A COUPLE of weeks ago I was privileged to be in the audience at Sydney Town Hall as Gillian Triggs, president of the Human Rights Commission, presented Canadian activist and author Naomi Klein with this year’s Sydney Peace Prize, in large part because of the impact of her book This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate.
How ironic that as she did so we all knew that Professor Triggs was in the process of being sacked by the Turnbull government. Ms Klein quite rightly gave Australia’s lack of any real action to combat climate change the middle finger, but we all knew it could just as well have referred to the government’s action to remove the truth telling thorn in its side in the form of Professor Triggs.
The prime minister’s subsequent confirmation that Professor Triggs was not going to be reappointed as president of the Human Rights Commission was the final indignity in a sustained campaign against an eminent Australian.
Professor Triggs has been targeted by the Coalition since 2014 when she commissioned a report, The Forgotten Children, into children in immigration detention. Then prime minister Tony Abbott questioned the timing of the report, labelled it a "political stitch-up" and said his government had lost confidence in the eminent lawyer.
She was subsequently subjected to highly aggressive questioning at Senate estimates hearings, and in October this year inadvertently misled a hearing when she wrongly claimed The Saturday Paper had misquoted her in comments critical of the government. She later apologised and sought to correct the record.
The government has been on a mission against the commission because of its sustained and quite justifiable critique of the government’s Nauru and Manus detention centre policy.
However, the president of the Human Rights Commission deserves our utmost support. In the face of so much "misinformed" criticism by the prime minister and his followers, who all seem to like jumping on the bandwagon without bothering to verify facts, this person stands head and shoulders above almost every politician in the land.
Professor Triggs is a person of obvious intelligence who possesses enormous moral rectitude, something clearly absent from many in our Parliament.
Indeed, if there is one common theme with this Coalition, evident since its early days in 2013, it is the vilification and even dismissal of competent people in public office if they are fearless in their approach to their public duties.
Professor Triggs has faced a series of deliberate, politically motivated attacks for nothing more than doing her job.
Having failed to induce Professor Triggs to resign, the government has resorted to sacking her. She should regard the way she has been treated as a badge of honour. The Australian people owe Professor Triggs an enormous debt of gratitude for her outstanding and courageous work defending human rights in our country.
And yet again Mr Turnbull shows himself to be a craven prime minister who is yet again doing the bidding of the far right of his party.
Many of us suspect that the government’s repeated attacks on Professor Triggs have been designed to soften us up for the appointment of a hard-right ideologue as the new Human Rights Commission president.