Thursday, 27 November 2014

Should we get rid of the Equal Opportunity

Andrew Bolt, the columnist we love to hate, has a piece in today's paper about the Commission. More specifically, it is about the President of the Commission, Gillian Triggs.  It is also about perceived bias and the need to be rid of the Equal Opportunity Commission.
It is not the job of the President of the Equal Opportunity to display any bias. Is it fair to say that Professor Triggs does? Does the Equal Opportunity Commission actually do the job it is supposed to do?
I don't think it does.
I have to admit a certain degree of bias here. The Commission has a number of areas of interest - Aboriginal and Torrens Strait Islander Social Justice headed by Mick Gooda, Age and Disability Discrimination headed by Susan Ryan, Children's Commissioner (Megan Mitchell),  Human Rights (Tim Wilson), Race Discrimination (Tim Soutphommasane) and Sex Discrimination (Elizabeth Broderick).
It wasn't until 1993 that the Commission had a Disability Discrimination Commissioner and when Elizabeth Hastings, who held the position, died there was nobody appointed in her place. There were Acting Commissioners who had other jobs. When Graeme Innes took over the job in 2005 he was also the Human Rights Commissioner. Now Susan Ryan has the responsibility along with the responsibility for Age discrimination.
In other words Disability Discrimination has never really been considered to be such a serious issue that it needed a full time, dedicated commissioner. This is despite the fact that the biggest issue facing most people with disabilities is that of communication - both individually and as a group. They need to get their message across and they often have difficulty in doing it because of their physical and intellectual limitations.
If an Equal Opportunity Commission is to do the job then it has to deal with all people equally. It should not have a political bias. Ours does. Race and Sex Discrimination and Human Rights have always taken precedence. They are important, very important - but so are the rights of people with disabilities.
And recent moves by Professor Triggs suggest that, far from behaving in an unbiased manner, she has deliberately delayed taking action on other issues so as not to embarrass the previous government. Instead she is trying to hold the present government accountable for the actions of the previous one.
Quite simply I believe the EOC has become a political body instead of an apolitical one. If it has then it cannot work because it will not allow equal opportunities for all - particularly for those who lack the capacity to stand up for themselves.
It may be time we ditched the Commission and found new ways to communicate injustices. I hope they prove me wrong. 


Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone could deny Professor Triggs is biased. She clearly delayed the inquiry into children in detention until the present government came in and has refused to acknowledge that the previous government held many more children in detention than the present government. This government is cleaning up the mess left by the previous government but people like Professor Triggs keep saying that the problem was caused by the present government. The interesting thing is that the media doesn't correct that - not even the Murdoch press. Bob C-S

Anonymous said...

We need a commission dedicated to those who cannot get their message across thorough disability ... most of the other areas now covered have enough representation to look after themselves ... if they are willing to do the job.