Gerard Henderson gets exercised about the sectarianism supposedly implicit in Tony Jones questioning Abbott about his meeting with George Pell. He has things the wrong way around.

It would be sectarian to suggest that Abbott went to Pell to get his orders – rule from Rome and all that. The actual implication though, is that Abbott went to tell Pell what to do, and that Pell complied, either out of ideological sympathy or in return for past favors, such as help for Pell’s private university.

Pell and Jensen are, quite properly, getting the same treatment as any other interest group lobbyists, and it’s entirely appropriate that their backroom dealings should be publicised.

Update Rob Corr has covered this and made some more good points.

12 thoughts on “Sectarianism

  1. There wouldn’t have been any conspiracy theory except for Abbott’s plausibly-deniable answer of “not that I can recall.” When he then tried to change the subject by defending the Archbishop’s character from an attack that hadn’t been made, it only looked worse.

    I was left wondering what was so sensitive about the meeting that it needed to be covered up.

    This isn’t ABC sectarianism by any definition, it’s yet another politican caught playing Australian citizens for fools. The ABC are right to be all over this one, and Abbott would do well to realise that John Clarke does satire – he’s not supposed to be a role model.

  2. I think it was incompetence on Abbott’s behalf. Jones’ telegraphed the punch and Abbott should have just said ‘yes I did, I talk with him frequently, so what?’. If he’d done that, there would be no story. no sectarianism there.

  3. Agree with Alan.

    Also, even if Abbott did tell Pell what to do, it’s not necessarily inappropriate. In his role as Liberal party representative, I don’t see why Tony Abbott can’t talk to George Pell, Father Ted, or anyone else for that matter, to persuade them of the calamity that is Labor’s education policy.

    Politicians don’t need to hide this, but do need to be open to questions about what they get in return for support from other parties. This principle applies whether the other party is a member of the Catholic church or not – sectarianism is a red herring in this case.

    And in my opinion Abbott’s evasiveness makes it look even more likely that he did get a deal.

  4. Two thoughts on Gerard Henderson. As a Catholic within Liberal Party circles, he has had an obsession with the treatment of the Catholic Church in Australian public discourse, frequently writing or commenting on Radio National about the relationship between the church and politics and on such issues as Bradman’s role in the Protestant vs Catholic cricket issues of the 1930s. He quite often leaps to the defence of the Church when it is involved in public debate and, as in this case, the reasonable observer can be surprised that he sees some issue involving the Church as a sectarian attack. It seems to me that he has a bit of a blind spot or a raw nerve on these matters.

    Second point – has anybody else noticed that Henderson’s generally small-‘l’ liberal line of recent years has hardened considerably this year as the election has drawn closer and that he has become a quite predictable supporter/defender of the PM? He was previously a bit of a critic.

  5. I have always thought of him as a social conservative, slight reactionary and one of the boringly ubiquitous anti-intellectual intellectuals that clutter Australian discourse.

    I’ve only been exposed to his drivel 2 years, as I was in London 2 years before that, but he was part of the anti-intellectual roar that was so immediately noticeable, sneering about elites and other rubbish. SMall l liberal? Must have been more than 2 years ago, he’s pretty clearly right wing to me.

  6. As a kind a left winger and a Christian – I had to giggle at one aspect of Henderson’s comments. Henderson claimed it only the conservative Christians that suffer criticism when they speak out in the press. When church leaders with progessive political views speak, Henderson claims that they get welcomed in the media. Rubbish! The usual line is that church leaders should stick to religion and not get involved in politics. Something is then said about the seperation of Church and state.

    The response form Christians like me, “well, finally doing our job again”.

  7. Richard and Martin: Hendo’s definitely shifted over the past couple of years. There was a discussion about it at Back Pages a few months ago. I traced the swing to late 2002 when the ‘Invade Iraq’ push began in earnest. I think Gerry places obedience to the Americans above all other considerations, including the wellbeing of his own country.

  8. Henderson is usually the first to criticise any church leader who makes a public statement which he considers to be left wing.

  9. Henderson is a right wing arsehole who appears regularly in the worst australian nowadays.
    What a crock,discourse in western australi takes another backward step.

  10. I can recall three distant past 90 degree turns by GH. After the 1974 election which wiped out the DLP he was very critical of Frank McManus, considering he had been duped (by his incompetence) into supporting the Liberal threat to block supply. This ultimately brought the double dissolution election, and the end of the DLP. Iirc, Hendo said something dismissive like “at least Vince Gair could count”.
    He saw Howard as his great white hope in the late ’70s, when Hendo was pushing for de-regulation of industrial relations. However, either because of his own weakness or Fraser’s cold feet, Howard failed GH’s expectations of him. His reservations about Howard were then firmed up by Howard’s anti-Asian position (1988). Henderson became a Keating barracker for a time – late ’80s/early ’90s. However, I think Warbo has the latest incarnation correct, both in timing and motive, he’s an absolutist on the US Alliance. He was very pro the first Iraq war, and supportive of Hawke’s enthusiasm for participation in that adventure.
    His other monotonously advanced prejudices have been well covered in earlier posts on this thread.

  11. The same old sectarianism
    Gerard Henderson’s column today makes a couple of good points, but as usual they’re lost in a fog of utter stupidity.

    For instance, the Lateline interview with Tony Abbott suggested he met with Cardinal Pell after Labor had announced its education…

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