As Labor’s leader in the Senate I don’t often get invited onto FM radio stations first thing in the morning. Especially not to talk about the arcane business of Senate estimates hearings.
But that’s what happened this week after the spectacle of Liberal Senators using the committee hearings to bully the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Tony Abbott reckons the furore over his treatment of Professor Gillian Triggs is a mere “Canberra insiders” story. His Senate bovver-boys – who spent the hearings uttering gems like “I thought you might like to hear a man’s voice” and trying to expel me and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young from the room – seemed proud of their day’s work.
A Canberra insider’s story of no interest to ordinary Australians?
Tell that to Nova FM’s Meshel Laurie.
Here’s how she saw it: “Ordinarily we don’t hear enough of this stuff in our news, in our lives as we go about our business – plenty of stories about dogs that can surf, not enough about what is going on in our government.”
So what is going on when the Prime Minister thinks it is okay to persecute the head of the Human Rights Commission? And what’s going on when Government Senators not only behave like this, but are evidently completely unaware of the antediluvian nature of their conduct?
Related content: This attack on Gillian Triggs was a new low.
The background to the story is that the Human Rights Commission recently completed a report on children being held in immigration detention in Australia.
The Forgotten Children report examines the treatment of children under both the current Government and the former Labor Government. It makes a number of recommendations designed to improve the welfare and protect the human rights of children.
The Government’s response has been to launch a hysterical attack on Professor Triggs, accusing her of political bias.
That was bad enough. But now evidence has emerged that the Attorney-General George Brandis tried to pressure Professor Triggs into resigning.
The Attorney-General is the first law officer of the land.
His job is to defend the courts and independent agencies like the Commission from political attacks.