SOMETIMES it’s best to leave a ball go through to the ‘keeper – especially when it’s been tampered with and a bodyline field has been set. That was my first reaction to ABC all-things-Mick monomaniac Louise Milligan’s report on Monday night’s Four Corners. Then it became a predictable theatrical meltdown when Andrew Bolt and Gerard Henderson weighed in. On second thoughts, no: this isn’t one for the gloveman. More on the issues they raised below. First, here’s what we know about schools everywhere, religious and state-run: there will be sexual improprieties – crimes, in other words; the chances of sexual impropriety increase significantly when a closeted homosexual is in charge of boys at a boys’ school; the only thing we can be vaguely glad about is when it doesn’t escalate to full-blown homosexual assault but is picked up before that can happen. One more thing: sexual improprieties in state schools are never reported by the ABC. Are we really to believe that in any given year there are no such breaches at all in Australia’s 7,092 government schools?
In a way, though, we should congratulate the ABC for shining a light on the risk posed by such men. Grooming of the kind endured by former St Kevin’s student Paris Street is no second-tier matter: this was a psychological assault. I would even say it was a life-threatening one. There are cases of boys treated this way whose mental health deteriorates catastrophically. On the letters of “reference” given to the magistrate during sentencing of offender Peter Kehoe, yes, it is true these were not “character references” as Milligan misleadingly called them. But nor were Headmaster Stephen Russell or Dean of Sport Luke Travers obliged to submit any references at all – even ones strictly understood to be for sentencing purposes only. They chose to do so. Why? I would be very surprised if a pastoral sense of responsibility to the fallen man wasn’t the key factor. Kehoe had been convicted, was sacked, was now unemployed and would never work in schools again. They may have decided the merits he had shown in previous years could be justly itemised for the benefit of his redemption. Christian forgiveness is always scandalous. If they were motivated by mateship or out of a belief that he was convicted for ‘mere’ words, they were not acting appropriately and deserve little sympathy.
Milligan’s attempt to craft an anti-Catholic feminist diatribe from one boy’s nightmare was both self-indulgent and peculiar. The transcript is 6770 words long. Of those, 2881 are about naughty chants and raps, adolescent boys being rude to girls and – incongruously – George Pell (well, it’s Louise Milligan reporting; she could work the Cardinal into an exposé on housing affordability or melting glaciers). The remaining 3889 words are about the Street case. It takes fully 19 and a half minutes before we meet Paris Street himself and hear his story – to which the remaining 28 minutes are devoted. The 20 minute intro about sexism is strange prolegomena in a report about a convicted homosexual groomer that mentions “further complaints” about two other homosexual groomers. What is the connection between St Kevin’s boys singing vulgar things about girls and a few of their number being targeted by male predators? This was Frankenjournalism. Two favourite ABC tropes – Catholic schoolboys as privileged monsters and Catholic schoolboys as abused victims – were just sewn together, then seasoned with a dash of Pell. A less egotistical and agenda-laden approach to such stories is long overdue. That will only happen when one or two non-leftists are hired by the ABC. LOL.