Does Turnbull Have the Guts to Appoint a Real Human Rights Advocate as the Commission’s New President?

There is one area of law where Australians human rights are lacking, that is of free speech. It is not just 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act making it illegal to offend and insult someone on the basis of race. There is also state based anti-vilification and discrimination laws and the often-ignored Section 474.17 of the Federal Criminal Code making it illegal to offend someone on the internet.

These laws have had real life chilling effects on free speech, with the infamous QUT 18C case where three students were hauled before the Federal Court for objecting to being kicked out of an Indigenous only computer lab. There is the current trial of Blair Cottrell and two other members of the United Patriots Front for carrying out a mock beheading to highlight Islam’s barbarism. Then there is the legal saga of Bernard Gaynor has had to go through with the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Board after a number of complaints were lodged against him by extreme left LGBT activist Gary Burns.

This has all been going on while the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs has been more concerned with the rights of foreigners coming to Australia illegally than that of actual Australians. Free speech in her mind means the freedom not to hear mean things, as demonstrated by her defence of Yassmin Abdel-Magied. She recently lamented that she couldn’t police what was said around the family dinner table. Nevertheless, she was ironically given a Free Speech Award by a leftist lobby group called Liberty Victoria.

Thankfully Gillian Triggs’ term as President of the Commission is soon to expire after the federal government announced it would not be renewed. Triggs was an appointment by then Labor Attorney-General Nicola Roxon who wanted to make it illegal to offend someone based on political opinion. Now the question turns to who will be her replacement. But the question should be does the Turnbull Government and Attorney-General George Brandis have the guts to appoint a President of the Commission who will truly stand up for free speech and other fundamental human rights, or will they be too scared of triggering the left and appoint a safe, non-controversial person.

The Coalition government’s appointments to positions that can help shape the culture war in the right’s favour are fixed. When the Abbott Government was first elected in 2013 they appointed Tim Wilson (now Coalition MP) to the Human Right Commission. It was an appointment which sent the left into hysterics and they organised an International Hating Tim Wilson Day. During his time at the Commission Wilson was affectionately dubbed the Freedom Commission due to his advocacy of traditional liberal democratic human rights.

Since Turnbull became Prime Minister appointments to our statutory bodies have been underwhelming. The latest appointment to the Human Rights Commission has been Ed Santow who has been virtually silent while Triggs and the other commissioners pursue a far-left agenda. When ABC’s then Managing Director Mark Scott’s term expired they did not appoint a replacement who would finally do something to address the left-wing bias of the broadcaster but a business as usual media operator Michelle Guthrie.

However, the Turnbull Government has demonstrated it is committed to allowing more free speech as it at least attempted to reform 18C, an action which was much further than Tony Abbott had progressed to. But if it were serious about limiting the damage the Human Rights Commission has over policing the freedoms of ordinary Australians (it is responsible for administering 18C complaints) they would actually appoint a President who respects their human rights.

The standout candidate is easily Dr Augusto Zimmermann. He is currently President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association, a Western Australian Law Reform Commissioner and Professor at Murdoch University School of Law. He appeared on the Bolt Report this week discussing the importance of free speech as a right, he is by no means a recent convert on the issue as he co-authored a book last year called No Offence Intended: Why 18C is Wrong published by Connor Court Publishing. A petition has been started by his supporters to have him appointed.

But there is speculation that once again the Turnbull Government could squib on the appointment. Fairfax Media is reporting that the President of the Australian Law Reform Commission Rosalind Croucher is the frontrunner. The legal fraternity consider her a ‘moderate’ and is only a soft advocate of 18C reform but seems to believe free speech includes being able to advocate for terrorism. The Fairfax piece also reports that George Brandis wants to avoid an overtly political appointment.

If they appoint Croucher it will be an act of cowardice by this government. It would once again prove they are too scared of upsetting the media and the elites than actually take action that is for the good of the country. Where has appeasing the left got them? They are continually behind in the polls and the leftist media still wacks them at every opportunity possible.

Taking a stand and appointing Dr Augusto Zimmermann as President of the Human Rights Commission would communicate to the Australian people they are actually taking a stand and care about their freedoms. Triggering the left actually is a vote winner, just look at Trump. Be principled and fearless and make the Human Rights Commission actually stand for human rights.