no one is above the law … but let’s wait and see what the law ultimately produces.”

A second former Australian prime minister, John Howard, provided a character reference to a court for Cardinal George Pell, who has been convicted of child sex offences.

His lawyer Robert Richter QC submitted a binder of documents to the court in Pell’s defence, including 10 positive character references.

One of the testimonials is from Mr Howard, who became prime minister in 1996, the same year Pell committed his crimes.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Howard wrote the conviction of Pell did not alter his opinion of the cardinal.

“Cardinal Pell is a person of both high intelligence and exemplary character,” Howard wrote. “Strength and sincerity have always been features of his personality.”

“In his chosen vocation he has frequently displayed much courage and held to his values and beliefs, irrespective of the prevailing wisdom of the time.”

Of the references, Mr Richter said: “These people love him; none of them believe he is capable of these offences.”

Mr Richter said Pell had a great sense of humour and was a man of the “highest character”.

“He relates to everyone from a prime minister to street beggars,” Mr Richter said of his client.

“He is a person of the highest character, putting aside the convictions that were recorded.”

Another one of the references came from Greg Craven, the vice-chancellor of Australian Catholic University.

In further submissions, Mr Richter said Pell’s offending was spur of the moment.

“This is no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where a child is not volunteering or actively participating,” he said.

But Chief Judge Peter Kidd hit back, labelling Pell’s crimes callous and brazen.

“He engaged in some shocking conduct toward two boys,” the judge said.


“At the moment, I see this as callous, brazen offending. Blatant.”

Mr Richter said he was in a difficult position as Pell’s lawyer, as his client maintained his innocence.

“The cardinal’s position is that he is innocent. I’m not in a position to say why he did something he says he didn’t do,” he said.

2. More victims are coming forward with allegations of abuse following George Pell’s child sex convictions.

More victims are coming forward with allegations of abuse to the Catholic Church after the revealing of Cardinal George Pell’s child sex convictions.

Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli has apologised to abuse victims and said people were calling the church on Tuesday as news broke of Pell’s guilty verdict.

He didn’t specify whether the allegations concerned Cardinal Pell or others within the church.

“There are others who made contact with us yesterday and I suspect, over the next few days, because of what’s come to light through the lifting of the suppression order, who will come forward and say, ‘I too was abused at a particular time in a certain circumstance’,” Archbishop Comensoli told ABC radio on Wednesday.

He said 131 survivors had come through the Melbourne Response, the church’s recourse program of which Pell was the architect.

The archbishop said he had spoken to the cardinal in the past 24 hours and he seemed “strong within himself”.


“I would say this particular trial was fair and that he continues to protest his innocence,” he said.

“I would not want to disparage, in any way, our judicial process so both of the trials that were held were both held according to law and appropriately.”

Archbishop Comensoli said Pell remained characteristically stoic.

“I would describe him as strong within himself, this is obviously a terrible time for him personally,” he told Triple M radio.

The archbishop said it would be “completely irresponsible” of him to guarantee abuse within the church would never recur, but child safety programs were now in place to guard against it.

One of his key tasks was to rebuild trust in the church, given that had been “terribly damaged”, he said.

“Sorry to all those who have been abused and communities who have been so terribly damaged not only by the abuse that has occurred but the efforts to cover up or negate and so on, I say sorry,” he told ABC radio.

“We have not listened well. Certainly, many victims have talked about how they weren’t believed and all of that has compounded the fighting of cases through civil processes.

“There has been a shift from those sort of ways, perhaps there is a new generation of leaders like myself who are coming forward who take a different approach.”

3. John Legend has lauded R Kelly’s arrest for child sex abuse.


Following an appearance on documentary series Surviving R. Kelly, musician John Legend has continued to speak out about the disgraced R&B singer, labelling his arrest for sexual abuse against minors “a long time coming.”

In an interview with NBC, Legend said: “I’m so glad that the documentary was made. I’m so glad the victims got to have their voices heard.”

Kelly walked out of a Chicago jail on Tuesday after posting $US100,000 bail. He now awaits trial on charges he sexually abused four people dating back to 1998, including three underage girls, one aged 13.

Kelly, who was arrested on Friday, has pleaded not guilty to the allegations.

The recording artist has been trailed for decades by allegations he violated underage girls and women and held some as virtual slaves, and was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.

Legend, a star of Jesus Christ Superstar, also pointed out that the documentary helped to spur law enforcement into action.

“Being retold through that medium really brought the issue to people’s attention, and I think inspired law enforcement to move on some things that I think they weren’t moving on before,” Legend said.

Legend, who said in the series that he had turned down offers to work with Kelly in the past, tweeted on the day the documentary debuted: “To everyone telling me how courageous I am for appearing in the doc, it didn’t feel risky at all. I believe these women and don’t give a f– about protecting a serial child rapist. Easy decision.”

4. Nauru hospital conditions ‘unacceptable’, an inquest has heard.


The conditions an Iranian refugee who fatally set himself alight was treated under at Nauru hospital were “wholly unacceptable”, an inquest has heard.

Omid Masoumali, 23, died two days after setting his petrol doused clothes on fire at a resettlement area on Nauru in April 2016.

Burns specialist Jason Miller treated him at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital about 30 hours after he burned himself but Mr Masoumali later died of organ failure.

Dr Miller told Brisbane Coroners Court based on his age and the fact around half his body was burned, the injuries would have a death rate of five-to-10 per cent under his care.

While giving evidence, he was shown photos of Mr Masoumali under care in Nauru hospital for the first time.

He agreed with the family’s barrister Shane Prince SC conditions there were “wholly unacceptable from a clinical point of view”.

“The only chance he had was to have more effective care in an earlier time frame,” Dr Miller said.

Careflight nurse Tracey Griffiths, who was involved in Mr Masoumali’s transfer to Brisbane, said Nauru hospital conditions were unclean and the only soap available to wash hands was dishwashing liquid.

The inquest continues on Thursday.

5. Ita Buttrose confirmed to become next chair of the ABC.


Businesswoman, journalist and former magazine editor Ita Buttrose is poised to be named the next chair of the ABC.

Cabinet has reportedly signed off on the appointment of the 77-year-old, and the decision is likely to be announced within days.

“When I’m in a position to make an announcement about the chair of the ABC, I will do that,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Tasmania on Wednesday.

Pressed on when that might be, he replied: “When I do it.”

The development comes after the rancorous exits six months ago of then-chair Justin Milne and managing director Michelle Guthrie.

Reports emerged on Monday that Ms Buttrose, the 2013 Australian of the Year, was shaping up as the government’s pick for the national broadcaster’s top job.

The communications minister said at the time a decision had not been made.

But when asked about the potential appointment, Mr Morrison described Ms Buttrose as an “extraordinary Australian” and said there were few people who had done more to lift the standards of journalism.

He also confirmed Ms Buttrose was not on a shortlist of candidates prepared by an independent nomination panel.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said Ms Buttrose is a well-respected Australian, but raised concerns that she was not canvassed through the government’s headhunting process.

If you have experienced sexual assault and are in need of support, please call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also contact Bravehearts for counselling and support for survivors of sexual abuse on 1800 272 831, Lifeline for 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention, or, if you’re the partner of a person who has experienced sexual assault, you can contact PartnerSPEAK on (03) 9018 7872 for peer support for non-offending partners.