Mr Abbott is a regular guest on Hadley’s program and Hadley restated his admiration for the former prime ministers. He said they may be vindicated after the appeal, but in the interim their statements were premature and out of line.
«It’s impossible to put ourselves in the position of the jury because they’re the only ones who heard that evidence,» Hadley said on air on Thursday morning.
In particular, he said Mr Howard went «way over the top» in providing a glowing reference for Pell.
«There’s no mention of any victims in Mr Howard’s reference, and I think that doesn’t bring any great credit to the former prime minister,» Hadley said.
«Mr Howard is someone I respect hugely, but this gushing reference, in my opinion, was over the top. He obviously believes Mr Pell and thinks the victim to be a liar. I really am struggling to get a grip on it.»
«He could have offered a reference about his knowledge of George Pell prior to the conviction … but he hasn’t done that. He’s gone way beyond that. I think he’s over-stepped the mark.»
Hadley has long used his radio program to draw attention to the crimes of paedophiles and criticise what he views as a reluctance to confront the issue publicly. He said Mr Howard and Mr Abbott’s failure to understand the issue went beyond the Pell case.
«They hide their crimes. They con their victims. They con the victims’ families. Paedophiles con their families, their friends and their colleagues,» Hadley said.
«It’s my opinion that Mr Howard and Mr Abbott have made gross errors of judgment.
«Mr Howard and Mr Abbott in my opinion have shown a complete lack of understanding of victims of paedophiles. Not just in the case we’re talking about now, but generally.»
Hadley noted the two former prime ministers were «powerful figures in our community» and said: «I think it would have been more prudent to allow justice to take its course before a public exhibition of their support for a now-convicted paedophile.»
Hadley noted Mr Abbott faced a difficult contest to hold on to his Sydney seat of Warringah at the forthcoming federal election and observed: «His electorate would be looking at all this at the moment and scratching their heads».
The radio host also took aim at Pell’s barrister, Robert Richter, QC, for his remarks during a sentencing submission in which he described Pell’s offending as «no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case».
These were «outrageous claims», Hadley said. «What planet is the learned QC inhabiting?»
Michael Koziol is a political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.