By Emma Griffiths
The Senate has passed a motion declaring George Brandis “unfit to hold the office of Attorney-General” over the Government’s criticism of Gillian Triggs, following the release of her damning report into children in detention.
The Human Rights Commission president released the Forgotten Children report last month, which was then described by Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a “blatantly partisan, politicised exercise”.
Last week both Mr Abbott and Senator Brandis declared they no longer had confidence in the commission president, accusing her of political bias.
There were also revelations last week that Professor Triggs had met the Attorney-General’s chief bureaucrat in the days before the report was released, and that an alternative role in international affairs for the commission chief had been discussed.
Labor Leader in the Senate Penny Wong moved a motion this morning censuring Senator Brandis for failing to defend Professor Triggs from “malicious attacks”.
“This attorney has directly attacked the independence of a senior statutory office holder within his own portfolio,” she told the Senate.
“Never before has an attorney-general failed to defend an institution but actively joined in the attack.”
Senator Brandis said he had lost confidence in Professor Triggs because she had not launched an inquiry into the issue when numbers of children in detention peaked – under the previous Labor government.
He said the commission’s reputation of “freedom from political partisanship … has been lost” under Professor Triggs.
He said he was not being a “bully-boy”.
“I don’t think there have been any malicious attacks on Professor Gillian Triggs,” he told the Senate.
“I have been very careful to say, as I repeat, I have a high personal regard for Professor Triggs.
“Just because a person might be a distinguished academic, it doesn’t mean they necessarily have the skills to manage an agency of the executive government.”
The motion passed 35 to 32, with the support of the Greens, the Palmer United Party’s two senators and Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie.
South Australian independent Nick Xenophon and Family First Senator Bob Day both sided with the Government.
Former defence minister David Johnston and Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash have also previously been censured by the Senate.
A version of this article originally appeared on the ABC website and has been republished with permission.