Comment

Tim Wilson: nowhere to be seen, or heard

There is one human rights commissioner who should get the sack.

And it's not president Gillian Triggs, a former dean of law at the University of Sydney, who has come under sustained attack from the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his News Ltd cheer squad since the Wednesday launch of her report on children in detention.

Tim Wilson, Australia's Human Rights Commissioner, could show some leadership among conservatives.
Tim Wilson, Australia's Human Rights Commissioner, could show some leadership among conservatives. 

Mr Abbott on Thursday asked why the Human Rights Commission did not launch an inquiry during Labor's term of government. "This is a blatantly partisan politicised exercise and the Human Rights Commission ought to be ashamed of itself," he said on Macquarie Radio.

Thursday, for those who've forgotten, was three days after we were promised "good government". And apparently good government includes attacking the senior human rights commissioner in Australia because you don't like what she says.

Nope, the person who should be removed from the job is Tim Wilson, Australia's Human Rights Commissioner. I don't actually recall who dubbed him the "Freedom Commissioner" but that's clearly a joke since the only freedom that appears to grind his gears is the one which says we can all go around saying whatever the hell we like about each other.

In fact, sometimes I wonder whether Mr Wilson's appointment to the Australian Human Rights Commission last year was really just a way for the Attorney-General, George Bigot, (and it's on the record that he and Wilson are friends) to have someone from the right deep inside the Commission, with the ability to chat to other neoconjobbers.

Now, I rang Wilson on Sunday because I wanted to ask exactly what involvement he had in The Forgotten Children report. I rang him because I thought he helped write it.  In the report, it says: "The Inquiry was led by Professor Gillian Triggs, president of the Commission, with assistance from Megan Mitchell, the National Children's Commissioner and Tim Wilson, the Human Rights Commissioner."

To be honest, I thought that "assistance" must have meant he wrote parts of it – but no, in my brief conversation with him, he said he hadn't written any of it. All he had done was run some of the consultations.

He was quick to distance himself from authorship but when I asked him what he thought about the attacks on his boss, he said he would make no comment either on the record or off the record. He told me to ring the commission's media team. They had, he said, the "freedom" to work on Sundays.

Since Wilson was not going to spring to the defence of his boss, I thought it best to let the media team rest, since for me, at least, there would be nothing on or off the record. I hope he has the same rules for all journalists.

It's clear that Wilson is devastated by the complete and utter failure to undo the Racial Discrimination Act's section 18C and now, of course, the right of the Liberal Party (and isn't that the entire team these days?) is now thinking of other ways to undermine one of the ways in which Australia keeps racism under control.

Speaking of the Liberal Party, can't we take them to the ACCC for false labelling? What part of the word liberal is still part of its manifesto? Politicians such as Petro Georgiou and Judith Troeth are long gone. Those you'd expect to stand up for moderate decency, Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop, are phonies, faux moderates in a party which needs some checks and certainly some balance.

I note from The Australian that there is some suggestion that George "right to be a bigot" Brandis apparently offered Triggs inducements to resign before the report was published and she would get an appointment to another body. I also note that this is another part of a campaign to stop advocacy entirely.

The Community Legal Centres have felt the brunt of cuts determined to stamp out the kind of speech which aggregates the voices of the disempowered in order to more properly inform discussion. The Australian Human Rights Commission also acts as that kind of advocate because it's looking out for those who can't look out for themselves, who can't get purchase on the powermaking tools in this country.

Tim Wilson, who could show some leadership among conservatives by standing up for what's right, rather than what's Right, is strangely silent. He must have worked reasonably closely with Triggs on this. Yet nothing. Wilson was nowhere to be heard. Nowhere to be seen.  During his brief appearance on Sky's Keneally and Cameron, he did not smack down the idea that the report was political.

I hear Gillian Triggs comes to work every day, smart, sharp, resilient. She has not let any of Abbott's attacks undermine her professionalism. I have no idea how she copes but I admire her and I sincerely hope she outlasts both this government and the man they mistakenly dubbed the freedom commissioner.

Twitter @jennaprice or email jenna_p@bigpond.net.au