In an interesting article ($) today in The Australian, Paul Kelly reports that the Coalition is considering reforming the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to restore some balance to the organisation.
Coalition Shadow Attorney General George Brandis repeated many of the criticisms the IPA has been making of the AHRC: that it selectively defends human rights, it has campaigned to restrict free speech, and that it appears to have little interest at all in liberal rights such as freedom of association and property rights.
THE Australian Human Rights Commission is slated for far-reaching changes in its culture, priorities and operational methods under a Coalition government, with opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis determined to transform the debate about human rights in Australia.
That puts the AHRC at the top of the cultural change list. Brandis believes the Left’s once commanding ascendancy over the human rights domain is now eroding because of overreach and a popular backlash.
Explaining to The Australian the approach he would take, Brandis said: “What I want to see is more attention to all rights, not just rights the political Left finds to be ideologically appealing. What’s happened with the Human Rights Commission is that its functions arise from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights but with the passage of time more instruments have been added, particularly arising from (International Labour Organisation) conventions. The commission has become far more focused on anti-discrimination or what might be called industrial rights in the workplace. But the international covenant puts an equal emphasis on traditional rights of speech, association, worship and freedom of the press. And these are not being addressed. We will expect the commission to give proper attention to its charter.
“The recent Roxon bill is the natural result of this ideological progression and focuses almost entirely on only one category of human rights. It is the ideological climax of this trend. There is nothing in the human rights draft legislation about protecting traditional human rights and freedoms.” Such is the hijacking of the human rights concept and the extension of this agenda for the Left’s political purposes. Brandis predicts the Roxon bill “will never see the light of day”, that Labor will discard it, given the political backlash, and any Coalition government would not proceed with it. He raised with Triggs the idea for a new commissioner within her organisation – a freedom commissioner, given that she now has five anti-discrimination commissioners. They seemed to agree on this. The point, however, is that any Coalition government razor gang will be cutting, not expanding, the commission overall.
The IPA has previously called for the abolition of the AHRC. We will have more to say on this topic going forward.