What will Tim Soutphommasane do after the Human Rights Commission?
A: drive cabs or get his own gig on “our” ABC
The Mocker The Australian May 3, 2018
Anyone interested in an upcoming vacancy at the Australian Human Rights Commission? Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane’s five-year term ends in August. Don’t think it’s a doddle, for you must possess special skills.
The fact is that we don’t need a race commissioner
Janet Albrechtsen The Australian May 2, 2018
Applications have opened for the position of race discrimination commissioner. So, here’s mine. I’m sending it direct to Attorney-General Christian Porter because, let’s face it, it won’t make it past the bevy of risk-averse bureaucrats tasked with drawing up a shortlist of risk-averse applicants.
Are you the highfalutin type given to publicly admonishing others for sins against social justice, whether real or imagined? Do you believe the role of the Commissioner and the purpose of the Racial Discrimination Act is to stop conservatives from having a voice? Are you prepared to travel in luxury to Geneva and New York to present at UN conferences on the parlous state of race relations in Australia? Are you contemptuous of natural justice considerations, particularly in respect to those accused of racism? Lastly, how does a remuneration package of $346,250 sound?
Whoever the successful candidate is, he or she at least will be expected to advocate for all Australians. In a blunt message earlier this year, Attorney-General Christian Porter said Soutphommasane’s replacement would be someone who has “an understanding and empathy not merely for minority groups but for middle Australian values.”
He should also have added that life experience would be part of the criteria. Soutphommasane, who was an entry-level academic, was only 31 when appointed by a Labor government. An ALP member since he was 15, he had worked as a political staffer for former NSW premier Bob Carr and former prime minister Kevin Rudd. He was also an author and a freelance writer. Intelligent, yes, but at best an ambitious young man who still had much to learn.
A self-described social democrat, he reserved a student politics-like rancour for conservatives. They “frequently endorse a form of destructive radicalism towards public institutions and civil society,” wrote Soutphommasane just months before his appointment. “They lust for a new round in the culture war, for eradicating the supposed evils of elite political correctness (starting with the ABC and the Australian Human Rights Commission),” he added.
Well into his term, the activist remains. Last year he denounced with customary sneering the critics of “so-called political correctness” and those who attempted to “re-open ideological culture wars”. He warned of “far-right populist movements,” and claimed they were a factor in the Brexit vote. “In the US, the first year of the Trump presidency spawned the racial violence of Charlottesville,” he wrote last year. Soutphommasane resigned his ALP membership before assuming his position, but he makes no attempt to hide his politics.
So how does his record stand up in relation to calling out racism? An avid user of Twitter, he is quick to highlight examples of bigotry, as is required in his role. These include abuse of an indigenous footballer by spectators, racial profiling by security personnel, and a basketballer who painted her face black for a fancy dress party. He even admonished the television reality show My Kitchen Rules for featuring two women joking about their Vietnamese co-contestants cooking domestic pets. “Let’s not give racism any encouragement or licence,” he tweeted. Seemingly no public act of racism escapes the Commissioner’s keen eye.
Or does it? I read all of his tweets for the last 18 months, and nearly all the racist acts he highlights were those committed by white people. There was one exception, that being when Halal Certification Authority president Mohamed Elmouelhy made derogatory remarks about white males, saying Muslim men were needed to ‘fertilise’ Australian women.
Notably, Soutphommasane’s account made no mention of the following acts, all of which were reported in the mainstream media:
1.In February 2017 a Melbourne woman suffering from a disability was allegedly kicked and beaten by several African youths who called her a “white bitch”.
2.In January 2018 dozens of African youths on a rampage in Werribee chanted “get whites” as they destroyed property, while terrified residents hid in their homes.
3.In March 2018 two African women allegedly assaulted a woman in Ipswich, Brisbane. The victim believed her being white was the motive for the attack.
4.In April 2018 three indigenous youths were arrested in Adelaide after allegedly violently assaulting an elderly couple and calling them “white invaders” and “dogs”.
Using the handle of ‘The Mocker’, I alerted Soutphommasane via Twitter about the last two incidents as I was curious to see if he would give them publicity. He did not respond. Yet only last month he tweeted his condemnation of an alleged racial physical assault of several victims, including an African-American woman, by a white male.
Do these omissions not indicate an uncharacteristic reticence and a remarkable inconsistency? Just last week he was portraying himself as the fearless anti-racist. “I hope people with a fierce commitment to combatting racism will apply,” he tweeted. “Whoever the next Commissioner is, they must speak up for those who experience discrimination, defend racial equality, and do the job without fear or favour.”
Despite that puffed-up persona, Tim is timorous in calling out certain forms of racism. Does he subscribe to the narrative that there is no such thing as racism against white people? If the races were reversed in the allegations in question, Soutphommasane undoubtedly would be shouting from the rooftops.
“Nothing [is] more Australian than our commitment to a fair go and equality,” he tweeted last month. Let’s remember the AHRC is infamous for one of the biggest debacles in failing to afford natural justice to the Queensland University of Technology students who were the subject of an unjustified complaint under the controversial section 18C of the RDA. Incredibly, the AHRC did not notify the students of the complaint until July 2015 – 14 months after it was made. Consequently, their ability to defend themselves was compromised, and some were forced into paying thousands of dollars they could not afford to settle the matter. A ‘fair go’ in Soutphommasane’s definition is only for those who point the accusatory finger.
You would think anyone who was a high profile member of the AHRC at the time would at least have the sense at not to draw attention to the agency’s abysmal failings. “Not to put too fine a point on it,” he said last September, “but we must be prepared to say that if people don’t wish to be called racists or bigots, they shouldn’t blame others; they should begin by not doing things that involve racism or bigotry.” In other words, those accused of racism must be guilty of racism.
In 2016, when the late artist Bill Leak fearlessly depicted the realities of indigenous life with a cartoon of a delinquent father, Soutphommasane quickly responded on social media by providing a link for people to make a complaint under the RDA. To this day he denies he solicited complaints. And how is this for hypocrisy? In a speech last year to Diversity Arts Australia, he said: “The arts must also consciously question the status quo. This has always been the role of the arts: to challenge, to disrupt, to speak truth to power… to confront injustices and to contemplate change.” Provided of course the artist in question adheres to Tim Truth.
Next time Soutphommasane talks about a ‘fair go’, keep in mind a recent study by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Last December it released a report into Australia’s compliance with anti-racism measures, recommending among other things that parliament reverse the burden of proof in civil proceedings that involve alleged racial discrimination. What a weapon that would be for every perpetually-aggrieved narcissist. Soutphommasane has not rejected what would be an oppressive and outrageous measure, instead saying “I welcome its recommendations on data, anti-racism & the RDA, political discourse and Indigenous peoples.”
So what next for Soutphommasane, who will no longer have the benefit of a generous taxpayer-funded salary? Maybe he will return to academia and write a thesis on his “bruising personal campaign by sections of the media” as he reflected last month. Or he could establish a consultancy service by the name of ‘Don’t You Know Who I Am’ to lecture flight attendants about the trauma he suffered when they did not attempt to pronounce his longwinded surname. Given his experience in starring as himself in an excruciating and bombastic video that gave self-affirmation to his legacy, perhaps he could become a film director for third-world autocrats. Any suggestions, readers?
1/ Any suggestions as to what Dr Tim Soutphommasane should do once he finishes as Race Discrimination Commissioner? Picture: Kym Smith