Thursday, 26 February 2015

I too have lost confidence in

Professor Gillian Triggs. For those of you in Upover Professor Triggs is the President of the Human Rights Commission. I have lost confidence in the Human Rights Commission too. I have the lead letter in the national newspaper this morning saying this - and I imagine I will be strongly criticised for saying it. This will be good - but only if it makes people think
The roles of the HRC are many and varied. One of those role is to support the government of the day by offering advice about human rights and warning the government when those rights are breached or might be breached. The role of the HRC with respect to the government of the day goes no further than that.
It is not the role of the HRC or the President of the HRC to be partisan, to deliberately criticise or undermine government policy simply because there is a difference of opinion in how policy is implemented. Nor is it the role of the HRC to inform one side of politics and not the other or delay giving information or reports on spurious grounds designed to benefit or harm government, especially in a partisan manner. Furthermore it is not the role of the HRC to give or repeat false information in an attempt to change government policy. 
The Human Rights Commission is supposed to be an independent statutory body. I got howled down for saying it was also there to support the government. I was told I didn't know anything about the HRC or how it worked or what it was supposed to do. 
Sorry. I am right. The HRC is there to support the government of the day in the role I have outlined above. It is there to ensure the government does not breach human rights. That is a supporting role. It is not lead role. The lead role belongs to the government of the day. 
The HRC's role is not to set out government policy. The HRC may criticise that policy if it breaches human rights. The HRC may not criticise it simply because it does not like government policy. 
And that is the problem. Professor Triggs appears to have gone a step too far. She has allegedly  been partisan. 
She also made claims, particularly about children in detention, which were not substantiated. That is not to say that children should be in detention. They shouldn't. However to suggest that they were not being offered adequate care and attention was wrong. 
By deliberately refusing to retract her claims about children in detention Triggs is also them as pawns. That is unacceptable.
Triggs met with the previous government when it was in caretaker mode. She did not meet the opposition. She allegedly advised the government of the contents of the report she had written but she did not advise the opposition.  She then allegedly delayed formally handing the report to the present government on the grounds that she was reporting on a ten year cycle. There is no such cycle but, by the time present government received the report it was seriously out of date. By then the government had also done much to resolve the matters she brought up. 
The present government is most definitely not blameless. No government is. But when a government does not get the support it should get from an independent statutory body then there is a bigger problem.  When the head of that body would appear to be acting in a partisan manner then the problem grows even bigger. 
And when that statutory body is the one which deals with human rights then human rights themselves are at risk. Triggs, for all the support she has been given by powerful voices of the same political persuasion as herself, has damaged the role of the HRC. We have to hope the damage is not irreparable. 

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