There could be no starker signal of this government’s intentions than the appointment of Tim Wilson as the Human Rights Commissioner for ‘Freedom’ at the expense of disability commissioner Graeme Innes.
In opposition, Senator Brandis was prepared to publicly criticise Mr Innes for advocating on behalf of Australians with a disability, blaming the ‘ideological culture’ within the Human Rights Commission.
The following biographies come from the Australian Human Rights Commission website. I will leave it to you to judge who you feel is better qualified and able to make an important contribution to our society.
“Graeme Innes has been Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner since December 2005. During that time he has also served as Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner for three and a half years and as Race Discrimination Commissioner for two years.
Graeme is a Lawyer, Mediator and Company Director. He has been a Human Rights Practitioner for 30 years in NSW, WA and nationally.
As Commissioner, Graeme has led or contributed to the success of a number of initiatives. These have included the Same Sex: Same Entitlements inquiry, which resulted in removal of discrimination across federal law; the drafting of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and its ratification by Australia.
Graeme was also crucial to the development of the National Disability Strategy and the Disability (Access to Premises – buildings) Standards 2010; as well as the establishment of Livable Housing Australia.
Graeme has also been an active high profile advocate for the implementation of cinema captioning and audio descriptions and, as Human Rights Commissioner, undertook three annual inspections of Australia’s Immigration Detention facilities.
Graeme has been a Member of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal; the NSW Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal; and the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. He has also been a Hearing Commissioner with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
Graeme was Chair of the Disability Advisory Council of Australia, and the first Chair of Australia’s national blindness agency, Vision Australia.
In 1995 Graeme was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). In 2003, he was a finalist for Australian of the Year.
Graeme is married with an adult son and a daughter in high school. He enjoys cricket (as a spectator) and sailing (as a participant), and relaxes by drinking fine Australian white wine.”
“Tim Wilson was appointed Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner in February 2014.
Dubbed the “Freedom Commissioner”, Tim is a proud and passionate defender of universal, individual human rights. As Commissioner he is focused on promoting and advancing traditional human rights and freedoms, including free speech, freedom of association, worship and movement and property rights.
Prior to his appointment Tim was a public policy analyst and a policy director at the world’s oldest free market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs. He has also worked in trade and communication consulting, international aid and development, as well politics. He has served as a Board member of Monash University’s Council and on the Victorian Board of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Tim is a Director of Alfred Health.
He has extensive experience in public debate and has had many regular radio and television commitments, with both commercial and public broadcasters. The Australian newspaper recognised Tim as one of the ten emerging leaders of Australian society. He has written extensively for newspapers, journals and books. He recently co-edited the book Turning Left or Right: Values in Modern Politics.
Tim graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Policy) and a Masters of Diplomacy and Trade (International Trade) from Monash University. He has also completed executive education at Geneva’s Institut de Hautes Etudes Internationales et du Développement and the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Worldwide Academy.
Tim lives with his partner, Ryan.”
Graeme has vast experience and many practical accomplishments to point to in his years of active service as an advocate for the disabled and a defender against discrimination. Tim Wilson is an aging Young Liberal from the IPA who goes on TV a lot.
Wilson did not have to go through any application or interview process to land this job. George Brandis must have been impressed with the cut of his jib when they spent an enjoyable evening together at the IPA’s 70th Anniversary bash in April last year because, as soon as he had the power, George rang Tim to tell him he had created a new job for him that would pay well over $300,000 a year and he still got to do his tv gigs.
Unfortunately, George did not offer any new money to the HRC to take Tim on. Instead, he abolished Graeme’s position.
Andrew Bolt, who was MC for the IPA’s birthday party, in an article titled “In praise of George Brandis”, gives some insight into the reasons behind this decision when he quotes a Brendan O’Neill interview with Brandis:
“He describes the climate-change debate as one of the ‘great catalysing moments’ in his views about the importance of free speech. He describes how Penny Wong … would ‘stand up in the Senate and say “The science is settled”. In other words, “I am not even going to engage in a debate with you”. It was ignorant, it was medieval, the approach of these true believers in climate change.’ … And to Brandis, this speaks to a new and illiberal climate of anti-intellectualism, to the emergence of ‘a habit of mind and mode of discourse which would deny the legitimacy of an alternative point of view, where rather than winning the argument [they] exclude their antagonists from the argument’…”
You have to be kidding, George. The highly-funded denial campaign has not only had a very loud voice in the media, it has successfully dictated policy. The opinion that “the science is settled” is shared by all those not in thrall to the fossil fuel industry.
Your government has systematically gone about removing any voice of dissent and silencing all argument in every arena. Increasingly you are hiding what you are doing, not only from the public, but from other elected representatives. Turning refugees into a military problem to escape all accountability and oversight is beyond your legitimate powers. You have no right to act alone, refusing to answer questions from the Senate.
The O’Neill interview continues…
“The second thing that made him sharpen his pen and open his gob about the importance of freedom of speech was the case of Andrew Bolt… In 2010, he wrote some blog posts for the Herald Sun website criticising the fashion among ‘fair-skinned people’ to claim Aboriginal heritage, under the headlines: ‘It’s so hip to be black’, ‘White is the New Black’ and ‘White Fellas in the Black’… They were removed from the Herald Sun’s website. Anyone who republishes them risks being arrested and potentially jailed.
Brandis is stinging about this case. The judge ‘engaged in an act of political censorship’, he says, with a journalist ‘prohibited from expressing a point of view’. The reason Brandis is so keen to ditch the bit of the Racial Discrimination Act that allowed such a flagrant act of ideological censorship to take place in twenty-first-century Australia is because while it is justified as a guard against outbursts of dangerous racism, actually it allows the state to police and punish legitimate public speech and debate. ‘And the moment you establish the state as the arbiter of what might be said, you establish the state as the arbiter of what might be thought, and you are right in the territory that George Orwell foreshadowed’, he says …
Brandis says … he’s bent on overhauling Section 18C … because it expands the authority of state into the realm of thought, where it should never tread, he says. ‘…In my view, freedom of speech, by which I mean the freedom to express and articulate beliefs and opinions, is a necessary and essential precondition of political freedom.’
How does this gel with your direction to public servants that they may not post opinions critical of government policy on social media and that they should dob in any colleagues who do?
How does it fit in with the fact that Liberal Party MPs ban anyone who posts links to documents (eg fiscal statements) or makes comments disproving the rhetoric on their Facebook pages?
How does it fit in with new laws outlawing the right to protest?
And could I suggest that Operation Sovereign Borders is as Orwellian as you can get.
I am assuming the 5,500 submissions received about your proposed repeal of Section 18C is the kind of debate you welcome and that you and your Freedom Commissioner may learn a few things. One can only hope that you pay attention.