There could be no starker signal of this government’s intentions
than the appointment of Tim Wilson as the Human Rights Commissioner for
‘Freedom’ at the expense of disability commissioner Graeme Innes.
In opposition, Senator Brandis was prepared to publicly criticise Mr
Innes for advocating on behalf of Australians with a disability, blaming
the ‘ideological culture’ within the Human Rights Commission.
The following biographies come from the Australian Human Rights
Commission website. I will leave it to you to judge who you feel is
better qualified and able to make an important contribution to our
has been Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner since
December 2005. During that time he has also served as Australia’s Human
Rights Commissioner for three and a half years and as Race
Discrimination Commissioner for two years.
Graeme is a Lawyer, Mediator and Company Director. He has been a
Human Rights Practitioner for 30 years in NSW, WA and nationally.
As Commissioner, Graeme has led or contributed to the success of a
number of initiatives. These have included the Same Sex: Same
Entitlements inquiry, which resulted in removal of discrimination across
federal law; the drafting of the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and its ratification by Australia.
Graeme was also crucial to the development of the National Disability
Strategy and the Disability (Access to Premises – buildings) Standards
2010; as well as the establishment of Livable Housing Australia.
Graeme has also been an active high profile advocate for the
implementation of cinema captioning and audio descriptions and, as Human
Rights Commissioner, undertook three annual inspections of Australia’s
Immigration Detention facilities.
Graeme has been a Member of the NSW Administrative Decisions
Tribunal; the NSW Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal; and the Social
Security Appeals Tribunal. He has also been a Hearing Commissioner with
the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
Graeme was Chair of the Disability Advisory Council of Australia, and
the first Chair of Australia’s national blindness agency, Vision
In 1995 Graeme was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). In 2003, he was a finalist for Australian of the Year.
Graeme is married with an adult son and a daughter in high school. He
enjoys cricket (as a spectator) and sailing (as a participant), and
relaxes by drinking fine Australian white wine.”
“Tim Wilson was appointed Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner in February 2014.
Dubbed the “Freedom Commissioner”, Tim is a proud and passionate
defender of universal, individual human rights. As Commissioner he is
focused on promoting and advancing traditional human rights and
freedoms, including free speech, freedom of association, worship and
movement and property rights.
Prior to his appointment Tim was a public policy analyst and a policy
director at the world’s oldest free market think tank, the Institute of
Public Affairs. He has also worked in trade and communication
consulting, international aid and development, as well politics. He has
served as a Board member of Monash University’s Council and on the
Victorian Board of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
Tim is a Director of Alfred Health.
He has extensive experience in public debate and has had many regular
radio and television commitments, with both commercial and public
broadcasters. The Australian newspaper recognised Tim as one of the ten
emerging leaders of Australian society. He has written extensively for
newspapers, journals and books. He recently co-edited the book Turning
Left or Right: Values in Modern Politics.
Tim graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Policy) and a Masters of
Diplomacy and Trade (International Trade) from Monash University. He has
also completed executive education at Geneva’s Institut de Hautes
Etudes Internationales et du Développement and the World Intellectual
Property Organisation’s Worldwide Academy.
Tim lives with his partner, Ryan.”
Graeme has vast experience and many practical accomplishments to
point to in his years of active service as an advocate for the disabled
and a defender against discrimination. Tim Wilson is an aging Young
Liberal from the IPA who goes on tv a lot.
Wilson did not have to go through any application or interview
process to land this job. George Brandis must have been impressed with
the cut of his jib when they spent an enjoyable evening together at the
IPA’s 70th Anniversary bash in April last year because, as
soon as he had the power, George rang Tim to tell him he had created a
new job for him that would pay well over $300,000 a year and he still
got to do his tv gigs.
Unfortunately, George did not offer any new money to the HRC to take Tim on. Instead, he abolished Graeme’s position.
Andrew Bolt, who was MC for the IPA’s birthday party, in an article titled “In praise of George Brandis”, gives some insight into the reasons behind this decision when he quotes a Brendan O’Neill interview with Brandis.
“He describes the climate-change debate as one of the
‘great catalysing moments’ in his views about the importance of free
speech. He describes how Penny Wong … would ‘stand up in the Senate and
say “The science is settled”. In other words, “I am not even going to
engage in a debate with you”. It was ignorant, it was medieval, the
approach of these true believers in climate change.’ …. And to Brandis,
this speaks to a new and illiberal climate of anti-intellectualism, to
the emergence of ‘a habit of mind and mode of discourse which would deny
the legitimacy of an alternative point of view, where rather than
winning the argument [they] exclude their antagonists from the
You have to be kidding George. The highly-funded denial campaign has
not only had a very loud voice in the media, it has successfully
dictated policy. The opinion that “the science is settled” is shared by
all those not in thrall to the fossil fuel industry.
Your government has systematically gone about removing any voice of
dissent and silencing all argument in every arena. Increasingly you are
hiding what you are doing, not only from the public, but from other
elected representatives. Turning refugees into a military problem to
escape all accountability and oversight is beyond your legitimate
powers. You have no right to act alone, refusing to answer questions
from the Senate.
The O’Neill interview continues…
“The second thing that made him sharpen his pen and open
his gob about the importance of freedom of speech was the case of Andrew
Bolt… In 2010, he wrote some blog posts for the Herald Sun website
criticising the fashion among ‘fair-skinned people’ to claim Aboriginal
heritage, under the headlines: ‘It’s so hip to be black’, ‘White is the
New Black’ and ‘White Fellas in the Black’… They were removed from the
Herald Sun’s website. Anyone who republishes them risks being arrested
and potentially jailed.
Brandis is stinging about this case. The judge ‘engaged in an act of
political censorship’, he says, with a journalist ‘prohibited from
expressing a point of view’. The reason Brandis is so keen to ditch the
bit of the Racial Discrimination Act that allowed such a flagrant act of
ideological censorship to take place in twenty-first-century Australia
is because while it is justified as a guard against outbursts of
dangerous racism, actually it allows the state to police and punish
legitimate public speech and debate. ‘And the moment you establish the
state as the arbiter of what might be said, you establish the state as
the arbiter of what might be thought, and you are right in the territory
that George Orwell foreshadowed’, he says…
Brandis says … he’s bent on overhauling Section 18C … because it
expands the authority of state into the realm of thought, where it
should never tread, he says. ‘…In my view, freedom of speech, by which I
mean the freedom to express and articulate beliefs and opinions, is a
necessary and essential precondition of political freedom.’
How does this gel with your direction to public servants that they may not post opinions critical of government policy on social media and that they should dob in any colleagues who do?
How does it fit in with the fact that Liberal Party MPs ban anyone
who posts links to documents (eg fiscal statements) or makes comments
disproving the rhetoric on their facebook pages?
How does it fit in with new laws outlawing the right to protest?
And could I suggest that Operation Sovereign Borders is as Orwellian as you can get.
I am assuming the 5,500 submissions received about your prosed repeal
of Section 18C is the kind of debate you welcome and that you and your
Freedom Commissioner may learn a few things. One can only hope that you