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  • P D Jonson

Saturday Sanity Break, 16 November 2019 – Cardinal Pell's troubles

Updated: May 1, 2020

At last, a discussion of George Pell's guilt or otherwise that a simple non-lawyer like me can understand. Written by Peter Baldwin, he uses the logic of the probability of the issues of accusations of Cardinal Pell's accuser and reports of 20 reliable members of the Catholic church

Baldwin starts his essay as follows: ‘Never having practised criminal law, I was not aware that it was even possible for an offence to be found “beyond reasonable doubt” based solely on the uncorrobor­ated testimony of a complainant, let alone in the face of substantial contrary evidence. Isn’t that guilt by accusation?’

He asks a question that has worried this simple non-lawyer: ‘Why did Weinberg, acknowledged by all sides as one of the great authorities on criminal law in this country, a former commonwealth director of public prosecutions, feel compelled to reject the view of the other two judges in a tightly argued dissent of more than 200 pages?

‘Reading through the two judgments, I would have to say that opinions “diverged” is a gross understatement.

‘They reveal differences in approach to the assessment of evidence so profound that the two sides might as well be on different planets. Much of the disagreement is encapsulated in the use of two different two-word phrases: “reasonably possible” by Weinberg, and “not impossible” by Ferguson/Maxwell.’

Surely this point raises the issue of the majority opinion’s ‘safety’, given the long standing principle that a correct judgment is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.


The fall of jobs in the latest month sends a shiver down the spine of this simple economist. The Australian economy is clearly growing very slowly, but falling employment raises the possibility of the first 'real' recession since the horror of the severe 1990/91 recession. In fact, if measured on a per capita basis, my guess is Australia has experienced two or three gentle recessions since the ‘official’ 1990/91 recession, but for some reason the official family refuses to present per capita numbers, surely a far more plausible measure of recession.

The truth will eventually be out, but my guess is that the Federal government will soon be doing a back flip that replaces the promised budget surplus by additional government spending or further tax cuts. Of course, it seems that ordinary Aussies are preferring to reduce debt rather than spending more, a tendency that this simple economist cannot criticise. In fact, for all its costs and unhappiness, the severe recession of 1990/91 killed goods inflation and therefore produced a healthier economy.

This result proved the adage of a serious long ago Aussie econocrat: ‘What Australia needs is a serious recession’. Said oldtime econocrat is likely to soon be cheering from his grave.


Fiona Prior sees Martin Scorsese’s latest masterpiece ‘The Irishman’. More here. ​

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