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SPINNER: Tim Lane defends Peter Roebuck’s “living circumstances” where he paid 16 youths to call him “Daddy”

There are few sports commentators as well-regarded as Tim Lane. Most of us grew up listening to his well-modulated and sensible observations about the games we love, usually on the ABC before he later went to more vulgar and commercial enterprises.

Lane holds himself out as having high standards, famously quitting Channel 9’s sports commentary because intended-colleague Eddie McGuire had refused to recuse himself from calling Collingwood games. It was a big call. And while most in the TV world thought it was a bit precious, many fans thought it was a highly principled and correct position. We just hate Collingwood so are in no position to judge.

So the respected bloke’s defence of convicted weirdo and buttock-beater Peter Roebuck today is jarring.

And sinister.

He dismisses “The speculative chatter… around the nature of his living circumstances” glossing over the fact that he paid 16 young men, and many more before them over the years, to live in his house and call him “Daddy.” There is no speculative chatter about whether he physically assaulted three lads with a cricket bat, beating their buttocks, then hugging the victims and insisting on pulling down their pants to inspect the damage. Roebuck admitted it and was found guilty of offences relating to it.

Lane declares:

Roebuck, I suspect, rather enjoyed keeping people guessing about parts of his life.

Of course, he did. It was all a big game. And because of the silence and spin of sports journalists like Tim Lane, he got away with it until jumping to his own conclusion.

The rest of us are entitled to ask the tough question: “How many victims of Peter Roebuck’s sexual attacks were there because of the silence of people like Tim Lane?”

Lane opines – rather hopefully it seems – that “we may be left to guess forever” about what was going in his “blue house” and what transpired between Roebuck and the one complainant of an attempted rape who came forward before his death. Authorities are investigating those matters now.

We don’t have to guess forever about the Triple M radio host, Gus Worland now in his 40s, then 18, who had been similarly mentored by Roebuck and then became the target of his unwanted affection at a candlelight dinner. His testimony is not credibly disputed.

We don’t have to guess forever about the culture of “Omerta” or “silence” going on among sports journalists where it seems they keep more secrets than they publish and never publicly discuss the wrongdoing of their colleagues, even if criminal.

We intend to spend a lot more time investigating this shameful racket of silence and anti-journalism.

He then spins Roebuck’s shameful exploitation of power in a way that could not be calculated to win more favour with Age readers: by decreeing that it was all somehow to do with being anti-apartheid.

Indeed, Roebuck did appear an equal-opportunity predator, housing 16 impoverished Zimbabwean orphan men in his “blue house” (and dozens more before them), beating three white young victims with a bat and hitting on pretty much any vulnerable young bloke he came across.

We’re not saying he’s a racist, just a plain vanilla sexual harrasser, sex-predator, power abuser and rapist.

And we’re saying his employers at Fairfax and the ABC knew. Or ought to have known. And owe a duty of care to the victims. And owe the victims a big cheque. That’s certainly the standard expected of other employers like Churches judged so harshly by The Age and ABC in circumstances where their staff have gone rogue and molested those drawn to their positions of prestige and authority.

Lane asserts that Roebuck’s living arrangements related to a desire for a just world without apartheid to wanting to emulate the genuine mentoring of Viv Richards “with whom he played in Somerset” and who had “stood up” on racial issues.

Richards is no doubt very embarrassed about being drawn into this web of spin by a Roebuck hagiographer.

Richards was sacked by Roebuck when the latter was captain of Somerset and replaced by the more youthful foreigner Martin Crowe. We suspect Roebuck liked the look of the then young talent and probably fancied his chances.

Lane writes of the situation where Roebuck paid 16 young men to live in his house and call him “Daddy.”

Those inclined to denigrate the man will, no doubt, interpret this as camouflage for less noble motives. Others will find inspiration in such preparedness to take personal responsibility, for how many of us actually manage this level of commitment in any aspect of our lives? Yes, we might make a donation here or there, or even help an old person across the road at the traffic lights, but not too many take the step of translating airy philosophy and good intentions into deliberate, positive action.

Seriously? Perhaps when the PM’s office is looking for a new Communications Director, they’d be well-advised to give Tim Lane a call. That’s quality, brazen spin right there. At the Shane Warne/John McTernan level of excellence.

Roebuck’s own justification was just as shameless:

“I spend half my time in South Africa now because I was very anti-apartheid and I thought it’s very easy to be anti-apartheid, but when the situation changes you’ve got to take some responsibility for the future. So I bought a house there and I’m putting a few people through university there.”

He put these blokes through Hell, as well as University, we suspect. In his self-aggrandising account, he left out the part about being a sexual predator. As you would.

Peter Roebuck could write.

Michael Jackson could sing and dance and wrote music that will last forever.

Ex-David Jones CEO – now running Sol Lew’s ailing bricks and mortar retail operation – Mark McInnes is regarded as an astute manager.

It’s possible to say good things about all three.

But does that mean we should be making excuses for – or covering up – the pervy abuses of power in which they engaged?

The code of silence in sports journalism about their own would normally be enough to ensure that Peter Roebuck’s writing legacy will be protected from scrutiny of the dark aspects of his life as a rapist and abuser of power.

There’s a lot of sports scribes and they can churn out thousands and thousands of words favourably recalling his work and diminishing the reports about Roebuck’s crimes as “speculation” or “denigration” as Lane did and they are perhaps inclined to think they will get the last word.

We can assure them that’s not the case.

UPDATE: We note His Holiness The Pope’s observation today that:

The Pope has said all institutions – and not just the church – should be held to exacting standards in the response against sex abuse.


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. The guy leapt to his own death on being questioned … How does T.Lane explain that? Guilty much? Crazy times

    Posted by Catherine | November 27, 2011, 8:18
  2. I thought Terry lane was much better.

    I also like the ABC Late line presenter.

    The problem with talk-back radio it only caters for an aging demographic.

    The younger generation do not have landlines and it costs over 50 cents a minute to call a 13 number on a IP or mobile phone.

    The ABC and other networks needs to revert back to a local telephone number to encourage grater participation and open discussion.

    Posted by ABC Talk-back prohibits participation | November 27, 2011, 23:31
  3. You make a lot allegations in your article, based on what???? Your allegation around the motive for replacing Viv Richards with Martin Crowe is downright disgraceful and is baseless.

    I’m not here to defend Roebuck – I simply prefer to deal in facts. Whether or not he was a sexual predator I can’t answer because I don’t have the facts. Ido know he spent a lot of his own money on causes to help causes related to anti apartheid and poverty.

    Making allegations about someone without knowing all the facts is very irresponsible!!!

    Posted by Michael Arter | November 28, 2011, 11:34
  4. The ‘person’ who writes this blog is a personality predator and stalker. Irresponsibility is a way of life.

    Posted by Dr Faust | November 28, 2011, 19:36
  5. this article is the most balanced article I have read so far… maybe Sexnews can learn something about journalism from it

    Posted by who knows the real truth | November 29, 2011, 12:28


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