Red ratbags. The ABC can’t be deep sixed soon enough.
Tim Wilson, being a classical liberal rather than of the Left, gets a hostile introduction from the ABC’sÂ Lateline, which normally treats “human rights” advocates with the most studied respect:
MARGOT O’NEILL, REPORTER: ….A former media commentator specialising in trade and climate change for the free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, he has no conventional professional human rights experience.
What on earth is a “conventional professional human rights experience”? What was the “conventional professional human rights experience” of Race Discrimination CommissionerTim Soutphommasane, a former Labor staffer?
Fuming Leftists are interviewed, making ludicrous analogies that, if they had any merit, could be equally applied to Soutphommasane but were not:
BEN SAUL, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY: I think the process for his appointment was not fair or open or transparent. … You can’t just have opinions about human rights, in the same way that I wouldn’t be appointed Chief Medical Officer of the Commonwealth just because I’ve got opinions about hospitals.
The interviewer then starts with a hostile question containing a strange non sequitur:
EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER:Â …: Do the other commissioners have any reason to fear your appointment, given that 12 months ago the IPA was actually calling for the abolition of the Human Rights Commission?
How would the views of some IPA members (not Wilson himself) on the abolition of the HRC make Wilson’s appointment to that body something to “fear”?
EMMA ALBERICI: Well, can we just talk about – just so that we can really understand your position here, …
Who is this “we”, Emma? Who is this “we” that demands to be reassured?
And then a string of questions such as this, showing just where the ABC sides:Â
EMMA ALBERICI: But your view presupposes a level playing field, where in fact it becomes survival of the fittest, doesn’t it?
Just nail him:
EMMA ALBERICI: But if I could just get – that’s all hypothetical. But as the law currently stands, I just want to pin you on this matter, particularly: is it discriminatory, in your view?
And then almost a gasp of surprise at the audacity of freedom:
EMMA ALBERICI: OK. Well this is the Attorney-General’s view. He wants to abolish Section 18C of the [Racial Discrimination Act] …
TIM WILSON: Well he’s actually said he’s going to – looking to change it.
EMMA ALBERICI: Changing it.
TIM WILSON: I want full repeal.
EMMA ALBERICI: Pardon?
Reader Stephen Dawson:
Yesterday I was jolted awake by AM on ABC Radio National. In its report ‘Indonesian foreign minister responds to leaked trade spying report’ the reporter, Helen Brown, called Marty Natalegawa ‘The consummate diplomat’:
HELEN BROWN: TheÂ consummate diplomatÂ made the remarks in both English and Indonesian, well knowing that Western and local media reporters were taking note.
I wonder if she would ever term, say, Julie Bishop as ‘the consummate diplomat’?
But why don’t we listen to what Tim Wilson says about himself?
Why I’ll take the approach of a classical liberal to human rights
AS Human Rights Commissioner I want to promote a culture of rights and responsibilities so that every Australian understands their rights and confidently stands up for them against government encroachment.
Because human rights are a political construct, there are numerous ways that they can be approached. Each perspective weights the relative integrity of rights when they come into conflict with other rights and worthy societal aspirations.
A legalistic perspective draws rights from important international treaties such as the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A social justice perspective views rights as a tool to address economic, social and governance inequality.
As commissioner, I will be approaching human rights from a classical liberal perspective. Human rights are the foundations of classical thought. Broadly, a classical liberal approach believes that people own their own lives; rights are universal and can be reasonably consistently exercised by individuals to pursue their happiness and enterprise.
Classical liberals necessarily view human rights narrowly such as freedom of speech, association, worship, protection of property and protection against arbitrary detention. In balancing competing rights, deference is towards more freedom, not less.
Importantly, classical liberals elevate these birth rights to sacrosanct principles that should not be disposed of when they become a nuisance to collective aspirations. Without rights, individuals are exposed to the tyranny of the majority. In practice it means defending individuals from the abuse of power by government.
I’ll be engaging in formal consultation with the many human rights groups that regularly identify violations, such as the problems faced by asylum-seekers in detention, as well as the continued challenges posed by indigenous Australians.
The Australian Human Rights Commission, rightly, already works extensively on these issues. But it is important that incremental violations of the rights of everyday Australians are also heard.
Many Australians have already reached out to highlight the rights violations they face.
One small-business woman has been harassed by a government agency demanding private information about her activities with penalties for failure to comply.
A medium-size business owner outlined how his property rights are being attacked through the courts because a government agency would rather only small businesses operated in that market.
These issues will be brought to the fore by the Australian Law Reform Commission’s forthcoming inquiry into traditional rights, freedoms and privileges.
More immediately, the federal government has flagged reforms to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act to remove unnecessary restrictions on free speech that offends, insults, humiliates or intimidates people on the basis of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin.
There are diverse views on whether section 18C should be left alone, modestly changed or fully repealed. I will be arguing for its full repeal on the grounds it conflicts with other human rights and therefore does not meet the threshold for restricting speech.
Similarly, issues surrounding rights of privacy in the context of national security, internet freedom, the limitations on copyright and the extent of defamation law, to name a few, will arise.
The role of commissioner is to stand up for human rights, but a benchmark for success is that Australians understand what their rights are, and are confident defending them.
Tim Wilson is Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner.