If anyone is going to resign over Human Rights Commission’s report into the treatment of children in detention, it should be the Attorney- General George Brandis – not Professor Gillian Triggs, argues Greens Senator Penny Wright.
As the foremost law officer in the land, his job is to uphold the rule of law. Instead, Attorney-General George Brandis has come dangerously close to breaching the criminal code by directing his Department secretary to offer Professor Triggs another position in exchange for her resignation.
The Abbott Government’s attempts to shoot the messenger have backfired. Under the criminal code, it is an offence to offer “a benefit, or the promise of the provision of a benefit … with the intention of influencing a public official”. The Australian Federal Police have now been asked to investigate the evidence.
No matter the result, the Attorney-General’s job is now untenable.
From the evidence we already have, it is apparent the Attorney-General put undue pressure on an independent office holder to resign – simply because he didn’t like what she was saying. Because she was doing her job too well.
Let’s run through the facts.
1. The Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body. It is designed to be separate from government and keep an eye on government. Part of its job description is saying things a government may not want to hear.
2. The President of the Human Rights Commission is appointed for a five year term, specifically to avoid political interference. In fact, under the law, Commissioners can only be removed on grounds of misbehavior or physical or mental incapacity. When I asked George Brandis yesterday if there had been any errors of law or breaches of the Act, he could not point to any.
3. The Forgotten Children report revealed institutionalised child abuse. It exposed sexual, physical and psychological abuse as a result of the Australian Government’s indefinite detention polices.
4. Revealing the shocking human rights abuses that are part of Australia’s immigration policy is not a biased or partisan thing to do. The Labor and Liberal parties have an almost identical position when it comes to the treatment and detention of asylum seekers, and the Commission’s report covered both the current government and the one before it.