Feds Appoint New Human Rights Commissioner
17 December 2013 at 3:48 pm
The Coalition Government has appointed a controversial opponent of the Human Rights Commission, Timothy Wilson as Australia’s new Human Rights Commissioner.
Wilson, who has for the past seven years been a Policy Director at the Institute of Public Affairs, is described by the Government as one of Australia’s most prominent public advocates of the rights of the individual.
“He has published and broadcast widely on the topics of personal freedom, liberal democratic values and the rule of law,” Attorney General George Brandis said.
“He was at the forefront in thwarting recent attempts to erode freedom of speech, freedom of the press and artistic freedom – rights and freedoms Australians have always held precious.
“The appointment of Mr Wilson to this important position will help to restore balance to the Australian Human Rights Commission which, during the period of the Labor government, had become increasingly narrow and selective in its view of human rights.”
However at the same time the appointment was announced, the IPA think tank released a media statement saying Tim Wilson was appearing before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee hearing at which one of his IPA colleagues was calling for the abolition of the Australian Human Rights Commission.
"The Australian Human Rights Commission does not protect human rights and should be abolished," Simon Breheny, Director of the Legal Rights Project at the Institute of Public Affairs told the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee today.
Breheny was appearing at the first day of committee hearings into the Gillard Government's exposure draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 in Melbourne.
He told the inquiry that despite the fact that the draft Bill is an attack on fundamental human rights, it is supported by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
"The Australian Human Rights Commission does not defend fundamental rights such as the right to free speech and property. Instead, it selectively defends a human rights agenda determined entirely by the left," Breheny said.
"The Australian Human Rights Commission's formal submission to the inquiry recommends that the draft Bill restrict free speech even further than it already does. The Commission has been campaigning for an expansion of anti-discrimination laws despite the impact it would have on freedom of speech. This puts the lie to recent comments of Commission president Gillian Triggs, who – only after widespread public criticism – has finally admitted that the draft Bill might go too far.
"By supporting the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, the Australian Human Rights Commission has demonstrated hostility to freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion," Breheny said.
"The Commission is 100 per cent taxpayer-funded yet it actively lobbies government for laws which undermine human rights, rather than defending and protecting them. It should be abolished.”
Attorney General George Brandis said: “during the election campaign, I promised to create at least one Freedom Commissioner” at the Australian Human Rights Commission. Next year, I intend to bring forward reforms to the Commission.
“In the meantime, I have asked Mr Wilson to focus on the protection of the traditional liberal democratic and common law rights, including, in particular, the rights recognised by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Brandis said Wilson’s extensive background as a public policy intellectual, his skill as an advocate and his courage as a human rights champion make him superbly equipped to be Australia’s new Human Rights Commissioner.