Flat White

Gillian Triggs: the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

26 July 2017

1:01 PM

26 July 2017

1:01 PM

In today’s Australian Chris Kenny has a wholly accurate piece on Gillian Triggs. Kenny sets out the ways in which Triggs has been a terrible Australian Human Rights Commission president. He notes how Triggs allowed three QUT students to be pursued by her commission for years over nothing. He reminds us that Triggs delayed a public inquiry into children in detention for 18 months, as it happens until the Coalition took office (and no, the Labor government was not in caretaker mode when the inquiry was first mooted). He runs through the guests invited to an HRC Christmas party. He details the ways in which Triggs contradicted herself at a Senate committee, and indeed had to be dragged to concede she had indeed discussed holding the above inquiry with Labor ministers.

In those ways and more Chris Kenny sums up precisely why this $25 million dollar a year taxpayer funded HRC organisation should be closed down immediately and why it is best seen as immersed in a bizarre combination of Green Party and human rights barristers’ worldviews. The Triggs’ legacy, as Kenny amply details, is ‘inglorious’ – and that is being as kind as possible.

But here’s the problem. Sure, everything Kenny says is correct. Yep, it’s devastating. But here’s what Kenny omits, and it’s hard not to see these omissions as part of a ‘support Team Turnbull’ campaign.

Firstly, Triggs was under incredible pressure back when Abbott was PM. Tony had called her out. Talk of her possible resignation was in the air. But then communications minister Turnbull was a fan. And when Turnbull defenestrated Abbott it was Turnbull who invited Triggs around for tea. He made nice with her. He was publicly supportive of her. Yet many of the criticisms laid out by Kenny against Triggs (though not the QUT one, nor one I’d add about the disgraceful way the HRC treated Bill Leak) were from before Turnbull took over. Malcolm already knew this stuff. So the fact he preferred to overlook it all makes the Libs culpable too.


It gets worse. After the defenestration and the inauguration of Team Turnbull things went further downhill at the HRC, and did so because of the Liberal Party. It was Turnbull and Brandis – not Abbott – who appointed Ed Santow to be a Commissioner at the HRC, on some number a good way over $300,000 per year. Santow was the new guy who was supposed to oversee ‘Freedom’ issues. Yet he was such a culturally lefty that he never once – not once – voiced a single supportive word in favour of the QUT students nor of Bill Leak. Personally, I think Santow was a disgraceful appointment and I doubt even Labor would have picked him. Yet it was the Libs and Turnbull who did. (Repeat that to yourself again and again.)

More recently we have another cultural lefty appointed by Team Turnbull to replace Triggs. Rosalind Croucher is the new President, taking over from Triggs. Again, how in the world could a supposedly right of centre political party not appoint anyone from their own side of politics? This lies wholly at Turnbull’s feet and is why the party base loathes the man. Let’s be honest. Turnbull would be perfectly at home having Triggs around for dinner. If she weren’t a political problem for him he’d probably find little to disagree with in her characterisation of rights-related issues.

But Triggs was incredibly ham-fisted. For me, this was a good thing. If you haven’t got the cojones to close down the HRC as it should be closed down (and Lord knows these pusillanimous Libs are complete eunuchs), then having a President who regularly brings it into widespread disrepute is a good thing. Croucher will be much, much more politically adept. As a result she will be more successful at advancing a fundamentally bad agenda. So the Croucher for Triggs swap is a net loss for all of us right-of-centre crowd. You’d be forgiven for thinking that surely, surely, surely the Libs could have appointed someone with right of centre views, including on rights-related issues, to oversee this body. But no! It makes you agree with President Trump and long to drain the swamp.

My point is that what Kenny said today is true, but it’s not all the truth. And it gives a very distorted view of where the blame lies for this whole mess. Sure, Triggs deserves a whole heap of opprobrium. But Malcolm deserves more. And you never read that from Kenny.

Illustration: AHRC/Flickr

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