While Tim Wilson is busy wooing the voters of Melbourne’s leafy beachside suburbs, the government is using his former position as Human Rights Commissioner as yet another front to attack the Labor Party — but Attorney-General George Brandis probably needs to have a look at his own backyard before having a spray on human rights. In a statement yesterday Brandis attacked Labor for committing to leave the role empty if it formed government, while making the Disability Commissioner role full time: “It shows how little Labor cares about our fundamental political freedoms, including freedom of speech, opinion, religion, association and freedom of the press, that it is once again proposing to abandon this role.”

If Freedom Boy was a sign of the Coalition’s commitment to free speech and freedom of the press, we shouldn’t be too disappointed that Labor wouldn’t re-fill the role. During the last two years of this government, we have ended up with mandatory data retention, the gagging of professionals working with asylum seekers in detention and security laws making it illegal to report on ASIO’s special intelligence operations. While Wilson argued for better safeguards for data retention, we still ended up with the laws.

Brandis also announced that the government has decided on who will replace Wilson, as well as new disability and age discrimination commissioners, to be announced next week.

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“Yesterday, the Turnbull Government decided to appoint an eminently qualified Australian to be the next Human Rights Commissioner.

“As well, the Government yesterday decided to appoint two other eminent Australians to the positions of Disability Discrimination Commissioner and Age Discrimination Commissioner, respectively. The appointment of three new commissioners will give the Australian Human Rights Commission its full complement of Commissioners.

“The appointees will be announced next week following consideration by the Governor-General at Executive Council.”

While the process to appoint new commissioners was started more than a month ago, the final announcement is due in what is likely to be the final week before the government enters caretaker mode.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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