Beware the progressivist shadow state: that is the lesson quickly emerging in the aftermath of the Turnbull coup. While the new Prime Minister enjoys a honeymoon by promising to do either everything or nothing while being nice to everyone and offending no one, behind the scenes he is assembling and re-assembling a team of progressivist activists in key positions within the bureaucracy and related federal government bodies. These will complement the network already entrenched, enjoying great power and influence, no direct accountability, large salaries, tenure, and the promise of a golden parachute (frequently into a university professor’s position) should they be dislodged.
While Turnbull acts as front man, placating and manipulating the masses with the help of a compliant media, this shadow state will be tasked with marginalizing all conservative values and institutions and re-constructing Australia in accordance with statist and progressivist values and ideology. Nothing better illustrates this strategy than “the calculated assault on freedom of religious liberty in Australia” launched in the Green-Left dystopia of Tasmania, shamefully accompanied by Turnbull’s deafening silence on the matter.
The most obvious example of a Turnbull-aligned progressivist apparatchik is Mark Scott, managing director of the ABC. Turnbull protected both Scott and the ABC when he was Minister of Communications, and they in turn promoted Turnbull and produced a constant stream of progressivist propaganda. Scott will shortly be replaced under Turnbull, no doubt with another progressivist, further cementing the central agit-prop role of the ABC within the shadow state. Other key appointments will shortly be made to senior bureaucratic positions, starting with the departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Defence, Communications, Treasury, and subsequently to the judiciary, and other more obscure but important government and quasi-government positions. A number of those likely to be appointed have been aligned with the previous Labor administrations and can be expected to reflect Turnbull’s progressivist and statist mindset.
However, the most glaring example of Turnbull’s promotion of the progressivist shadow state and its chief ideologues was his embrace last week of Gillian Triggs, the highly problematic president of the Human Rights Commission. Triggs further discredited herself as a legitimate champion of human rights by launching a series of clearly partisan attacks on the Coalition government under Abbott, especially in the area of illegal immigration. Appointed to a five-year term by the previous Labor government, she made no attempt to hide her political allegiance and even contrived to produce a report on The Forgotten Children that purported to show that the treatment of children in detention centres was inhuman under the Coalition and in breach of Australia’s international obligations — even though the number of children in detention was a tiny fraction of what it had been under Labor, when she had chosen to remain silent on the matter.
Triggs had also made a series of bizarre recommendations for payments of taxpayer-funded compensation, including $350,000 to a refugee who had beat his de facto to death with a bicycle remains in detention to preserve public safety. In 2014, she recommended that $910,000 be paid to five asylum-seekers at Villawood in Sydney after finding that the conditions of their detention were too restrictive, even though they had been involved in riots at Villawood and several faced criminal charges. In 2013, she recommended the government pay a convicted killer $450,000 because she considered his detention “unjust”. She also demanded the government pay $850,000 to four men detained at Christmas Island because they had not been held “in the least restrictive way possible”.
Overall, in just three years, Triggs ordered that $5.9 million in compensation be paid to various complainants, comprising more than half of all the payouts recommended by the Commission on human rights grounds since 1996. Moreover, since she was appointed president in 2012, Triggs recommended compensation in 28 cases, nearly equal to the 32 comparable recommendations made by all her four predecessors combined.
After her questionable judgement and bias became intolerable the Abbott administration announced that she no longer had its confidence. It then attempted to have her accept an alternative senior position, the strategy being to see her in a role where she could do less harm and allow the HRC to function as a trusted, non-partisan voice on human rights. Details of this attempt were leaked along with the intimation that it had been an improper and perhaps illegal approach, severely embarrassing the government. Throughout all of this the ABC defended Triggs and attacked the government.
And yet, only a month after the coup that deposed Abbott, Turnbull invited Triggs to a meeting in his office, pouring her a cup of tea and assuring her that her position was secure under his administration. If you can believe The Age, and on this matter you most certainly can, it was made clear that “the door to the PM’s office has opened” for Triggs. Characteristically, she chose to announce this reconciliation last Wednesday night in her keynote speech at the annual dinner of Refugee Legal (previously, the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre) in Fitzroy, the heartland of the Green-Left in Melbourne, where she received a standing ovation.
Asked what she saw as the likely consequences of the change from Abbott to Turnbull, she declared that, “I think the changes will be profound”, and revealed that “the first thing [Turnbull] said to me, and repeated, was that he hopes to bring cabinet government back in a classical Westminster style, with due process, transparency and the rule of law”. The intimation, of course is that these were all absent under Abbott.
Addressing the assembled throng of lawyers and advocates financially dependent upon refugee- and immigrant-related litigation, Triggs re-assured them that Turnbull’s approach “gives us a lot of encouragement for the future. I feel very optimistic indeed.”
And it seems that she and her peers have a lot to be optimistic about.
Speaking only two days after enjoying tea with Turnbull, Triggs reported that he couldn’t be expected to walk away from the government’s asylum seeker policies any time soon and that “it’s going to be far too difficult to change these policies at an explicit level”. After all, they have been very successful in stopping the people-smuggling trade and enjoy widespread Coalition and public support, whatever Turnbull’s own position might be.
However, they could be undermined by legal action, and Triggs proposed that present government policy could be overturned by mounting a test case on the separation of powers. This would ultimately involve the High Court, where progressivism is entrenched and from which a favourable verdict could be expected. Triggs claimed that decisions about the punitive detention of illegal immigrants and dangerous refugees made by ministers or their bureaucrats violate the principle of the separation of powers. She insisted that matters involving such detention should be for the courts alone. Such an arrangement would effectively thwart government policy and tie matters up in the courts for years, with costs met largely from public funds. Consequently, Triggs told the crowd of refugee advocates and lawyers that:
I’d love to see the constitutional lawyers and people with your experience start to take some of these cases and challenge the extraordinary extent of administrative detention that our ministers believe they have a right to exercise.
In this fashion, Triggs invited lawyers and other activists with a vested interest in the resumption of illegal immigration and people smuggling to commit themselves to a legal campaign to destroy the government’s border control policies. That she felt so emboldened only days after meeting with Turnbull seems hardly coincidental. Rather, it implies a meeting of minds on a key item of the progressivist agenda and the initiation of a Machiavellian strategy designed to relieve Turnbull of a conservative policy that offends his sensibilities and his progressivist constituency.
It appears obvious that Triggs has been brought in from the cold by Turnbull for a very good reason, and she has made their shared mission clear.
Ultimately, however, Triggs and the HRC, and Scott and the ABC, are only the most obvious manifestations of the shadow state. Tragically, they epitomize the present and lamentable condition of liberal democratic societies, where virtually unaccountable agencies committed to progressivist ideology have been established by the state and granted tremendous power and influence, which is then used to undermine and destroy the very values and institutions upon which those societies are founded.