Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs has told the press today that the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill goes too far:
…the broad definition will spark too many lawsuits. She said the words offend and insult “have to go”.
“There is no need to set the threshold so low,” she said. “I would suggest the government consider taking the words ‘offensive’ and ‘insulting’ out (of the legislation). It does raise a risk of increased litigation”.
Professor Triggs said discrimination cases should be based on the higher test of “intimidation, vilification or humiliation”.
That’s all great, but it is completely at odds with the formal representation which the Commission that she heads has made to the Senate – you can read the Commission’s actual submission here. None of the 11 recommendations tackle this question. Indeed, as I pointed out in the Sunday Age last month, the Commission recommends that the bill actually go further, expanding the areas in which offence and insult will be unlawful to any public place.
So what is the Commission’s true view? It’s hard not to guess that they’ve been surprised by the reaction to this highly dangerous, freedom-of-speech-limiting proposal.
After all, they don’t seem to have had a problem with the words offend and insult in the Racial Discrimination Act, the law Andrew Bolt was found to have breached in 2011. They even gave their Human Rights Award that year to Ron Merkel, who acted for the parties suing Bolt in that case.