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To Gillian Triggs, thank you, you do not walk alone

In less than a week we will celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta – a 13th century document which is widely recognised as the bedrock of our democracy.

“It was a bunch of barons saying to the king, you can’t just do what you like, there is a rule of law and we would like you to abide by it, and we want it in writing. And it is fundamental to the rule of law that we have in this country today, that is still being debated,” said Libby Stewart, senior historian at the Museum of Australian Democracy.

Last Friday, Gillian Triggs gave a speech to the annual Human Rights Dinner where she spoke about “the vital role our parliaments play, whether State, Territory or Federal, in protecting our ancient democratic liberties and rights.”

She too made reference to the Magna Carta. After sharing anecdotal history that “King John was probably illiterate and did not sign the document, and the Barons forgot to bring their seals and wax to Runnymede on this historic day”, she highlighted two clauses that she describes as “the defining statements of the rule of law and limits on arbitrary power of the state” which “ring through the centuries and remain the bedrock for principles of justice we struggle to protect in the 21st century.”

No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or stripped of his rights or possessions, or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, …except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. (Clause 39)

To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay, right or justice.(Clause 40)

Ms Triggs continued…

“It has become a universal acknowledgement of the principles that the sovereign is not above the law and of the sovereignty of parliament. Other legacies of Magna Carta include the right to a fair trial and access to justice; habeus corpus; the ideas that ‘punishment should fit the crime’; that courts should sit regularly in one place; that laws should be written and made public; and that widows should have their inheritance.

Magna Carta is recognized as the foundation of modern democracy and of the common law principle that public officials should justify their activities as necessary and proportional, where they interfere with individual freedoms.

It is the symbolic power of Magna Carta that informs my concern that supremacy of the law over the sovereign (or in today’s parlance, executive government), is under threat in Australia’s contemporary democracy.

Respective governments have been remarkably successful in persuading Parliaments to pass laws that are contrary, even explicitly contrary, to common law rights and to the international human rights regime to which Australia is a party.

A growing threat to democracy is the expansion of discretionary, often non-compellable, ministerial powers that may be exercised with limited or no judicial scrutiny.”

Triggs goes on to express her concerns regarding the expansion of the detention powers of the executive, the rapid extension of counter-terrorism laws, the overreach of data retention laws, the inconsistency in having to obtain a warrant to access the metadata of a journalist when no-one else is similarly protected, the imprecise definition of “advocating terrorism” in the Foreign Fighters Act and its restriction on freedom of movement, the immunity of ASIO officers from civil and criminal prosecution while engaged in ‘special intelligence operations”, the chilling effect that new laws have on legitimate public debate about security operations, attacks on freedom of association, the undermining of judicial discretion by mandatory sentencing, the punitive detention of asylum seekers, the deletion of references to the Refugees Convention from the Migration Act, and the “breathtaking inconsistency” of politicians in supporting the rule of law and freedom of speech.

“These examples of the willingness of parliament to consider and pass laws that breach democratic freedoms, taken individually, might be justified on the grounds of necessity and proportionality. Viewed together they are more than the sum of their parts. They suggest an overreach of power by the executive, (or as Senator Cory Bernardi calls it, “power creep”); a declining willingness of parliaments to defend core freedoms; and the exclusion of judges from interpreting laws according to common law principles of legality or and the presumption that parliament intends to comply with international law.

The proliferation of new laws that diminish our liberties and expand executive powers suggests that respective Parliaments have failed to exercise their traditional self-restraint in protecting democratic rights. Rather, the volume of laws that currently infringe freedoms –Professor George Williams estimates over 350 such laws are on the books at present- suggests prioritizing governmental power has become a “routine part of the legislative process”. As he observes, the enactment of anti-democratic laws has become so accepted that they elicit little community or media responses.”

On Monday night on Q&A, a man who obviously gets his news from the Murdoch press, asked the following question:

JIM ANDERSON: The spin coming from the Left media is that “The Government has stepped up the attack on Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs”. I believe it was Triggs who stepped up the attack on the Government through her unfounded allegations made during the week. As an Australian citizen and taxpayer, when will the Government decide enough is enough, that she has ruined the credibility of the Human Rights Commission beyond repair and disband it?…. The damage that’s been happening to our country, our name,that she has caused is just disgraceful.

Jim Anderson, the disgraceful thing is that people like you and our Immigration Minister read a headline in a Murdoch paper and think you are being told the truth. The disgraceful thing is that a filthy rich meglomaniac uses our country as his plaything and people like you suck it up. The disgraceful thing is that a woman like Gillian Triggs is being attacked by ill-informed morons for doing her job.

To Ms Triggs, I would like to express my admiration for your diligence, your integrity, your fortitude, your intelligence, your tenacity, and your unwavering support for the most vulnerable in our society. You do not stand alone. For every Jim Anderson and Peter Dutton, there are thousands of Australians saying thank you for being such a formidable protector of our rights.

 

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56 comments

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  1. John Kelly

    She is strong and she knows she is right.

  2. Keith Woolsey

    I think that first questioner was merely a Liberal troll.

  3. Graham

    What’s more, we know she is right; what’s dangerous is the anti-democratic minds know also that she is right. We must stand together against this reborn 21stC Angevin mindset with its ‘fair dinkum’ twist.We need to restore decency to our governmental debate, wit to our political intelligence, decency and fairness to our legislative system, understanding to our humanity and gentility in our dealings with others. It is not about whether we agree with others, it is about how many people we are prepared to kill to achieve our place in history and what that place in history says about us. You choose, Australia. You’ve been there before and it’s not a good look, my friend.

  4. Kaye Lee

    When I look at the people calling for Gillian Triggs resignation – Brandis, Dutton, Abbott, Morrison (and bit players like Christensen) – in comparison they are so trivial, so petty, so inadequate. No wonder they feel threatened.

  5. Bilal

    Gillian Triggs will rank in history with people like Edward Coke who put forward the Petition of Rights in 1628, defying a king as stupid and ignorant as the present front bench, led by Dutton and the Abbott. The executive must be constrained by law and punishments like exile and incarceration can only be imposed through well established judicial process, not by the arbitrary will of a Minister of the Crown. The 1688 Glorious Revolution cannot be overturned so easily. The whole nation will surely resist such an attack upon basic liberties.

    If the Germans had the Magna Carta and the 1689 Bill of Rights, they would surely not have fallen so easily under the Nazis.

  6. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    Now is the time for people to stand up to defend democracy. It may be imperfect but it beats fascism hands down!

  7. Andreas Bimba

    Thanks for your article Kaye and it is very powerful and true. The calibre of the previous Labor government was so much higher than this current pathetic and treasonous swill. Shorten however is no better and must also be dumped.

    Your comment “I would like to express my admiration for your diligence, your integrity, your fortitude, your intelligence, your tenacity, and your unwavering support for the most vulnerable in our society”, can be applied to you as well.

  8. Graham Parton

    I nominated her for Australian of the Year and I hope more people do.

  9. Loz

    I too nominated her for Australian of the Year and I sincerely hope she is aware of how much support she has in this country.

  10. M-R

    Great idea ! – I will, too.

  11. Carol Taylor

    And what did Triggs do to earn such wrath? Why to some senior Liberals, is she “a disgrace”? She told the truth, and that and the current set of Liberals is a contradiction in terms. Do the Liberals even remember what Triggs’ report was about – the incarceration and abuse of children under their care. Oh yes, that’s right..many admitted that they hadn’t even bothered to read the report.

  12. Ricardo29

    Kaye, you might have added that she is also doing what Bill Shorten and the Opposition should be doing. Sadly I think Labor thinks they are going to coast into government on the back of the widespread disgust with the present mob, then they will have all these horrible restrictions on freedoms to use themselves, knowing the swill will have no moral grounds to complain.

  13. mars08

    Oh lord! Get a grip, people!

    How about showing some concern for the REAL victims in this story? What about the poor, innocent, powerless, besieged, fragile, isolated, federal government?

  14. abbienoiraude

    Thank you Kaye for this roundly informative piece.
    The LNP are not fit to walk on Prof Triggs ground. Such an educated practitioner of the Law must be deferred to. She has followed and fulfilled her brief with thoroughness dignity and patience.

    @Graham: Well said!

  15. hilderombout

    I too nominated Prof. Gillian Triggs for Australian of the Year. Thanks for this information. I greatly admire her and her work and her courage to stand up to the bullying she has encountered. And if there was a second nomination without diminishing Gillian Triggs chances i would nominate you Kaye for your untiring work in keeping us informed. Thank you.

  16. David

    My admiration and support for Professor Triggs knows no bounds. Keep on keeping on brave warrior, your critics are misogynist fools.

  17. Pamela Tan

    Congratulations Kaye for an excellent article. If we had more people in Parliament with the integrity and principles upheld by Gillian Triggs we would have a country that would be a standard bearer for democracy particularly in this present international political climate. There should be a groundswell of support for Gillian Triggs because this is a fight we must have t protect the rights and freedoms of our country. Pamela

  18. Phi

    That quote from Jim Anderson is so typically muddle-headed right wing – he says Gillian Triggs has ruined the credibility of the Human Rights Commission, then calls for it to be disbanded!! If it is so important why disband it? Of course the truth is he does not support universal human rights and I have no doubt he is doubly offended that a women is chief of the Commission.

  19. Kaye Lee

    Phi, I think that is a large part of it. Many Australians, male and female, are still uncomfortable with assertive women.

    When two of the most powerful women in the government, Julie Bishop and Michaelia Cash, both feel the need to say they are NOT feminists, it gives us an inkling of how the Coalition feel about women. They are there as nodding eye-candy to reaffirm what those big strong men say. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that – the men are in charge. And under NO circumstances should you question their decisions.

  20. mars08

    I suspect that many Australians, male and female, are uncomfortable with universal human rights…

  21. diannaart

    Just have to wonder at (if any) conversation in the tea-room between Triggs and Wilson – a little tense?

  22. stephentardrew

    Jillian Triggs is a well respected academic. She is scientifically literate and capable of challenging conservative rubbish and opinion with demonstrable fact. They hate someone more competent than themselves especially someone who can use sound logic supported by evidentiary fact to prove a point. They are no more than narrow minded ideologues who care not for reason, logic or rationality. It is the truth that scare the hell out of them because they now they can be clearly demonstrated to, not only be wrong on many counts, but completely morally challenged. These greed mongers deep down know their Jesus would condemn them however the narcissism is too overpowering for them to face their dystopian selfishness and driving obsession with inequality. Fear and insecurity are the basis for anger and hate and, in this case, they openly demonstrate how fragile and vulnerable they are.

    I am in full agreement she should be voted Australian of the year.

    Fat chance with these morons in power.

  23. Jollyjumbuck

    Where in the Magna Carta does it state that a country who has given a person a chance to live free life away from persecution to then turn around and go back and fight a war they ran away from in the first place? You bloody hypocrites out there, what if we allow these people back into that country and they turn around and carry out a terrorist attack in that country? Why should they not be stripped of the citizenship that was given to them? Haven’t we learnt anything from 9/11. I say to hell with them! they don’t deserve another chance!

  24. Kaye Lee

    If they have committed a crime then we have a judicial system to deal with that. Why should we expect other countries to deal with the problem while we take no responsibility? You cannot have different laws for different groups within our society. And letting Peter Dutton be the sole judge with no proof or oversight or appeal is NOT how a democracy works. Most of them are kids who have been seduced online.

  25. David

    @Jolly..you aren’t very are you. Care to name one Asylum Seeker granted citizenship who then returned to fight in a war they ran away from? I obviously need enlightenment

  26. keerti

    Thankyou Professor Trigg for standing up for the rights of all of us including assylum seekers. We need more people willing to do this

  27. Ross Smith

    Thank you Gillian, – don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  28. Itsazoosue

    I just nominated Gillian Triggs too. I’m imagining that the presentation ceremony might be a bit tense should she win.

  29. heatherex

    I too nominated her after reading Jane Caro’s tweet on the subject. Looks like the word has spread!

  30. Pudd'nhead

    I would like to have Gillian Triggs on my side if it comes time to fight. The LNP have chosen to vilify this courageous, talented woman and in this singular example the destructive nature of the LNP and its leaders is there for all to see. How can a nation go forward with hyenas like this leading the way?

  31. Kaye Lee

    Yesterday’s senate estimates were also informative. Scott Morrison received a report that a young boy was raped by a cleaner on Nauru in December 2013 – he did nothing about it. When more and more reports of sexual abuse started flooding in in September and October 2014 he finally decided to look into it and called for the Moss review which verified what Gillian Triggs and the Save the Children staff and the doctors and the UN and Amnesty International and the Refugee Council had been trying to tell him.

    The job of the HRC is to

    •investigate and conciliate complaints of discrimination or breaches of human rights
    •hold public inquiries into human rights issues of national importance and make recommendations to address discrimination and breaches of human rights and to
    •provide advice and submissons to parliaments and governments to develop laws, policies and programs consistent with existing national laws and international human rights agreements.

    Ms Triggs had a statuatory obligation to inform the government and urge action.

  32. Michael Taylor

    Yesterday’s senate estimates were also informative. Scott Morrison received a report that a young boy was raped by a cleaner on Nauru in December 2013 – he did nothing about it.

    That is piss poor. They called for Peter Garrett’s head (as the Minister) when those young lads died installing insulation batts. Yet people have been raped, bashed senseless, murdered, died, yadda yadda under his watch and he responds with the customary smirk. Apparently under a Liberal government the Ministers aren’t accountable.

  33. Kevin Arnold

    Read any reputable book on the rise of Fascism in the Thirties, and what is going on here is text-book. First create a threat, promise to protect the citizenry, then grab power. Simple, and it seems like it still works.

  34. Kaye Lee

    Our government has said that what happens in the camps is the sole responsibility of the governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea and the private operators that run them. There are several court cases testing that at the moment.

    “Maurice Blackburn will seek access to an extensive list of government documents in a bid to demonstrate the establishment, financing, subcontracting, management and oversight of the Manus camp was directed from within Australia.

    “The place where in substance the duty owed by the [Commonwealth] to [RN] arose and the breaches of duty took place or occurred was Australia,” court documents allege.

    “The law of Australia is the appropriate law to be applied in determining [RN’s] claim against the [Commonwealth].”

    The claim also notes the contracts with G4S, Salvation Army and others to set up and run the camp at Manus were all signed in Australia.

    Although the government has conceded it owes a “duty of care” to those in the camps, its solicitors argue that any physical or psychological injuries sustained by detainees is due to negligence on the part of camp operators or the host country.

    But Dr Andrew Morrison, SC, spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said that argument was contradicted by the widespread presence of Australian government personnel in the camps.

    “To say that they have fully delegated the running of camps to others is simply false,” he said.

    “Whether the Commonwealth uses G4S or the government of PNG to provide security, if it’s done negligently, then the Commonwealth is as liable as if it were one of its own employees that did it because it has a non-delegable duty of care as a matter of law.”

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/legal-challenge-for-offshore-detention-centres-on-manus-island-and-nauru-20150228-13rfzn.html

  35. David

    @Michael…excellent point made re Peter Garrett. Hunt set out to destroy Pete, not only as a Minister but his personal reputation. It was a low, dirty calculated plan to bring down both the man and the pink bats insulation scheme, all for political point scoring and personal career gain.
    I will never forgive Hunt for that obscene interview on public television with the parents of one of the dead lads, milking every drop of sick condemnation and blame on Garrett and the Labor Govt. Hunt has never acknowledged fully the contractors liability in the deaths and his viciousness as an Abbott attack weapon using the deaths of the 4 lads is something a normal person would never contemplate, let alone use.
    He is stained for the remainder of his miserable life by that episode What a disgusting little nobody.

  36. roaminruin

    I’d like to add my name to that.

  37. Kevin Brewer

    I think Gilliam Triggs is wonderful, but her history of the John isn’t. John was not illiterate and was probably better educated than most of his nobles. The Magna Carta was more honoured in the breach by both sides, and when put to the test they were beaten by John’s son Henry III after they had allied themselves with Louis of France before John died in 1216. Of the two clauses quoted one is about the trial of nobles, not of you and me, and the second is also more honoured in breach than observance. We know the rich get better justice than the poor, that it is possible to buy justice if one has the money. John also set the conflict in motion between the church and the state over power a conflict that culminated in but did not end with Reformation. His is a direct line to Henry VIII. And we are still battling the power of men in frocks over the secular authority of the people and their parliaments. The myth of the Magna Carta is that there was in ancient English law a protection of personal freedom, Oh Jerusalem, that was interrupted by the Norman invasion and was reasserted in the charter of 1215. It has surfaced continually through British history, was part of what drove both Civil wars, the first in 1638 begun in Edinburgh, second in the 1770s led to the formation of the United States of America. But all current research suggests the great charter was a treaty between the King and his barons about how to extract and share the surplus value created by the labour of everyone else.

  38. rabbitsnthqld

    Thank you Ms Triggs for standing up for our democracy and our rights against these fascists bastards karma is wonderful thing

  39. mars08

    Michael Taylor:

    That is piss poor..

    .

    Can there be any doubt that the media (and public) reaction would be quite different if the lad was white and/or christian?

  40. iggy648

    I love consistency. Great to see Tim is still owned by Rupert!

  41. chopper

    Hear hear to all that. Gillian Triggs for PM anybody?

  42. flohri1754

    Thank goodness that such people still exist in Australia …. it will be interesting seeing both her and B. Bishop on Q&A this coming Monday ….. I’m also one who has suggested she would be a good “Australian of the Year” next (and have submitted a nomination) …… more power to her.

  43. michaelattoowoomba.

    Great post [as usual ] Kaye, most wholeheartedly agree with you [as usual ] ,thanks for putting a name to that vacuumhead who attacked Mss Triggs,it was at that point,I had to leave the room [I cannot afford to replace my innocent T.V. ]so I missed most of the programm,so when I can afford medication,I will watch on Iview,can pause as nessessary to lower my blood pressure. I am guessing, but I think your estimates of thousands of supporters for nominations of Ms Triggs as Aus of the year needs a few more 0’s to it. I think as many or more of your readers would happily nominate you as candidate for Aus., of the year for your services to Humanity.

  44. Cassmiranda

    I posted a comment today on the herald sun site about the article claiming she was a ‘fat cat’. I said something about how relevant it is that the Human Rights Commission speak up about the increasing power that govt ministers have at the expense of courts. Also said that it should be obvious that the govt see her as a threat and are attempting character assassination as a typical strategy to have her replaced with another conservative.
    Not really surprised but the comment disappeared.
    I know it is Murdoch driven but the moderators on that site have too much influence on public discussion.

  45. Kaye Lee

    I would like to thank everyone who reads my ramblings (and my family thanks you too – they are SO pleased I have someone else to rant at). I am grateful for the readers who take the time to comment – I learn so much from you all. And that is what this is all about.

    I hate getting lied to. It shook me from my apathy. The more I looked into things myself the angrier I got. So I try to share what I read with others.

    I am embarrassed by some of the praise because it is unwarranted. I merely collate the words of others. I am a minnow, a parrot, a middle-aged woman in jammies .

    Gillian Triggs is a lion and her “wings are like a shield of steel.”

    She speaks the truth without fear or favour. She speaks to the world and they respect her and listen. She has the support and admiration of the legal fraternity. She reminds us of our humanity. She speaks for those who cannot speak. She bears a weight few of us could shoulder. We must offer her what help we can.

  46. paul walter

    We adore them. Once we have factored in the alcohol consumption, we discovered they could be decoded also.

  47. DanDark

    Kaye it is a give and take on aimn, everyone from authors of articles to us commentators are willing to give what it takes, info/links/comments even comedy from rossleigh and take that to help humanity, the country and the planet to rid the cancer that is the LNP
    Thank you to all that contribute to aimn in a positive way 🙂
    And one of my favourite songs…Thanks Kaye……. I have 4 adult sons and this song reminds me of them 🙂

  48. Cassmiranda

    Kaye, women such as yourself give me hope. Never underestimate the value of what you do. Thank you sincerely.
    I admire Gillian Triggs because she uses her position to bring injustice to the forefront of discussion . She is fearless and that is that is why I am in awe of her.

  49. stephentardrew

    With you all the way Kaye.

  50. Mark Needham

    A mis-truth in any Language is a lie. Why is one persons lie, acceptable, when others aren’t.
    ‘samazing how we can see the good in some, but not in others.
    I wonder how, Mrs Triggs child is this morning, does she know, or care, I wonder.
    Ah well.

  51. David

    @Cassmiranda….re Herald Sun the deleting of your comment supports my attitude towards all those who work for Murdoch, They are not too many levels below him for dirtbag status. I don’t give a continental how desperate they are for a job, to assist that evil sewer dweller spread his filth makes them contemptible for mine.
    The Nuremberg defense, ‘I’m just doing my job’ is no defense.

  52. David

    Kaye Lee your lovely modest response to us, awakened a quote that had lain dormant in my grey matter for a very long time….gives me a warm fuzzy to apply it to you. ‘Modesty seldom resides in a breast that is not enriched with nobler virtues’.
    We are fortunate to share in some of those other virtues also 🙂

  53. paul walter

    It’s something that been put together, generation after generation, since far before Magna Carta and the dawn of recorded history itself. Athens, Rome, the Religions of the Book and and so much else has been recorded, considered and developed further on.

    Habeas Corpus is not just an idealists junket, it is an immensely practical set up of laws and practice accumulated through thought and then application, trial and error, that shows civilisation at its best in our era and offers the means for further improvement.

    What poor Triggs can see and warns us of, is the Goose that lays the Golden Eggs of civilised behaviour and future stability torn apart by ideological boors and grafting big capitalists more interested in lazy plunder than productive work and thinking.

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