It's been creeping up day by day: the politicisation of the federal royal commission into child sex abuse in the Catholic Church and other institutions around Australia, so it seems a good time to look at the announcement at face value. After mounting pressure from around the nation the Federal Government launched a sweeping inquiry that would investigate systemic sexual abuse of children in adult care, whether in religious or secular institutions. After initially rejecting the call for an inquiry because it was too focused on one institution, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, responded to people pressure galvanised by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox's harrowing revelations on the ABC's Lateline.
She did so by announcing a broad, all encompassing inquiry. It has support from both major political parties. It has overwhelming support from the public. It is clearly a profound moral issue of social importance. And yet the media are bent on turning into an ideological war.
Considering the national mood it's not difficult to glean why the Catholics have been the main focus of public interest - it's by far the largest culprit of institutionalised paedophilic activity, an institution that's part of the fabric of Australian society. Most people are simply sick to death of the lies, cover-ups, hypocricy and callous self-interest emanating from an organisation that claims for itself such heady moral heights. As a result the matter of the confessional being used as a home for guilty priests has also entered the fray. Surely it's not unreasonable for people and pundits to examine whether the law of the land should take precedence over church law.
No matter how unlikely it is that a deviant priest will use the confession box to unload his guilt, once is once too often. These rather natural reactions, however, have been systematically attacked by agenda-driven political journalists behind the smokescreen words "witch hunt". Rupert Murdoch's News Limited papers with their armies of conservative opinion-makers have labelled the Prime Minister a political populist/opportunist for calling the inquiry. They suggest the inquiry is aimed at Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, a devout Catholic.
In addition: to shore up their right flank they've raised the problems of child sex abuse in outback indigenous communities to attack what they imagine is the Left's beloved trojan horse. They have also attacked the royal commission's broad scope for being bloated and unfocused - this before the terms of reference have even been framed.
The News Limited media would do well to remember, paedophilia is not a political issue, it is fundamentally a moral matter, and it has the imprimatur of as many concerned conservative citizens as liberal citizens. But it seems that right wing hacks view the inquiry as an attack on the virtues of the old order and States rights by the secular humanist Left led by the ABC and rival Fairfax newspapers. To them it is a battle for hearts and minds. At the risk of repetition, however, it is fundamentally not a political issue, it only becomes one when aligned scribes get caught up in the game. All this argy bargy, and the inquiry hasn't even begun. A venal case of the pot calling the kettle black.