Leading article Australia

She’ll get blisters

11 September 2021

9:00 AM

11 September 2021

9:00 AM

Yet again this magazine has proven uniquely prescient in its warnings and its advice, a claim that regular subscribers will not find unusual. But this time we must congratulate not only one of our favourite regular writers, Morgan Begg, for his insights but also the Attorney-General Senator Michaela Cash for heeding his advice (clearly a reader!) And while we are at, we must also obviously congratulate the newly appointed Australian Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay and wish her well.

Although the Liberal party has shown itself to be a dab hand at winning elections, it has consistently failed to appoint conservatives to key bureaucratic positions, with the inevitable result (dubbed O’Sullivan’s Law after proud conservative John O’Sullivan came up with the observation) that any institution that does not actively strive to move to the right will inevitably drift ever further to the left. Which means in many ways that although the Labor party is rarely in office, it, or its acolytes, are always in power. Indeed, the supposedly centre-right Coalition has been in government federally since 2013 but has been entirely ineffectual in arresting the leftward slide of the country and its key institutions.

This publication and its writers have consistently catalogued how the Coalition has failed in a key task of governing – namely picking the right people to exercise the levers of power in the bureaucracy. All too often the Coalition appoints individuals to the public service, agencies and courts who could just as easily have been appointed by the Labor party.

So when they finally make an appointment that we ourselves recommended (albeit over four years ago) we (and you) should break out the bubbly. Better late than never!

Our superb cover on 3 June, 2017 by Sarah Dudley showed a tiny pair of stilettos under the huge headline ‘Filling Triggs’ shoes’ – a neat summation of how little the departing Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs, had achieved or would be missed in the role.

In the accompanying cover story, Morgan Begg noted that while the Australian Human Rights Commission should be abolished, if it were to continue to exist then, ‘The very least the government could do is to save the country from another Gillian Triggs.’ Happy to do the government’s headhunting for them for the cover price of the magazine, Mr Begg then kindly ran through the credentials of numerous talented men and women who could fill the role. ‘If the government doesn’t pick one of these outstanding individuals, or someone of a similar calibre, it will have revealed what a joke the bureaucratic appointment process has become,’ he warned. Among the names he recommended were not one but eight contributors to this magazine. Near the top of his list was Lorraine Finlay, who in 2018 co-wrote a Speccie piece with Bettina Arndt criticising ‘enthusiastic consent’ laws, and who this week was appointed by Attorney-General Michaelia Cash to a five-year term as the Australian Human Rights Commission. Bravo!

This might be the Coalition’s best appointment yet. Or let us fervently hope so. Ms Finlay believes in freedom of speech and freedom of conscience – the kinds of freedoms that until March 2020 were taken for granted as the foundations of Australian society.

Perhaps the best indicator of the value of this appointment is the reaction of the Left, with her appointment being attacked not only by the unacceptably politicised Australian of the Year Grace Tame but also by Labor’s shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, who clearly believes that the AHRC should be just another instrument of the Labor party. Mr Dreyfus even referred to the nomination put forward in this magazine as a ‘reliably conservative appointment’ as a reason Ms Finlay should be disqualified.

It should also be noted that while Ms Finlay will fight for real human rights in the commission, the other commissioners, all of the Left, will continue to act as high-paid advocates and commentators against the interests of mainstream Australians.

The test for the government now is to make a habit of such appointments, with upsetting the Left being a good place always to start. As for Ms Finlay, when it comes to filling Triggs’ shoes, she’ll get blisters.

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