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Bob Carr's Non Response to Institutional Sexual Abuse

While in opposition in 1994, Bob Carr had taken strong action against Deirdre Grusovin, using Parliamentary privilege to crusade against paedophilia by raising the spectre of conspiracies of networks of protection rackets extending from the police to politics and the judiciary. She paid a high price, losing her front bench spot when she could not substantiate her allegations. 

After Carr was elected, Franca Arena also claimed she had boxes full of evidence of paedophile rings in prestigious institutions but then tried to smear both leading members of the government and opposition with a failure to act.  When John Della Bosca won a defamation case over Franca Arena, Premier Bob Carr publically congratulated him by renouncing the “catch-all allegations” of fanatical forces,

It is amazing how easily victims can become perpetrators.

When allegations against one teacher, Peter Boys of The Broadmeadow School surfaced in 1996, instead of investigating them thoroughly and independently, Carr merely elected to append them to the already established and overloaded Wood Royal Commission into Police corruption. 

Suddenly all teachers were considered fair game. Legislation by these same politicians, who had their reputations indelibly smeared by false allegations was now enacted that not only allows, but encourages anyone to make anonymous allegations against any teacher without any accountability.  As Mark Twain put it; “No man’s life, liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session”. 

Swept up by hysteria, pragmatic politicians found teachers an easy target and convenient scapegoat to pursue tough policies in order to win elections. Not for teachers the possibility of “vindicating” baseless allegations spawned by mischievous students, disaffected staff or unprincipled Principals playing gutter politics. Once branded, you carry it for life.  Spare a thought for the unfortunate 853 plus teachers, who because of this misguided legislation had their careers irreparably destroyed or at least three outstanding Principals whose careers were wantonly destroyed for allegedly failing to notify nebulous concerns.

The approach adopted by the Government – adopted by default, possibly without any thought for the long-term implications of it -- was to have the state (remember, these are taxpayer-funded staff, not party-funded staff) pay out employees, usually with confidentiality clauses, rather than try to fix the system.

When the Tories screw workers they get angry. When Labor does it they just get sad. 

Some 15 years later, Barry O’Farrell made the first move and was soon followed by Julia Gillard in appointing a National Inquiry into Institutional Sexual abuse.

After five long years it has demonstrated that it was willing to go places where none had dared to go; to the very top of our most prestigious institutions and discover endemic cultures of inaction.

I am waiting for Bob Carr's apology to Deidre Grusovin and Franca Arena, but fortunately I am not holding my breath.

Bullying Teachers

Several letters have raised the issue of an endemic culture of bullying in the NSW Teaching service.  As a long term teacher from the early sixties, this was not true until about the mid - nineties.  If we are looking for the culprit, why not look at Bob Carr’s legacy

Poor Bob Carr, after spending so much of taxpayer’s money to polish his and his government’s posturing image, much of his record looks so shop worn and tarnished.  Without his professional back-up; an army of press agents and propaganda machine he finds it difficult to keep up the appearance of a former successful Premier. 

Politicians are aware that “shoe leather” investigative reporting stories is hard work and expensive. Ostensibly to lighten the burden, but pragmatically to get positive spin, governments, corporations and institutions spend heavily on the 24 hours news management cycle, press releases, casting their policies and actions in a favourable light.  As Marshal McLuhan predicted, “Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind.  To get inside in order to manipulate, exploit, control is the object now.”

All governments spend an obscene amount of money on media management, monitoring of news and public advertising that could be spent on teachers and nurses – public infrastructure instead of cynical exercises to influence and manipulate the media and distort public opinion. This governmental avalanche of disinformation simply smothers the truth and doesn’t give alternative views, or even reality, a chance to be aired.   Any negative news was soon swamped. 

Bob Carr’s cabinet had 19 ministers and 29 press secretaries (handpicked former experienced journalists) and he made himself readily available for early morning flash TV grabs and offered easy telephone access to selective “cherry-picked” radio and press personalities.  Governments of all persuasion conduct million dollar advertising campaigns to flog their policies.

Nick Davies reviewing Flat Earth News in Spectrum, March 1 2008  Concludes that “Untruths pass into common currency, not because journalists are liars, but because they simply don’t know whether what they are writing is true and they do not have the time to find out.”

Davies sees this as the logic of commerce – cut costs - increase production.  Research indicates that through staff cuts, reporters are today filling three times as much space as 20 years ago.  No wonder many stories today consist of wholly unchecked, unchallenged and unquestioned copy from PR sources of governments or corporations.  These stories are cheap, safe, commercially impactful and quick to produce.  Repackaging others news stories is coined as “churnalism”  leaving the news cycle vulnerable to manipulation by PR media managers who now outnumber journalists by 3:1.  Unfortunately the public remains blissfully unaware of what really happens.

Carr has the vaunted self-image of an intellectual – a history buff and literary expert – but he was merely a journalist, narcissistic strutter and a charlatan to boot.  Peter van Onselen, writing in the Australian (19-20th May 2012) opines “the intellectual aura Carr seeks to exude, is like an actor, masquerading as a public intellectual as a politician.” 

Rising to the top in a faction ridden, head kicking culture of the NSW Labor Party is not easy, and to Carr’s credit he achieved it but then failed to transform into an inspiring leader.  Modelled on Graham Richardson and Paul Keating and surrounded by other tough enforcers like John Della Bosca, Joe Tripodi, Michael Costa and Frank Sartor, Carr’s government gained the reputation of making the tough decisions in a resolute “take no prisoners” approach.  The NSW Labor Party tactics morphed into the NSW Government where “might is right” and strong leadership is demonstrated by posturing - flexing one’s muscles to demonstrate strength, regardless of the consequences.

He would like to remembered for major achievements and there are some such as the 2000 Olympics, his expansion of National Parks, but his claims to have overhauled the Education system, are highly delusional and reverting to spin.

Underlying all the problems of the Carr era is our greatest achievement – The 2000 Olympics.  But at what cost?  We may never know.  The documents were to be released in 2010 but have been delayed because they might be too damaging for the government before an election.  His government’s obsession with providing a debt free Olympics called for sacrifices in all other areas of expenditure. 

As a teacher until the late nineties, I recall many times that cuts to our budget were due to the need to deliver the Olympics without creating a deficit.  We simply had to do with less as our conditions deteriorated.

His government was the most damaging to the Education system since Terry Metherall had used it as his personal toy to play with.  Carr made no attempt to hide his disdain for the Teachers Federation and most teachers. In the long term these policies had a devastating effect on teachers and the education system. 

Preferring the grand imperious style of a Roman Emperor, his knee-jerk reactions - rather than a more deliberate more considered responses - became evident in his overall management style - many of his decisions taken arbitrarily and unilaterally.  One of his first acts in 1995, when millions had been spent on adopting a National Curriculum, Carr simply pulled the plug, impetuously took his toys and went home.  Now 20 years later slow progress is again on the move in developing a National Curriculum.

His diaries are very revealing for his narcissism, naivety and rosy eyed idealism:

He noted in his diary for April 21, 1997:

Yesterday our school reforms were announced. All the ideas I’d formulated in Opposition. Four-unit English for the HSC. Compulsory exams at the end of Year 10. Soft options gone…

Higher education for all is a worthy ideal, but utterly unrealistic.  Many of the students, who in former times would have left school at 16, for a trade, are now staying on, but are not academic and therefore cannot treated to the same material.  They require stimulating high interest and relevant vocational education rather than sterile, intellectual or academic focus they have little interest in. 

Teaching is not just about providing for the top ten per cent, rather what you can do for the most disadvantaged. I recently met a friend who had been driven from university tutoring by Howard’s cuts to higher education, and was now teaching Maths in a High School.  It heartened me that he spent most of his time recounting how he had managed to succeed to draw out two autistic students rather than talk about his top students.  Bright students can fend for themselves – it is what good teachers can do for the weaker more vulnerable students that is intrinsically fulfilling but should receive higher recognition and monetary reward.  These achievements cannot be measured by Naplan or HSC marks.

In 1996 Carr’s disdain for teachers turned to utter contempt when he set up an in-house cheap investigative body called the Case Management Unit - CMU, with no forensic or legal expertise to investigate anonymous sexual accusations targeting teachers.  Using all the successful skills derived from the Inquisition, once accused your career was doomed.

Candace Sutton who worked for years as a NSW government media adviser claims the groundwork of do-nothing-but-keep-up-appearances government established by the first premier in Labor’s 16-year tenure, Bob Carr, deteriorated into a series of expensive stunts which have raided the state’s coffers, to little effect.

Much of what occurred during the Carr era remains unexamined because so little light has been shed on it.  Lazy assumptions have gone unchallenged mainly due to apathy, the frenetic pace of the news cycle and the smothering of all negative stories by a swamping of pro-government spin. They say “truth may be free; but bullshit commands increasingly higher premiums”.

It is high time that a rigorous and detailed investigation into Ken Boston’s handling of sexual misconduct charges laid against teachers during his tenure. 

Today Ken Boston is an educational consultant of the NSW Department of Education. He continues a formidable, illustrious but conflicted career. 

Prior to his move to the UK he had been managing director of technical and further education and director-general of education and training in New South Wales, Australia from 1992 to 2002. His previous positions had included director-general of education in South Australia, and general manager of educational planning and policy in Victoria. In 2001 Dr Boston - his PhD is from Melbourne University - was made an Officer in the Order of Australia for services to education and training. He is a fellow and former president of the Australian College of Education, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and a fellow of the Australian Institute of Management.

Boston’s appointment was widely welcomed in 1992 under the Greiner Government with Virginia Chadwick as Education Minister as he provided much needed gravitas to the Department following the turmoil of the Metherall years.  His intellectual stature and progressive policies gained him a high regard from most areas including teachers. 

However in 1996, was Ken Boston merely carried along in the political fear mongering slipstream created by Bob Carr’s government’s repeated appeal to the gut instinct of the electorate – tough talk on crime, jail sentencing auctions and reacting rather than responding to terrorist threats?  Howard and Carr were peers in any auction of “fearmongering”.

His audacious claim that ‘There had been a culture over many, many years of not dealing with paedophilia. I was recognised in New South Wales for being the one education bureaucrat who brought about reform in this issue” needs more scrutiny. 

 No, Ken, you were not to blame for the culture before 1996, but you must accept full responsibility for the draconian but incompetent witch hunt you conducted from then on. 

Rather than responding in a considered deliberate manner, Boston’s unreflective reaction included setting up an in-house investigative body, called the Case Management Unit, hastily convened, meagrely funded, under-resourced, poorly trained and amateurly managed, the CMU soon gained the reputation of a real witch hunt. 

Many allegations did not clearly indicate sexual abuse, creating a gray area, however the very act of overt investigation carried with it a charge, a conviction, and a sentence, wantonly destroying over 800 promising careers, a situation repugnant to all fair-minded people.” 

A second claim that “we dismissed several senior staff members who had been involved and introduced a child protection policy.’  Also deserves investigation.   

I am not aware of any senior bureaucrats who were held to account for failing to deal with allegations they were fully informed of – except for Principals.  It was  the suicide of Merv Coterill, Principal of The Broadmeadow School up to 1996, two days before he was to appear before the Wood Royal Commission, presumed guilty that should cause serious misgivings. 

This was a hasty, lazy and unreflected assumption.  He had notified senior officials numerous times, but, after being stood aside, going back to his school to locate his proof, it was missing.  Common knowledge, widely accepted at the highest levels of the teaching profession hold that two senior departmental officers shredded all evidence of his notifications.  A coronial inquiry of all the circumstances of his suicide is required to verify this. 

I recall a desperate pleas by Bob Carr for us to respect our politicians – my response; we would love to respect our democratically elected leaders, but when they merely posture and predicate their hypocritical actions with an eye on the next election, they make this nigh impossible.

Teaching used to be considered one of the noble professions; today it is undervalued, not so much by monetary rewards, but by Governments.  Ken Boston was one of the last professional heads; today governments prefer appointing bean counters.  If bullying is a problem, we know it originates in highly structured bureaucracies. Perhaps if we showed teachers a bit more respect by not treating them as second class citizens, the situation would resolve itself.


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