Triggs Warns on Rule of Law
30 September 2014 at 10:59 am
President of the Australian Human Rights Commission Professor Gillian Triggs has warned that Australia must support the rule of law in the current international climate and with the introduction of anti-terror laws.
Triggs made the comments during a speech at a graduation ceremony at Macquarie University in which she was granted a Doctor of Laws honoris causa in recognition of her lifelong contribution to the protection of human rights and the development of international law.
“Over the last few months and indeed recent days, we've seen unprecedented efforts by the Australian Government to expand its executive discretion, and to oust the jurisdiction and oversights of the courts," Triggs said.
She discussed anti-terror laws saying “it's more important than ever that we support the rule of law and our courts in applying the common law principles, to protect the fundamental rights of us all."
She argued that when considering these weighty questions of the rule of law, there was really no better place to start than remembering that next year is the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, signed very reluctantly by King John at the demand of his rebellious feudal barons in 1215.
She spoke about the implications of its language for asylum seeker policy and detention practices.
She looked at two cases which illustrated "a fascinating struggle between the Government on the one hand, with Parliament, and the high court of Australia on the other”.
“A struggle that our judges have to ensure the fundamental common law freedoms continue to apply." she said.
"… There are many challenges for your new professional lives as graduates of this university. A challenge to find that magical sweet spot, a fair balance between our ancient and modern freedoms, and the rights of a Government to protect national security and our borders.”
“Professor Triggs is an outstanding role model for our graduates through her work across the academe, the practicing profession and government. Her service to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms is exemplary,” Vice-Chancellor Professor S. Bruce Dowton said.
Graduating in law from the University of Melbourne in 1968, Professor Triggs also gained a PhD in 1982. She combined an academic career with international commercial legal practice, and has worked with governments and international organisations on human rights law as well as World Trade Organisation law, disputed continental shelf and other territorial claims.
In her wide-ranging career Professor Triggs has been a consultant on international law to law firms; a Board Member of the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) and the Australian representative on the Council of Jurists for the Asia Pacific Forum for National Human Rights Institutions.
She served as Chair of the Board of the Australian International Health Institute and a member of the Attorney General's International Legal Service Advisory Council. She has also been honoured by election as a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.
In her current role as President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Triggs has focused on the implementation in Australian law of the human rights treaties to which Australia is a party, and has worked with nations in the Asia-Pacific region on practical approaches to implementing human rights.