It’s time for Gillian Triggs to do the right thing and resign from the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Ross Cameron on Gillian Triggs:
“This…Princess of Darkness throwing a wet blanket over the spirit of debate and inquiry and curiosity in Australia, she is a disgrace. I have absolutely no respect for her whatsoever!”
Bill Leak right, says top cop
Bill Leak drew an Aboriginal drunk who did not remember his son’s name. SBS told Leak to f… himself. The Race Discrimination Commission branded him a racist.
The attacks were astonishing. Even the Turnbull Government’s Indigenous Affairs Minister called the ‘racist’ and ‘tasteless’.
Missing in all this vilification of Leak and these attempts now to censor him is the truth – and the children.
A controversial cartoon by Bill Leak depicting an Aboriginal man with a beer can who does not remember his son’s name is an “accurate reflection” of what police see in the field daily, according to WA’s top officer.
Police have now revealed one of the children accused of causing the damage, a 10-year-old boy, was taken home where his father refused to take responsibility for him.
“So we ended up, for many hours, looking after that child, trying to find a responsible adult,” Commissioner O’Callaghan said.
“I will say though, as bad as it sounds, it’s not an unusual thing for police to have trouble finding responsible adults for children that we find in trouble or on the streets late at night.”
Commissioner O’Callaghan said the cartoon by Leak, published by The Australian newspaper in August and criticised by some Indigenous leaders as an “attack” on Aboriginal people, was an appropriate portrayal of some communities.
“From my perspective, Bill Leak’s cartoon is actually an accurate reflection of what our officers see on a day-to-day basis, when they’re dealing particularly with kids from Aboriginal communities or Aboriginal families who are in trouble,” he said.
“It happens repeatedly, and I think what Bill Leak was doing was trying to indicate a broader problem for the community to sort out.”
Why doesn’t Turnbull say “je suis Bill Leak”?
Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun
Remember their chant of protest at the slaughter of those cartoonists and eight others by Islamists upset by their drawings?
“Je suis Charlie” — I am Charlie — they lied, as if they, too would risk death for the freedom to draw as they pleased.
One of many ‘Je suis Charlie’ signs at a Sydney rally after the Charlie Hedbo massacre. Picture: Andrew Murray
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull — then Communications Minister — was one of them: “It was an attack on every free society and on every journalist, every cartoonist.
“From Australia, and around the world, we can all say today ‘Nous sommes aussi Charlie’ (we are also Charlie).”
But I said then and say again today that the “Je suis Charlie” crowd was lying, because where are they to defend Bill Leak?
So now that the thought police have disgracefully come for cartoonist Leak, are enough people going to stand up and fight for the core Western liberal value of free speech, or not? Because now is the time, before it’s too late.
This abomination of a law has to be repealed, as was Canada’s equivalent national hate speech law only a couple of years ago, and without the slightest trace of an effect on their multicultural liberal society.
TRY DRAWING A CARTOON, TRIGGSY
This is fantastic. Earlier in the week, before her senate scandal erupted, Gillian Triggs actually complained that HER freedom of speech rights were being violated.
The madness began when CNN ran a piece about some UN clown’s two-week visit to Australia:
Strict secrecy laws and harassment by government officials are creating an “atmosphere of fear” in Australia, a UN investigator warns.
In a damning report Tuesday, United Nations special rapporteur Michel Forst said several human rights defenders had refused to meet him because of the fear of persecution.
“Many activists spoke of an atmosphere of fear, censorship and retaliation,” Forst said.
Forst has just finished a two-week tour of Australia on behalf of the UN’s Human Rights Council to assess how well human rights defenders were being treated in the country …
Forst called for an inquiry into government attempts to “intimidate” and harass the Australian Human Rights Commission and its president, Gillian Triggs.
Saying he was “astounded” by the attacks on rights defenders by senior government officials, Forst called for full funding to be restored to the Commission, which had its budget cut under Abbott’s government.
Tell it to Queensland university students and Bill Leak, mate. Naturally, CNN sought comment from Triggs, the $400,000 per year president of Australia’s leading taxpayer-funded anti-free speech organisation:
Australian Human Rights Commission President Professor Gillian Triggs told CNN Forst’s statement had been accurate and accused Australia’s government of having a “ideological objection” to advocacy …
Speaking to CNN, Triggs said it was “enormously encouraging” to hear Forst’s conclusions. “For him to identify this as a matter of significance was of course important to the Commission’s staff and me personally,” she said.
“There’s an ideological objection by this government … that entities should not be advocating. It’s essentially a violation of the right to freedom of speech and it has impacts on so many areas of the law.”
Just fire her. Now.
UPDATE. An informed opinion on Bill Leak’s HRC-upsetting cartoon.
Triggs must go
It’s time for Gillian Triggs to do the right thing and resign from the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs has admitted she misled parliament after her attempts to blame journalists for manufacturing quotes and citing her out of context were yesterday disproved by an audio recording.
The error has plunged the human rights advocate into a fresh controversy, leaving her facing accusations her testimony was an “apparent deception”.
This was not an isolated incident. Chris Kenny in the Australian:
That Gillian Triggs can remain in her job is one of the great mysteries of Australian politics. The revelations about her misleading evidence to a parliamentary inquiry this week are extraordinary, not so much because she has been caught out and forced to correct herself, but because this has become a regular occurrence.
The Australian Human Rights Commission President’s appearances over the past three years before parliamentary committees and her own inquires have been a series of train wrecks and car crashes that would have ended the career of most politicians, bureaucrats or journalists.
Simply put, she has repeatedly been caught out making false statements.
That she has been granted unofficial immunity for her sins by the ABC, Fairfax, most journalists, the Labor Party, the Greens and even many moderate Liberal MPs says a great deal about the values of the political class. Because Triggs has styled herself as the leading compassionista, someone fighting for the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees, the normal rules have not been applied to her.
When she has erred, the national broadcaster has censored the stories. When this newspaper has pointed out her mistakes, the national broadcaster and other media have refused to report these relevant facts and have neglected to even ask her questions about her misstatements and corrections.
Instead she has been given endless platforms from which to attack the government and its border protection policies and avoid any scrutiny over her own claims and actions.
Triggs and her media and political supporters say she has been punished for challenging the Coalition’s offshore processing policies. She has claimed and been given the prized and impenetrable cloak of victimhood.
Yet let us be clear. The starting point for criticism of Triggs is not that she sought to conduct a report on the welfare of children in detention. Her gravest error is that having decided it was a matter requiring urgent attention when she took over at the AHRC in July 2012, she delayed holding that inquiry for 18 months while Labor was in power and close to 2000 children were in detention at any one time.
While thousands of kids were churned through detention, Triggs waited and held off her planned inquiry. And things started falling apart for her when she tried to explain all this.
In late 2014 she was quizzed about it in a disastrous parliamentary committee performance that most media never covered.
The AHRC president first denied discussing an inquiry into children in detention with government ministers when Labor was in power, then faltered and said the information was confidential, before eventually admitting she had discussed the idea with not one, but two Labor immigration ministers.
She also revealed that after the change of government she did not immediately discuss the proposal with the new government, but sent a letter informing them of her decision four months later.
Triggs was also caught out over her excuse for delaying the inquiry under Labor. The reason she proffered was that an election “was imminent” from about March 2013 and it was going to be called “very soon”, and no one knew the exact date. Yet the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, had taken the unusual step in January that year of announcing a September election date.
Time and again, Triggs’ evidence just does not stack up.
Lawyers for cartoonist Bill Leak and The Australian have accused the Human Rights Commission of outright bias and warned of legal action to restrain the federal body and its head, Gillian Triggs, from investigating a drawing.
The newspaper yesterday issued its formal legal response to the commission after The Australian and Leak were put on notice that they were being investigated for alleged “racial hatred under the Racial Discrimination Act” for a cartoon depicting the neglect of indigenous children by their parents.
The lawyers for Leak and the newspaper state that, if necessary, they will produce evidence to establish the August 4 cartoon was drawn in good faith and did not breach section 18C, and that indigenous people would testify they were not “offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated” by it.
Their letter states they will rely on evidence from “sociologists and criminologists, as well as witnesses having direct daily exposure to the problems associated with juvenile crime and recidivism in remote Aboriginal communities, to establish that the point made by Leak’s cartoon is both a ‘genuine’ matter of concern and a legitimate issue of ‘public interest’’’.
Jodie Ball, the delegate for commission president Professor Triggs, advised the newspaper this month that an investigation under section 18C had been triggered by complainant Melissa Dinnison, who says she has “experienced racial hatred” and been discriminated against as a result of the cartoon.
In Leak’s and the newspaper’s reply yesterday to Professor Triggs, who has faced resignation calls this week after falsely claiming to a Senate committee that journalists at Melbourne’s The Saturday Paper fabricated her quotes, the commission is charged with “playing politics” with the welfare of children.
Solicitor Justin Quill and barrister Tony Morris QC, lawyers for The Australian and Leak, call on the commission to bow out of the investigation immediately and appoint an external lawyer to run it because of the conduct of the Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane.
Their written response highlights comments Dr Soutphommasane made in Fairfax Media and on social media in early August in which he invited and encouraged complaints against Leak’s cartoon.
He appeared to confirm the accuracy of the comments during a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday when he rejected suggestions that he had acted inappropriately or had prejudged the cartoon.
The legal letter states that as Professor Triggs sat beside Dr Soutphommasane and “made no attempt to distance herself from his statements”, the commission was compromised by their conduct.
“That Dr Soutphommasane prejudged the factual and legal basis for a complaint against our clients is bad enough … but the fact that he positively invited and encouraged, even urged, the making of such complaints is utterly indefensible,” the letter says. “There can be no doubt that a disinterested observer, with knowledge of the relevant circumstances, could only entertain the most extreme misgivings regarding the (commission’s) capacity to deal with Miss Dinnison’s complaint impartially and free from any taint of prejudgement.
“It follows that, at the very least, a reasonable apprehension of bias arises.
“Accordingly, our clients require that the (commission) take no further part in any inquiry into, or any attempt to conciliate, Miss Dinnison’s complaint.”
The legal response adds that if the commission continues with the complaint despite what was described as a “pervasive conflict of interest”, the newspaper and Leak would immediately take injunctive action. The commission was criticised for sitting on the August 4 complaint for two months before disclosing it, a delay described as “unacceptable”.
The response states: “It is a matter of public record by her own admission that (commission) president Professor Triggs orchestrated the timing of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention (report) for political reasons.”
The response flags a potential High Court argument by stating that “if section 18C makes Mr Leak’s cartoon unlawful, then (18C) is not appropriately adapted and compatible with the implied constitutional right to free speech”. “Our clients are also entitled to know the grounds on which Miss Dinnison claims to have been ‘discriminated against because of her race’, and to have ‘experienced racial hatred’,” it says. “Is she, herself — or does she identify as being — Aboriginal or indigenous? Does she live in a remote community like that depicted in the cartoon?
It adds: “Accordingly, our clients will require a full and fair opportunity to challenge, including by way of cross examination, any evidence which may be offered … in support of what our clients regard as an outrageous slur on their personal judgment, their moral probity and their journalistic ethics.”
In the cartoon, an indigenous uniformed Northern Territory police officer presents an indigenous youth to his father in an outback setting and says to the father: “You’ll have to sit down and talk to your son about personal responsibility.” The indigenous father, who is holding a can of beer, replies: “Yeah righto, what’s his name then?”
Aboriginal intellectuals and frontline workers who praised the cartoon said it confronted painful truths about a fundamental reason for the chronic neglect and abuse of indigenous children, but others slammed it as a racist and ugly attempt to stereotype indigenous fathers as recklessly irresponsible.
Attempts by The Weekend Australian to contact Miss Dinnison, who grew up near Perth, were unsuccessful. Her father said, “I think you’ve got Buckley’s chance” when asked if she would be interviewed.
Ms Ball has advised the newspaper in writing that “if a complaint cannot be conciliated, or is terminated for some other reason, the person affected by the alleged discrimination may apply to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia for the court to decide the allegations”.
The Racial Discrimination Act’s section 18D provides a defence to an 18C breach if the cartoon is found to have been published reasonably and in good faith “in the performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic work; or in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest”.
The defence can also be cited in making or publishing “a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment”.
In an ongoing 18C case, three white students from the Queensland University of Technology, who wrote Facebook posts about being told to leave an indigenous-only computer lab on the main Brisbane campus in May 2013, are accused of racial hatred and being sued for $250,000 in the Federal Circuit Court by the QUT staffer who ejected them.
Mr Morris is representing two of the students, Calum Thwaites and Jackson Powell. A lawyer appointed by Professor Triggs is investigating allegations, which she emphatically denies, of a breach of statutory requirements by the human rights body in the QUT case, and of breaching the students’ human rights.
Taxpayer-funded activism undermining the nation
Gillian Triggs may well be the nation’s highest paid activist. The Australian Human Rights Commission president draws a $417,800 annual salary from taxpayers and spends much of her time advocating for pet political causes, in particular to dismantle the offshore processing element of our border protection regime. Her rhetorical flourishes, emotive posturing and wild claims differ little from those of the vocal activists who campaign for no recompense. Professor Triggs also benefits from the gravitas accorded her views because of her position. Yet, as we have seen again this week, Professor Triggs has a habit of giving misleading evidence to public inquiries and having to change her statements after people draw attention to errors. After more than four years in her role, this habit has diminished her effectiveness and undermined confidence in the AHRC.
For more than a year The Weekend Australian has highlighted concerns about why the AHRC failed to launch an inquiry into children in detention when Professor Triggs first decided it was a pressing issue under the Gillard Labor government in 2012. Instead it waited until almost two years later when the Coalition was in government and the flow of asylum-seeker boats was stopped. The president’s evasions, misstatements and corrections on this issue failed to erase the perception that politics were at play. In the past three years enormous damage has been done to the AHRC’s standing because of this taint of partisanship. The commission also has become embroiled in other controversies such as recommending compensation for a refugee who killed his wife and taking up complaints under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act against this newspaper’s cartoonist Bill Leak and a group of Queensland students who mocked the idea of an Aborigines-only computer room at university.
Incredibly — in the true sense of the word — Professor Triggs has told CNN that it is her freedom of speech that is under threat in this country, not that of the people the AHRC seeks to silence. In the wake of a silly report from the UN Human Rights Council, Professor Triggs told CNN the Australian government was muzzling entities such as the AHRC. “It is essentially a violation of the right to freedom of speech and it has impacts on so many areas of the law,” she said. As far as we know this is one statement she has yet to retract or “clarify”. To borrow a slogan she may remember, it’s time. Even though her term expires before the middle of next year, given Professor Triggs’s latest humiliations she would best protect the AHRC if she were to resign.
The taxpayer-funded political activism that Professor Triggs has come to personify is a deep and broad problem. Four Corners this week continued the ABC’s long-running, jaundiced and deceptive campaign against strong border protection and offshore processing. In its eagerness to demonise government policy, the public broadcaster portrayed Nauruan people and Australian staff on the island in an appalling light. Rather than focus on the obvious toughness and difficulties of the policy and the possible solutions, the ABC — in cahoots with activist groups — is intent on accusing Australia and Nauru of brutalising and even torturing people.
Such campaigning is encouraged by many publicly funded institutions, especially our universities. Refugees, climate change and identity politics have become the defining issues of our age for so-called progressives. By proclaiming progressive positions on these issues, many define themselves as morally superior and are exempted from normal constraints of debate such as facts, reason and tolerating the views of others. Many groups receive public funds or are given tax-free status. We need a diversity of views but it seems occasionally absurd that green groups receive government support to protest against developments governments encourage. Refugee advocacy centres are funded to challenge government policy. And activists at the extremes of gender politics are funded to develop insidious social engineering projects such as Safe Schools. As a society we seem to lack the courage to defend the values and policies that underpin our success. Yet we help groups that undermine policies, projects and institutions that benefit all of us. We need a stocktake.