Attorney-General George Brandis once spearheaded the freedom agenda when in Opposition and when the Abbott Government was first elected in 2013. He helped defeat the Gillard Government’s totalitarian Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Bill which would have made it illegal to offend someone on the basis of their political opinion.
One of his first acts as Attorney-General was to appoint Tim Wilson then working at the Institute of Public Affairs as an Australian Human Rights Commissioner much to the left’s outrage. He also put pressure on Gillian Triggs to resign when it was revealed that she had delayed an inquiry into children in dentition until after the Abbott Government was elected.
He had also helped spearhead the first attempt to amend 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act which included his accurate, yet controversial statement that ‘’people have a right to be bigots”. His proposed reform was considered too radical for some in the Cabinet who accused him of “drinking the right wing Kool-Aid’’.
But the beginning of his degeneration from freedom warrior to social justice campaigner began to occur when Tony Abbott announce that his government would not be proceeding with reform of 18C as they wanted to pursue a new round of anti-terror laws.
These included the contentious meta data retention laws which we are still unaware if they have kept us any safer. Brandis was widely mocked for a so called “car-crash” interview with Sky News’ David Spears attempting to explain how meta data retention operated.
But it is under Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership when the social justice warrior began to emerge. When attempting to pass the same sex marriage plebiscite legislation in late 2016 George Brandis described the Labor Party as having “driven a stake through the heart of marriage equality”. This was the beginning of him being the Coalition’s most prominent supporter of same sex marriage despite for years pretending to be a conservative and stating in interviews he was against it.
Despite his previous courageous decision to appoint Tim Wilson to the Human Rights Commission, his appointments under Turnbull’s Prime Ministership can be described as mediocre. He appointed Ed Santow as Tim Wilson’s replacement when Tim ran for Liberal Party pre-selection in 2016 who we have hardly heard a word from on the issue of fundamental freedoms.
Then there was his appointment of Rosalind Croucher to replace Gillian Triggs as President of the Human Rights Commission who had widely be described as Triggs-lite. This was despite the fact a true warrior for freedom Dr Augusto Zimmermann had applied for the position. Since Triggs’ departure the Human Rights Commission has continue to be as divisive as possible under Brandis’ watch.
On Islamic terrorism he toed the line of ASIO in denying there was a link between our refugee program and terrorism. Then there was his hysterical reaction to Pauline Hanson’s burqa stunt where he inaccurately accused her of mocking a religious garment (it is a cultural requirement, not religious) which earned him a standing ovation from Labor and the Greens.
Then there were the emergency vilification laws he rushed through parliament for the duration of the postal plebiscite which would outlaw vilification, intimidation or threats of harm against campaigners. The law would give Brandis sole responsibility to determine which complaints had merit. Then he accused Tony Abbott of being against free speech because he thought it was inappropriate for Macklemore to perform ‘Same Love’ at the NRL Grand Final. Even though Abbott never proposed government pass a law to ban the song.
Then to top it all off he took a subtle swipe at Cabinet colleague Peter Dutton for calling lawyers who clog up our legal system representing asylum seekers who have come to Australia illegally by boat “un-Australian”. In a speech to the International Bar Association in Sydney on Sunday night Brandis stated “Upholding the rule of law may involve lawyers in controversy. Often, it may mean standing up to the powerful, or defending the vulnerable, the marginalised or the despised. Lawyers who do so serve the finest traditions of our profession”.
One suspects he may have made this swipe as Dutton due to his bitterness at losing responsibility over ASIO and the Australian Federal Police to Dutton as part of the creation of the new Home Affairs Portfolio announced by Turnbull earlier this year.
Brandis is widely tipped to be carted off to a diplomatic posting in the next cabinet reshuffle, which has been delayed because Turnbull is so weak he cannot afford to dump anyone from Cabinet. The sooner Australians are rid of this fraud of a freedom warrior the better. Let us hope the next Attorney-General puts freedom of speech and getting serious about fighting Islamic extremism firmly back on the government’s agenda.