Australia needs a First Amendment
When Freedom of Speech is gone, nothing can be gained without violence.
Australia’s new authoritariansÂ (Andrew Bolt)
The Gillard government is responding to the collectivist instincts of those intellectuals who hold liberty in low regard. It isn’t so long ago that an academic floated the idea that we “suspend democracy” to silence climate change sceptics. Authoritarian government appeals to these people. (Former ABC chairman Maurice Newman on the Gillard Government assault on your right to speak freely)
Then there is the Globull Worming cult:
The global warming cult appeals to closet totalitarians and salvation seekers. It gives them permission to do almost anything to anybody – and to break whatever laws – on the grounds that the threat is so great and the opponents so manifestly evil.
Babes for bombers! Houris for haters!
Not the way to prove Wilders wrong
Three British Muslim men have been found guilty of planning a string of bombings that prosecutors said could have been deadlier than the attacks on London’s transport network in 2005…
Police said it was the most significant terrorist plot to be uncovered in Britain since the 2006 conspiracy to blow up transatlantic airliners using bombs in drink containers. (And none of the three plots had anything to do with Islam, right?)
Freedom comes first for Brandis
He told the president of the AHRC, Gillian Triggs: “It is as ifÂ your agency is not really a human rights commission at all but an anti-discrimination commission.”
THE Australian Human Rights Commission is slated for far-reaching changes in its culture, priorities and operational methods under a Coalition government, with opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis determined to transform the debate about human rights in Australia.
Brandis has long believed that “the greatest single intellectual blunder by the Right since World War II was to cede the human rights agenda to the Left”
The combination of his moderate liberalism and the muscular conservatism of Tony Abbott is a powerful synthesis that will be deployed after any Coalition victory to assault the Left’s control of the human rights agenda.
That puts the AHRC at the top of the cultural change list. Brandis believes the Left’s once commanding ascendancy over the human rights domain is now eroding because of overreach and a popular backlash.
At Senate estimates last week and in an interview with The Australian this week, Brandis defined his line of attack: he believes the commission does not honour its statutory charter and pursues a highly selective and ideological agenda that is unacceptable to a Coalition government.
He told the president of the AHRC, Gillian Triggs: “It is as if your agency is not really a human rights commission at all but an anti-discrimination commission.
“I am looking for the programs that you run to promote freedom, liberty, freedom of expression, freedom of association – the very values that Article 19 of the covenant (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) enshrines and which, under your act, you have as much responsibility to promote as you do other articles of the covenant which the commission so zealously does promote and foster.”
Brandis believes the commission fails in its responsibility to the wider Australian community. He thinks its view of human rights is narrow, self-serving and almost entirely focused on so-called egalitarian rights embedded in a discrimination fixation.
His plan is to elevate a Liberal Party conception of human rights, founded in individual freedom.
The Brandis-Triggs exchange running for 20 minutes suggests a political chasm between the commission’s values and those of any Coalition government with Brandis as first law officer. Elaborating for this paper, Brandis said: “Take, for example, the Finkelstein report, which ridiculed the John Stuart Mill case for freedom of the press. Where was the commission in this debate? It was missing in action when it should have been actively advancing the case for freedom.”
Exempting Triggs from personal criticism (she was only recently appointed), Brandis asked: “What steps, what outlays from your budget, what staff deployments, what public education programs and what other activities have you had to promote, to evangelise, the message to the Australian people that freedom of speech and expression is a very, very important right in our democracy which ought to be jealously defended?”
As an independent body the commission, in fact, spends much of its time evangelising for its anti-discrimination causes, notably in relation to race, sex and indigenous affairs. The idea that it would evangelise for the fundamental rights outlined by Brandis and critical for Australia’s political culture is improbable. Indeed, an examination of the commission’s annual report and its strategic plan demonstrate it has no such conception of its role.
At Senate estimates, Triggs told Brandis on the issue he raised: “We have not been emphasising the right to freedom of speech; we have been emphasising the way in which the balance in relation to it is established.”
“Professor Triggs, that is the problem,” Brandis replied. “There is nothing in the act or the covenant that talks about balance. You are meant to be the agency that advocates for freedom, just as you are meant to be the agency that advocates for egalitarian rights as well.”
Explaining to The Australian the approach he would take, Brandis said: “What I want to see is more attention to all rights, not just rights the political Left finds to be ideologically appealing. What’s happened with the Human Rights Commission is that its functions arise from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights but with the passage of time more instruments have been added, particularly arising from (International Labour Organisation) conventions. The commission has become far more focused on anti-discrimination or what might be called industrial rights in the workplace. But the international covenant puts an equal emphasis on traditional rights of speech, association, worship and freedom of the press. And these are not being addressed. We will expect the commission to give proper attention to its charter.
“The recent Roxon bill is the natural result of this ideological progression and focuses almost entirely on only one category of human rights. It is the ideological climax of this trend. There is nothing in the human rights draft legislation about protecting traditional human rights and freedoms.” Such is the hijacking of the human rights concept and the extension of this agenda for the Left’s political purposes. Brandis predicts the Roxon bill “will never see the light of day”, that Labor will discard it, given the political backlash, and any Coalition government would not proceed with it. He raised with Triggs the idea for a new commissioner within her organisation – a freedom commissioner, given that she now has five anti-discrimination commissioners. They seemed to agree on this. The point, however, is that any Coalition government razor gang will be cutting, not expanding, the commission overall.
As a liberal moderate, Brandis has long believed that “the greatest single intellectual blunder by the Right since World War II was to cede the human rights agenda to the Left”. This historical interpretation will be the key to his actions in office. He laments that “our understanding of human rights in Australia and the West has narrowed to a particular conception that is advanced by the Left”.
Brandis plans to burst this bubble. For him, it is a core Liberal Party project. He says: “The Labor Party stands for class interest, the National Party for sectional interest, only the Liberal Party was founded on individual rights and freedoms, and this was always understood by Menzies.”
Brandis and Abbott have a close relationship and their transforming human rights reform is empowered by a popular conclusion. They believe the 2011 Andrew Bolt court case was a turning point because ordinary Australians saw a judge telling people what they were allowed to say about politics.
That is a doomed position for Labor and for the human rights lobby. And Brandis will surf on such momentum.