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May 04th 2017 print

Satyajeet Marar

Gillian Triggs, Magnificent Failure

The memory-challenged president of the Australian Human Rights Commission has done the nation a great service, albeit one she never intended. In pursuing a cartoonist and blameless university students she has served as a reminder of free speech and those who seek to crimp it

triggsianI’d like to extend hearty congratulations to Gillian Triggs, mercifully and soon to be the former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, for winning the Voltaire award from Liberty Victoria for defending freedom of speech.

It might seem incredibly odd that such an award be given to someone who has expressed genuine regret — not the ironic kind — that laws such as Section 18C can only be deployed to police public speech, not private dinner-table conversations. The woman to be honoured also presided over the AHRC during the ill-fated Queensland University of Technology case, which saw blameless students locked in a three-year legal battle against a complainant who took issue with their criticism of a computer lab segregated by race, further demanding substantial cash payouts to assuage her hurt feelings. Such is Ms Triggs’ managerial competence that the victims of that complaint were not notified for months that their ludicrously alleged racism had become the subject of official inquiry.

But none of that matters, ofcourse. As is always the case when Ms Triggs gets her facts wrong (funny, but those lapses of memory always seem to serve her purpose of the moment), she has expressed regret “in hindsight” for the commission’s shoddy handling of the QUT affair while still refusing to apologise to the students whose lives have been forever affected. As good parents tell their children, it requires a measure of bravery and decency to apologise. Lesser individuals prefer to “regret in hindsight” the damage they do and leave it at that.

As twisted an irony as it is, Liberty Victoria prefers to ignore Triggs’ history of attempted gagging and thought-policing. The worthies who will hail her have instead elected to give her the award for “work and the courage she has exhibited in the face of very withering criticism from the government from time to time.” Translated, that means anyone who presides over debacle after debacle can still demonstrate merit by staying at their desk and promoting yet even more debacles. It is the equivalent of honouring a person mired in public disgrace who does not ask to be left alone with a revolver.

According to Liberty Victoria, nothing says ‘champion of free speech’ like hanging on to your job and salary when  criticised “from time to time”. This is sure to further inspire every kid who failed to run first, second or third, yet still went home with a “participation award”.

Yet Triggs did show belated courage of a sort by expressing concerns about asylum seekers in detention. Sure, she could have shown a little more courage while avoiding the appearance of partisanship by speaking up during the era of the Labor government, when far greater numbers of families and children were in detention. Better late than never, at least by Liberty Victoria’s partisan reckoning.

There is, however, a golden light to all this, as the Voltaire Award – Liberty Victoria’s version of the Lenin Peace Prize — could not have gone to a more deserving individual. Her gift to the country that has paid her vast salary these past few years came with her broad hint that dinner-table conversations also need to be regulated and she is just the person to do it. Plus there was her unconscionable pursuit of Bill Leak. Those travesties have had the remarkable consequence of triggering an unprecedented debate about Australians’ right to speak freely. This is an immensely important debate, given that our Constitution, unlike America’s, lacks a First Amendment and concedes only a weak and implied right to freedom of political communication. That we are having this loud, public and ongoing conversation is all Ms Triggs’ doing.

Other than making miserable the lives of the innocent, she has highlighted the crimping she champions of free speech, plus the loathsomeness of Section 18C and the need to scuttle it. None of this is what she would have wanted, true, but it is entirely in keeping with her record of blundering, of achieving nothing but vexation and doing so at enormous cost.

So congrats, Gillian, and please keep up the good work. Your words, actions, inactions, false memories, bogus assertions, po-faced retractions and grudging qualifications of sworn tstimony serve as the ultimate demonstration of why it is so important to keep fighting for freedom of speech.

Once again, Ms Triggs, you have failed magnificently.

Satyajeet Marar is a Sydney-based writer and Research Associate for the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. He can be followed on Facebook.

 

Comments [15]

  1. pernicious says:

    What would Voltaire think, I wonder, of this terrible misrepresentation? ‘I disagree with what you have said and will put you to the sword for saying it!’.

    • Wayne Cooper says:

      Perhaps the Triggsian version of Voltaire’s bon mot would be:

      “You may disagree with what I have said, but I will put you to the sword for my right to say it.”

  2. Doc S says:

    Great run-down Satyajeet. That truly despicable woman may have indeed done us all an unintended service with her every action serving to further highlight the crying need to be rid of the loathsome 18c! Big-ups Triggsy!

  3. Bill Martin says:

    One would have thought it impossible to top the appalling audacity and bare-faced falsehood of Gillian Triggs, but Liberty Victoria succeeded brilliant!y. Voltaire, whose name they shamelessly usurped for their award, is reported to have said, and I paraphrase: “I don’t agree with what you are saying, but I will defend to death your right to say it.” Given Triggs’ perfect record of vigorously persecuting people for what they said or drew, makes this a nauseating travesty of decency. Triggs’ “angelic” picture on the cover of the magazine is the revolting icing on the putrid cake.

  4. Patrick McCauley says:

    Yes … thanks Liberty Victoria … Julian Burnside and all the other lefty Barristers and Solicitors who have so valiantly fought the Victorian crime rate through the roof … to help establish car jackings and home invasions as the new black of Melbourne public life. Thanks to the Jon Faines of the legal community of Vic who clearly are doing their best to bring the revolution on and establish Triggs and her Politbureau as the new Stasi. But somehow … it still feels a bit like congratulating Pol Pot on his efficiency in reducing the universities to pulp.

  5. Paul Kennedy says:

    Loving my Subscription – Classics such as “Neo Wowser” and “Grievance Pimp” from Mr Franklin earlier, and this ripper from Satyajeet. Thanks all at Quadrant. I would love to join the folks that are going to wave placards outside the Liberty Victoria Awards Dinner. What’s the arrangement? What can a paint on my placard ? “Vale Bill Leak”? Too subtle for Madame Triggs?

  6. en passant says:

    Satyjeet,
    Great article, even if you were too kind. That is one of the failures of the civilised and evolutionary advanced conservative elements of society. Pity you could not find space to add a few words about Tim Pot, her the deputy sheriff.

    I fully expect that a flood of awards and UN job offers will soon flow her way. Surely she is a shoe-in for any or all of the following?
    1. The Lysenko Medal suppression of truth and science,
    2. The Stalin Key of Freedom of the Gulags
    3. The UN Certificate for Globalist Advocacy
    4. The Socialist Award for the Suppression of Australian Patriotism
    5. The Booker Prize for Imaginative Fiction
    6. The Fabian Society Award for the Suppression of Alternative Thoughts and Innocent Comments resulting in damage to your own society
    7. The Orwell Medal for Newspeak, with a Special Commendation for her liberal use of the ‘Memory Hole’.

    Surely a well-deserved Nobel Prize cannot be far away? It has been so-demeaned in the non-science areas that her record of debacles will be hard to beat
    Will it be the Peace Prize for sowing identity policy disharmony?
    The Literature Prize for creative Report Writing on Illegal Immigrants?
    The Science Prize for the discovery of whole new categories of Rights to be Wronged?

    Most likely, the Nobel Committee will just give her the lot, such are her achievements of going where no Guy has gone before …

  7. Egil says:

    Ms Triggs deserves a statue of her sullen self way north in gulag country where the pigeons could do her justice in the summer months.
    I would chip in for that to happen.

  8. Keith Kennelly says:

    She will pop up as a catastropharian spokesbloke soon. Or get a job with Yasmin the mouths. Or go to work for AGL or one of those energy companies intending to only use renewables.

    Whatever no doubt she’ll be moving to SA or Tasmania to probably buy a beachfront palace.

  9. Jody says:

    Dunno about the “magnificent”.

  10. Warty says:

    Such is the divisiveness in the country, and so many others in the West, that it is as though there are two entirely different narratives running simultaneously. ‘Narrative’ is the term we like to use today, though some twenty thirty years ago, we preferred the term ‘paradigm’, meaning a sort of mental, ideological construct. But which ever one we prefer there remains this great divide.
    A month or so ago, time seems to get away from one these days (something to do with getting old), but a month ago Gillian Triggs was a key-note speaker at one of Bob Brown environmentalist get togethers. She sat between Bob and his fe/male partner, glowing with the ambient adoration. I mean she glowed. And I scratched my head and thought how the flamingo could these drop-kick gits get it all so wrong. But it comes down to what you are fed, isn’t it?
    Just think of it for a bit. You read your largely conservative articles in Quadrant, and we all whole heartedly agree (well, maybe not all: there are a few ring-ins) and we feel kinda uplifted by the shared values we’ve all expressed. And we get the adrenaline buzzing a little when we hoe into the idiots that take a divergent view; the ones introducing some cross fertilisation, a few genetically modified bits of pollen that really ought to remain enclosed in the pink pages of The Age, SMH or Huff and Puff Post (otherwise known as Huffington).
    Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not pointing the finger at others any more than I do at myself. The point is that the Gillian Triggs and Tim Unpronounceable (as Paul Murray calls the git) do just the same, which is why we have the great dividing range we do.
    It is only going to get worse, and believe me, the moderators for The Australian work overtime filtering out the readers’ comments that’d make the odd sailor blush.
    Unfortunately, I firmly believe s.18C, and HRC people only serve to further tighten the pressure cooker lid that will surely do the inevitable, one day.

  11. smithp101 says:

    Over time words become part of common use language, with new meaning. Benedict Arnold for traitor. Gillian Triggs for …

    • Warty says:

      I had to Google Benedict Arnold: an interesting story. As for Gillian Triggs, I suggest the ‘long drop’ for her. Either colloquialism will do, personally, I prefer the ones we had to dig when I did my national service. Should keep her warm through the winter.