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Government v Triggs

It’s hardly President of the Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs’ fault when the Australian government is the worst human rights offender that Commission has to deal with.

When a government acts criminally, one hope for recourse is that statutory bodies will refuse to collude with or enable that government’s criminal behaviour, and indeed, that such bodies will name and shame the errant government.

The Turnbull government’s accusation that Professor Triggs is “politicising” her role is, like much of this government’s spin, farcical. For a start human rights are inherently political, and secondly all actions by governments are also inherently political. If the Turnbull government is determined to transgress the human rights of refugees currently abandoned to a highly uncertain future on Manus Island and Nauru, Professor Triggs has no option but to hold it accountable, otherwise she isn’t doing her job.

Of course any commentary Triggs runs on the government of the day is necessarily political, favourable or otherwise. There are instances in which even the silence of someone in her position is political.

Is it the government’s expectation that Triggs will ignore human rights abuses because they are perpetrated by the government? In what country are we living?

Triggs isn’t acting in isolation. Amnesty, the UNHCR, professionals who’ve worked on Manus and Nauru, refugee advocates, some thirty nation states, and this editorial in the New York Times speak with one voice to Australia’s refugee detention policies, and that one voice is damning.

There’s no doubt that in some instances, including the New York Times editorial, there’s blatant examples of the pot/kettle affliction, however, that does not invalidate the truth of the protests against Australia’s policies.

In a classic abuser pattern of behaviour, the Turnbull government continues its efforts to destroy the messenger, in this case Professor Triggs, though the government isn’t fussy, the tactic is transferable. The first concern of abusers is to silence accusers, and the government has displayed this pathology innumerable times, not only in relation to the secrecy with which it surrounds Manus and Nauru and threats of retribution, including imprisonment, against anyone who might transgress those secrecy demands.

Last week, the Border Force Act was amended to remove a comprehensive list of health professionals from the threat of two years jail for speaking publicly about conditions they encountered whilst working in the detention camps. The Turnbull government was forced to make this particular backflip because health professionals have spoken out regardless of the intimidation, and even this collection of political grotesques can see the folly of prosecuting them. However, they can still go after Gillian Triggs and deprived of other targets, they’ll no doubt double their efforts.

(Note to Turnbull government: never wise to make threats you can’t carry out. Makes you look wussy.)

Obviously, the solution for the government is to cease persecuting refugees. The pursuit of Professor Triggs is a distraction: don’t look at the refugees, look at this woman who is (allegedly) overstepping her role. It’s a greater offence to (allegedly) overstep a role than it is to torture refugees. Again, we see the classic abuser spin: it is a far worse crime to speak out about abuse than it is to perpetrate it.

It’s been messenger season as long as I can remember, in private and in public life. The paradigm is deeply entrenched in our society. It starts at the top and it doesn’t trickle down, it roars like a river in flood. It’s time to turn it around and put the focus where it belongs: on the perpetrator. In this case, the Turnbull government.

Stand with the messengers. Stand with Gillian Triggs.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.



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  1. Kaye Lee

    Aside from it specifically being Gillian Trigg’s job to advise the government about human rights, conservatives don’t like women speaking out. Remember the fuss when Quentin Bryce concluded her Boyer lecture by imagining a nation of care and equality, “where people are free to love and marry whom they choose and where, perhaps, my friends, one day, one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation’s first head of state”. They get very uncomfortable with women they can’t bully.

    Christopher Pyne told Triggs to to “stay out of politics and stick with human rights”. Perhaps he should read the AHRC charter. Under this Act, the Australian Human Rights Commission has a range of powers to look at how the federal government is meeting its human rights obligations. This includes providing advice and submissions to parliaments and governments to develop laws, policies and programs, and undertaking and coordinating research into human rights and discrimination issues. There is also a requirement that each new Bill introduced into Federal Parliament is accompanied by a Statement of Compatibility with Australia’s international human rights obligations and a requirement to review legislation, policies and practice for compliance with the seven core international human rights treaties to which Australia is party.

  2. Steve Laing -

    The current government are so on the nose that they are lashing out like a cornered rat. They are trying to see if anything will stick, and Gillian Triggs ticks too many boxes. They simply avoid the content of her reports, and have turned the issue into being about the “presentation” – the timing, her commentary, etc.

    Note the contrast with what Tim Wilson did when he was Freedom Boy? That’s right, he did nothing. Given a sinecure and added absolutely nothing to the conversation. And not one complaint from the Government. What a good, compliant, utter waste of space.

    The whole point of these commissioners is that they are supposed to rock the boat. They are supposed to play the Devils Advocate. They are a counterpoint to Governments abusing their power.

    Is it any wonder that the Coalition hate them?

  3. Tracie

    I agree, and I also stand with Gillian Triggs.

    One thing to note about this article is that it’s not 30 countries against Australia’s asylum seeker policies – it’s more likely in the 104 ballpark, as per the Report from the Working Group noted here

    Here is one highly likely reason why there are so many problems today with the propaganda surrounding asylum seeker policies – When government from 2001 onwards has decided that there’s a major problem with the Refugee Convention to such an extent that it should be ignored, then it’s basically anyone’s game to do whatever it wants against that same Convention.

    We aren’t going to get anywhere, it seems, unless we get rid of this 2001 report from the government website.

  4. Kaye Lee

    Tim Wilson held a religious freedom summit. The 20 or so participants at the event, which was closed to the public, included representatives from the Anglican Church, the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, two rabbinical peak bodies, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Sikhs, Buddhists and other faiths, as well as a representative of the atheist association and a representative of the Church of Scientology.

    Crikey contacted some of the leading Muslim organisations to see if they had received an invitation. The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (Muslims Australia), the Islamic Research and Educational Association, the Lebanese Muslims Association, the High Islamic Council of Australia (Darulfatwa) and the Islamic Council of Victoria all said they were not aware of, or invited to, the event.

    The IREA, an apolitical organisation mostly involved in interfaith activities and proselytisation, also noted its members were not invited and further condemned the absence of anyone representing Aboriginal spirituality.

  5. Adrianne Haddow

    Gillian Triggs is not the only high achieving woman to attract the ire of this despicable government and other men in power, this week.
    The governor of Tasmania, Professor Kate Warner, was ‘spoken to’ by the premier of Tasmania about her speech at the Walk Together rally at the weekend in which she urged Australians to challenge the views of the Hansonites.

    Senator Eric Abetz questioned her actions,
    “With respect, it is not the role of the Governor to involve herself in controversial issues of the day because at the end of the day the role of the Governor amongst many others is to be the arbiter in the event of a political dispute that the Parliament cannot resolve,” he said.” (ABC news report).

    Apparently it is not the role of these women to express their views, and the views of many of the population, on human rights and societal cohesion but it’s ok for loonies such as George Christensen to speak hate and division at a Reclaim Australia rally, in his role as a member of this present ‘Gutterment’.

    We are not permitted to hear the voice of reason expressed by these women of principle but it’s ok for the public to be exposed to the hate filled rants of the Hanson crowd and their ilk.

  6. helvityni

    We have bullies and liars in charge, they don’t want to see the truth in any matter, they blame and punish, they punish asylum seekers for NOT drowning, they hate Gillian Triggs for caring, for doing her job.

    None of these monsters are new-comers in Oz politics, yet we vote them in power. What’s wrong with the population.

    Totally agree with Steve Laing , Tim Wilson did NOTHING.

  7. David

    If a report from Australian National Audit Office detailed Government Financial abuses, how long do you think the Government would take to set up a Royal Commission, or get kicked out of office? If the de facto Government Policy enables abuse, bullying and torture, does that make the Prime Minister liable to prosecution for crimes against humanity?

  8. Kaye Lee

    Yes Adrianne. This is what Warner said.

    “She [Pauline Hanson] declared that Australia was being swamped by Muslims and … reiterated a call for a ban on Muslim immigration,” she said.

    “I think we must call out racism and stand up to intolerance and, as Governor of Tasmania, I’m very proud to stand up and say welcome to Australia to all asylum seekers and immigrants, no matter what colour or creed.

    “I think it’s so important for Australians who oppose her views to stand up and be counted.”

    Hanson’s response….”Like much of Australia’s political class, the Governor is naive about Islam.” This is a woman with basically no education and little life experience other than in regional Queensland and she is telling Kate Warner she is naive? Warner is an internationally recognised expert in the fields of criminal law, criminology and sentencing and has taught, researched and published in these areas for more than 30 years. Hanson on the other hand…..

  9. helvityni

    Adrianne Haddow, it did not help Gillard either for being a ‘mere’ female…

    The Liberal men still seem to view women as lesser beings, not fit for top jobs.

    Hanson is OK, she can be a helper and assist them to do their dirty work.

  10. Tracie

    I’m working on the liability of those most responsible for crimes against humanity David, in the best way I know how.

    I’ll keep you posted on whether this Prime Minister will be found responsible, or whether he will throw others under the bus, per se, for abuses of human rights.

  11. diannaart

    I agree and stand with Gillian Triggs.

    Thank you for this article, Jennifer.

  12. lawrencewinder

    Liarbrils hate talent.

    Liarbrils recoil from integrity like a vampire from a crucifix.

    I would allow one more Adler 7 shot into the country to cull a feral pig named McDonald.

    I also disagree with Steve Laing re: “Wilson did nothing.” He did something…he lowered the standards of both the Commission that he rorted and now is a useless appendage to the House of Reps

  13. johnlward010

    Talking about acting beyond their Authority.
    The last Parliament (2013-2016) twice declined to allow the Executive’s Bill to Abolish the CEFC to become law. Subsequently, the Executive arm of Government had tried for two years to change the CEFC investment mandate.

    Recently, while in caretaker mode, the LNP created a different investment mandate directive (in order to appear to the electors to have authority) to modify the intent of the CEFC Act, without returning to the Parliament (which BTW no longer existed).

    So apparently they were preparing to seek such an alteration to the CEFC Act in (the next) the 45th Parliament.

    During the election campaign Prime Minister Turnbull purported to have the authority to redistribute $1billion from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to fund his new Clean Energy Innovation Fund (CEIF). During the recent election campaign Prime Minister Turnbull purported to have the authority to redistribute CEFC funds by: $1billion from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to fund his new Clean Energy Innovation Fund (CEIF last week they took $800million from the CEIF to make up for the loss of the ARENA debacle).
    $1 billion was also set aside to finance a ‘Better Cities Fund’.
    A further $1 billion ‘drawn ‘ from the “Green Bank ” to clean up the Barrier Reef.
    $1.5 billion for a second Bass Strait under sea cable link to the mainland.
    $100 million was set aside to prevent the closure of the Steelworks in Whyalla SA . The University of Tasmania’s Northern Campus in Launceston received a pledge of $150 million to be extracted from the CEFC.
    Prime Minister Turnbull is saying to Tasmanians and UTAS, “you can have an expanded Northern Campus or a renewable energy industry, but you cannot have not both”.
    Cabinet Ministers have conspired to remove all funds from the CEFC by pledging the total amount left in the CEFC account to other ‘good LNP causes’.
    Malcolm promised money he cannot access, with the total pledged so far being around $5.0 billion.

    Cabinet Ministers have conspired to remove all funds from the CEFC by pledging the total amount left in the CEFC account to other ‘good LNP causes’.
    At the same time Malcolm Turnbull is subsidising the fossil fuel industry (Oil, Coal and Gas) with (IMF numbers) $1,712 per person a year or $41 billion of taxpayer funds.
    This includes exploration funding for Geoscience Australia and tax deductions for mining and petroleum exploration. See Great Australian Bight and BP.

    The President of the World Bank stated that it was crazy that governments were still driving the use of coal, oil and gas by providing subsidies. “We need to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies now,” he said. Yet Frydenberg Is attempting to secure a deal with the states to lock in a permanent Coal/Gas base loads; this probably explains why they want to take the CEFC funds.
    All this based on Hockey’s trying to rewrite an act he had not been able to abolish, to an Extent he could (he thought) amend endlessly to make an Arms Lengths Corporation bow to his will.

    In July, Nicholas Stern estimated that tackling climate change would require investment of 2% of global GDP each year. The IMF work indicates that ending fossil fuel subsidies would benefit governments by the equivalent to 3.8% of global GDP a year. Prime Minister Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Joyce, Former Prime Minister Abbott, Ministers Pyne, Hockey, Cormann and Hunt are attempting to falsely convince the public that the Cabinet can “re-purpose and re-direct the Act” without going back through the Parliament. These attempted changes to the CEFC Act 2012 are yet to be legislated.

  14. Stephen Brailey

    Gillian Triggs is a bloody hero in my books I voted for her as Australian of the year! Her courage in the face of outrageous behavioir by the LNP only serves to make her appear more dignified and rational!

  15. Brad

    Triggs is a logical target for the LNP, she’s female for starters, one that’s bold enough to say it how she sees it, she’s a humanitarian and on top of that smart enough to make a case against the appalling treatment of refugees by this country.

  16. pierre wilkinson

    There is more intelligence, compassion and decency in Gillian Triggs than the entire coalition.

  17. Kaye Lee

    They are complaining that she misled parliament by saying the quotes in an article were taken out of context and that one bit may have been put in by the subeditor. After listening to the tape, she conceded that she had said those things in part of a much longer interview and she immediately informed the Senate of that.

    In the interview in question, Professor Triggs lambasted Australian legislators as “seriously ill-informed and uneducated”, particularly about international law and the rule of law. “They don’t even understand what democracy is,” she said.

    The human rights boss also expressed frustration about a fiery Senate estimates hearing last year, in which she was grilled for nine hours about alleged political bias and her controversially timed Forgotten Children report.

    “I knew I could have responded and destroyed them – I could have said, ‘You’ve asked me a question that demonstrated you have not read our statute. How dare you question what I do?’ she told The Saturday Paper.

    The really amusing part here is that they aren’t disagreeing with what she said…how could they? And how is it political to tell the truth? It is in stark contrast to the Coalition’s track record of deliberate lying and then lying about lying. She had been questioned for five hours about conversations that she did not have the transcript of. Bullies.

  18. Gangey1959

    ” Christopher Pyne told Triggs to to “stay out of politics and stick with human rights” ”
    @ prissy chrissy. She is, Dumbarse.

    If ‘ms’ pyne was a woman more of the mould of Gillian Triggs than what ”the mouth that roared’s” words portray, federal parliament would be a much better place

  19. Jennifer Wilson

    Kaye, in regard to the requirement that any new Bill is compatible with human rights obligations: I’m guessing this doesn’t apply to amendments of existing bills, otherwise surely this requirement has been breached?

  20. Jennifer Wilson

    Tracie, thanks for that correction. I’ve never quite grasped how the government has got away with introducing legislation that doesn’t conform to our international obligations as signatories to the Refugee Convention. One of the requirements of signatories is that domestic laws are compatible with international, and ours clearly are not.

  21. paulwalter

    Not just women either. Think of that disgraceful Star Chamber involving Solicitor General Justin Gleeson a week or two back.

    I think, Pyne is the Coalition’s answer to Joseph Goebbels and a noisy, calculating and sinister bit of work.
    He may seem just an idiot, but the noise creation has other purposes.

  22. Kaye Lee

    Very interesting that George Brandis is keeping quiet. He can hardly throw stones about misleading the Senate because he just may have to one day do what he has been ordered to do and provide his diary. He has misled parliament before but the time and money spent on appealing the court direction would indicate he may have told a few whoppers about who he consulted on things – like Solicitor-General Gleeson perchance? Is that why George cut access off from Dreyfus to see Gleeson? What is in those diaries George? Will George leave early and replace Alexander Downer in London?

    Gillian Triggs contract runs out next year and they have no intention of renewing it.

    OUR man in London is “furious” his job could go to resolve the battle back home between Attorney-General George Brandis and Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson.
    Australia’s High Commissioner to Britain Alexander Downer has privately let Australian Liberals know he has no intention of moving aside early for Senator Brandis.
    The Attorney-General is in bitter conflict with his chief legal adviser, Mr Gleeson, and is determined not to surrender.
    But the clash could be so damaging to the minister a the Government there have been mutterings about a job outside Parliament.
    And the muttering has made it all the way to Britain.
    Liberals have canvassed the option of Mr Gleeson being sacked now, ahead of the expiration of his contract in 18 months, and Senator Brandis going to Australia House.

  23. Terry2

    Watching “Wolf Hall” on the ABC I could see similarities in the precarious role of advisers to Henry VIII and that of Gillian Triggs.

    Thomas Cromwell tries to be a loyal, frank and honest adviser to the King but say something that doesn’t fit the vanity of the crown and it’s off with your head.

    Just hang in there Gillian Triggs, sadly the next HR Commissioner will inevitably be a lackey.

    By the by I see that Solicitor General Gleeson has resigned – the wrong man I fear.

  24. Judes

    Unfortunately Mr Gleeson has just resigned. Curiouser and curiouser……

  25. Tracie

    I just read that Justin Gleeson has resigned from his post as Solicitor-General.

    The requirement is that domestic law is to complement the treaty that has been signed. Basically, from what I noted a while ago very few treaties have been signed by this government. That is actually a worrying thing, as it means that our government have no intention on being part of the international community.

  26. my say

    This government will rid its self of anyone that doesn’t agree with there views ,Triggs and now Gleeson ,
    The role of Solicitor General hasbeen tarnished forever,It is Brandis who should of been sacked ,

  27. crypt0

    Gillian Triggs has the support of everyone with integrity and a moral compass in this country.
    That obviously does not include the LieNP “government” or the half wits who so recently voted them in.
    The upcoming three years will prove to be a very, very long time in politics.

  28. Mark Needham

    When facts are reported, situations are not created or set up, bull shite is not spread, then we can have faith and support people like Triggs. Until then, it is a bit hard to accept their “Opinions or Comment”. Because that, is what she tends to espouse.
    1/2 wittedly,
    Mark Needham

  29. crypt0

    Mark Needham …
    The LieNP’s secrecy shrouded gulag makes it a bit difficult for for most of us to gain access and assess the “facts” firsthand.
    I wonder why that is ???
    Even a halfwit SHOULD be able to figure that out, but obviously there are exceptions to the rule.
    In the meantime, we have the choice of believing Gillian Triggs, or if you prefer, and I think you do, the “truth” as filtered through the likes of abbott, morrison, turnbull and dutton.
    Gimme a break !

  30. Mark Needham

    Ah. I get it now. We do have Australian people, like you and I, over in these places, going out of our way to molest, mentally and physically harm children.
    See…………….that’s the bit, that I have trouble with.
    There’s your break,
    Mark Needham

  31. paulwalter

    Strong summary from Robert Manne.

    My one peripheral cavil would be that he fails to adequately describe the impact of Howard’s fear campaign and the sense that refugees would be bought here as some sort of punishment for the public, as later occurred with 457’s anyway.

    But it really is an excellent, coherent state of play, feel it is required reading.

  32. Mark Needham

    “be bought here as some sort of punishment for the public, as later occurred with 457’s anyway.”
    Q1. Punishment. Tell us some more.
    Q2. 457’s, where are going here?
    Q3. Robert Manne, is what, who, when he is, where?
    Now, being a dumb arse electrician, I checked the www, for a definition of “peripheral cavil”. spelling aside, nothing came up to help this poor bloke.
    Just asking,
    Mark Needham

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