Freedom commissioner Tim Wilson: method to Abbott’s madness @e2mq173 comments

Errol Brandt

Errol Brandt

Citizen journalist at No Fibs
Errol writes No Fibs political column - From Left Field. He works as an Accountant within the manufacturing sector. He has a strong interest in sustainability and is a member of the ALP. His blog posts are an unusual mix of economic reality with social idealism.
Errol Brandt

@e2mq173

Inner urban, coffee drinking thinking leftie ALP type. FCPA by day, DBA candidate in corporate sustainability by night. Connoisseur of acerbic sarcasm.
Errol Brandt
Errol is a Fellow of the Australian Society of CPAs, has a Bachelor of Commerce, a Masters in Business Leadership and is now working on a Doctorate in Business, where he is researching the barriers to sustainability within the manufacturing sector. Disclosure: Member of the ALP and secretary of the Albert Park/South Melbourne branch.
Tim Wilson: Source IPA

Tim Wilson: Source IPA

By Errol Brandt  @e2mq173

The Abbott government has been kind to its supporters by rewarding a number of them with plum government roles.

The first came as a spiteful act by Julie Bishop. Days before former Victorian Labor premier Steve Bracks was due to start as Consul-General in New York, Julie Bishop cancelled the appointment announced by Foreign Minister Carr in May 2013. The rumoured replacement for this prestigious role is Howard government power-broker Nick Minchin.

ABC journalist (and former ALP member), Barrie Cassidy, was dumped as chair of the innocuous Old Parliament House Advisory Committee. Senator Brandis explained to Cassidy that he has “a strong view” that journalists and politicians should not sit on such boards. Cassidy was then replaced by former Liberal Minister David Kemp.

After her embarrassing defeat in the land-locked Liberal seat of Indi, Sophie Mirabella was rewarded with the role as chairman of the Australian Submarine Corporation.

Former Liberal Minister Peter Costello finally realised his dream and was appointed chair of the Future Fund, following David Gonski’s move to ANZ.

These appointments reek of nepotism.

However, the worst decision by far has been the appointment of Tim Wilson as Human Rights Commissioner for Free Speech. Wilson is former policy director of the influential Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

Earlier this year, the IPA’s 70th anniversary dinner was attended by conservative luminaries such Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart, Andrew Bolt, George Pell and Tony Abbott.  The IPA supports deeply conservative ideas that would be rejected by many Australians. These include privatising the ABC and SBS, cutting corporate tax to 25%, repealing restrictions on nuclear power and introducing voluntary voting.

Tony Abbott has already implemented a number of the IPA’s recommendations, including abolishing the Clean Energy Fund, repealing the mining tax and ceasing support for the Australian car industry.

The IPA’s idea number 82 is: “Abolish the Human Rights Commission”.

And the IPA’s Tim Wilson will now take up a role paying more than $300,000 per year with the organisation he wants abolished.

Adding to the confusion over his appointment was a remark made on his Twitter account.  This tweet was circulated on social media but has been subsequently deleted.

“Walked past Occupy Melbourne protest, all people who think freedom of speech = freedom 2 b heard, time wasters … send in water cannons”

Tim_wilson_IPA

Wilson’s public position on the Human Rights Commission and interpretation of freedom of speech makes him a poor choice for this important role.

The appointment is as ludicrous as appointing an atheist as Pope. There is, however, method to this madness.

This appointment makes sense given the Abbott government’s planned changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

Specifically, Attorney-General George Brandis wants to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. This is the section that makes it unlawful to ‘offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people on racial or ethnic grounds’ .

News Limited commentator Andrew Bolt was found guilty of breaching the act when he published inaccurate and deceptive material on indigenous Australians.  Bolt implied that light-skinned people who identified as aborigines did so for personal gain.

In repealing this section next year, Abbott needs to ensure that there is a strong advocate for free speech cheering for the government from the side.

Who better to do this than the Human Rights Commission for Free Speech Tim Wilson?

Despite neither applying nor interviewing for the role, from Abbott’s perspective Wilson is an excellent appointee, as he can be relied upon by the government as a slick media commentator who is willing to support Brandis’ controversial change.

Stand by for Wilson’s regular appearances on Channel 10’s Bolt Report.

Wilson’s appointment goes beyond ‘jobs for the boys’. It is a tactical appointment intended to stifle public debate around a controversial change to a legal protection for ethnic groups.

Remember that it was the Abbott government that refused to appoint women to the cabinet on anything other than merit. In this case, merit appears to be the ability to refrain from criticising the government. Those with practical experience in defending freedom of speech need not apply.

What next – Rupert Murdoch as chairman of the ABC?

 

Update:
The poll has been removed due to interference from Australia’s leading libertarian and centre-right blog.
Thanks for your support though.

 

Comments


  1. The way abbott does things, like this appointment, the only surprise would be if he stopped .


    • Odd that there wasn’t similar outrage when the ALP made countless political appointments of Union and party hacks. Look at the stacking of Fair Work. Do you seriously believe that progressives and militants have a right to publicly funded roles? TW’s appointment seems perfectly reasonable given Gillian Triggs’s failure to run the HRC.


      • Given Tim Wilson is meant to be against government largesse, it’s a bit much that he’s accepting a cushy $300k role – as hypocritical as the libertarian party who used a deceptive name to pretend they were the Liberal Party, got donkey voted into parliament, and then had the gall to claim the electoral funding they in no way earned.

        He’s no longer just a mouthpiece of big business – he’s now a sellout and a hypocrite.


  2. Thanks Errol. Re Brandis, I assume you’ve looked at the ToR for his proposed law reforms on freedoms? I have to say I found reading them hard going – akin to Doublespeak straight out of 1984! Would love to hear your interpretation / translation and perhaps, predictions of how you think all that is likely to play out …
    For those who haven’t read them, see
    http://www.attorneygeneral.gov.au/Mediareleases/Pages/2013/Fourth%20quarter/11December2013-NewAustralianLawReformInquiryToFocusOnFreedoms.aspx


  3. The Left really hate it when one of their jobs goes to someone who isn’t of the Left. They really really hate the idea of diversity of opinion. Their idea of diversity is for people from different ethnic backgrounds all preaching Leftist platitudes. But have a gay man who provides a non-Left view, then out he must go. So much for democracy.

    Strange how the above diatribe didn’t mention Abbott appointing Spot the Destroyer or Greg Combet. That would ruin the narrative. Maybe the big bad Abbott isn’t as bad as the Left would have us believe.

    • Errol Brandt says:

      Have to disagree with you Johno – the appointment of Costello to the Future Fund actually makes sense. Mirabella’s appointment is also not so bad – she’s vaguely qualified and can be guaranteed not to do any serious policy damage in that role. Labor also supported the appointment of former Deputy PM Tim Fischer to the Vatican.

      My issue is with a clear tactical appointment of the IPA’s Tim Wilson. This takes ‘jobs to the boys’ for a new low.

      • anotherbryanfromperth says:

        Yeah having Tim as the token libertarian from the right versus six appointments from the left is definitely unfair and should be vociferously protested.

        • Errol Brandt says:

          Have any of the ones from the left called for water cannons to be used, or for the Human Rights Commission to be abolished?


          • Perhaps consider the rationale for the IPA’s call to abolish the HRC – its because the HRC has been consistently operating outside its mandated purpose and ignoring the human rights issues it should be addressing. Neither the IPA or TW disagree with the notion of fundamental human right, so much so that they have noticed the ineffectiveness of the HRC and have therefore been strong advocates for fixing that problem. Human rights will be better served if it was disbanded and the funds redirected to more effective organizations.

            BTW, as a society we do support the right to peaceful protest, but not when it becomes continuously disruptive to the good law abiding citizenry – citizens also have a right to go about their daily lives without continuous disruption.


      • You mean jobs for the boys like the ALP handing Bracks, a state premier who specialises in industry handouts, a consul general role?

        How about giving Tim Matheson a paid gig despite having zero qualifications while his girlfriend was PM?

        A new low? Give us a break Errol!


    • The left hate it when the right appoint people to positions on organisations which they actually oppose the very existence. The right abolish Labor appointments because they say they are Labor jobs for the boys or just political and then they go and do the same themselves, ten times over, and appoint morons.

      • Errol Brandt says:

        This was the government that told us that they appoint on merit. Of course what they say and what they do aren’t always the same.

        • Joe Goodacre says:

          Errol, how is appointing Tim to the HRC is comparable to appointing an Atheist to Pope? Everything Tim talks about is about defending rights and freedoms, which is what the HRC is meant to be about. Tim has written extensively on the topic – from a viewpoint that corresponds to how rights and freedoms were historically perceived since Magna Carta. What makes a merit based upon if he’s contributions to this area aren’t sufficient? Peter Costello balanced budgets successfully for years as treasurer and was instrumental in setting up the Future Fund – why is his appointment not based on merit?

          Regarding removal of the poll – this is your blog and your property meaning that you’re free to restrict others speech in any way you like. It is interesting though, that removing it after a Libertarian site recommended it means that it’s not a poll on what anyone thinks, but only a poll of people who already agree with you. Heard of confirmation bias?

          • Errol Brandt says:

            Thanks Joe, and it’s good to finally read a respectful and considered comment from somebody who disagrees with my argument.

            An atheist doesn’t believe in the existence of God. Hardly a good choice as Pope. Tim, through his IPA policy work, does not believe in the existence of the HRC. If I were Tim, I’d feel uncomfortable accepting an appointment to organisation that I have been advocating to abolish. Unless of course, this was the opportunity to do so.

            Tim may have form in this area, but he’s not alone. I am suggesting this his appointment is at the political convenience of George Brandis – not based on his contribution to the subject, but I’m happy if you could show me evidence to the contrary.

            If you see my other comments, I actually think Costello is a good choice for the Future fund. I don’t understand why he was denied this role in the first place.

            I removed the poll once it was clear that Catallaxy was encouraging its readers to generate a false result. I’m trying to get the results by IP Address to find out just how distorted it had become. It’s not about confirmation bias, it’s about understanding what the readers of No Fibs thinks is interesting.

            Catallaxy is welcome to run a poll on their site, but they are not welcome to ruin ours. Their readers should take note of the advice that’s on their site:

            *By the way: the Internet is not public property. It’s a collection of various sites, most of which are privately owned. You do not have free speech rights on private property. It’s amazing how many ‘libertarians’ don’t get that.

            I find the polls useful to understand the kind of issues people want to read.


          • Errol, you are confusing/conflating the HRC with HRs per se. The HRC is an ideological/bureaucratic construct. Each appointed (N.B.) member has their own ideological position on what a human right is, what its relative importance is, what it’s function in society is, and how it should be manifested and disseminated from the HRC outward. What each society considers to be a core HR may differsomewhat from society to society. Many Japanese may value social cohesion above other “rights”, many Americans freedom of individual action. All societies on the planet may consider “a child may not be maliciously seriously hurt” as a fundamental HR. Freedom of expression as an HR is, (in watery contrast to other much more valuable HRs) on an ideological opinion spectrum, ranging from “say anything you want about anybody anytime and accept the consequences” to ” say nothing about anybody at anytime that may offend anyone anywhere anytime”. As such it is less a HR than an agreed mode of public behaviour. Each extreme has its dangers (with the latter in my opinion leaning too much to totalitarian/fascist control and therefore inherently far more dangerous to society) but, on balance, in my opinion (and isn’t what this freedom of speech HR definition is all about???) being able to say things which some may find offensive (yet another matter of opinion) is far more conducive to a free society than micro-management/judgement of every statement by a panel of Vyshinsky-s. To cut a longwinded reply short, it is just as morally upright to appoint a libertarian like Tim Wilson to the panel as it would be to appoint anyone else. See how he performs in the job for a while and THEN carp if you must. That’s your (human) right in a free society.


  4. You can vote multiple times on the straw poll above so it can be manipulated: quite a strange result at this stage.

    • Errol Brandt says:

      The Poll Daddy poll has been set up to block multiple votes based on cookies. I’ll change it to block by cookie and IP address. That’s about as sophisticated as it gets.


    • So strange that people don’t agree with you? Could only be a conspiracy to manipulate the results!

      • Errol Brandt says:

        The poll has been manipulated by our friends at catallaxyfiles.com and has now been taken down. I’m chuffed they cared enough to rig the poll.

        Although they like freedom of speech, they’re just not so keen on free and fair polls.


        • Sorry but I am cynical it just wasn’t going your way. Are you able to post screen grabs or similar of any evidence of mass voting and what the preliminary results were? A link to the survey from Cattalaxy is in and of itself not a reason to suspend it simply because their audience exceeds yours.

          • Errol Brandt says:

            Mack, take a look at the comments at http://catallaxyfiles.com/2013/12/22/vote-for-tim/comment-page-1/ This a call for stacking the poll to represent a particular point of view. I have no issue if people don’t support the argument, but voting multiple times and encouraging others to do the same is just as reprehensible as ALP branch stacking, or Belke-Petersen’s gerrymander.

            Free speech means allowing others to hold different views, not simply trying to drown out the opposition. I have no problem discussing a well reasoned argument the points against that I’ve made. All I’ve seen today is ‘Labor did it, so should we’.

            Shouldn’t we aspire for more than that?


        • Another blog linking to your poll is usually the ambition bloggers aspire to, but you fear it as an attempt to rig the poll. This is quite a strange reaction. A statistician would say it is increasing the sample size.

          May I suggest that if you are running polls to find out what readers are interested in you need to reconsider the approach. Maybe highlight the purpose and how you will use the result, and take care to better word the question to support the purpose.

          • John Fraser says:

            <

            Nothing wrong with another Blog linking to another.

            But its trolling to ask your readership to skew the poll.

            And coming from a site that has this posted :

            "*By the way: the Internet is not public property. It’s a collection of various sites, most of which are privately owned. You do not have free speech rights on private property. It’s amazing how many ‘libertarians’ don’t get that".

            "Murdoch and Abbott lied to Australians".

          • Errol Brandt says:

            Agree John – trolling it is. Obviously the right is very sensitive about this issue.

  5. David Black. says:

    He seems to be a very capable young man. The calibre of the people who are foaming in rage at his appointment makes a telling endorsement.

    • Errol Brandt says:

      Thanks David. He may well be a very capable young man. Would have been nice to have seen if there were any others with better credentials.


  6. Looks like an ok appointment to me. Freedom if speech is fundamental and it is strange to see the coalition of people who are opposed to it.

    • Errol Brandt says:

      Thanks for your comment Rafe, even though I’d expected you to have said that.


      • Thanks Errol. I think we need to have a civil discussion about a few issues. One is where to draw the line on free speech, and what sort of legislation is required to specify the limits. Clearly certain kinds of free speech are illegal during wartime, also on grounds of libel etc. Is there a need for laws designed to limit hate speech?

        And if we are concerned about hate speech and denigration of people, when are decent people on the left going to call out the people who trade in obscene jokes and cartoons and abuse of people like John Howard and Tony Abbott?

        • Errol Brandt says:

          Agree Rafe. This discussion is well overdue in Australia but Tim Wilson is not the man to lead it. Sensible discussion does not require any mention of water cannons.


          • “Sensible discussion does not require any mention of water cannons.”

            Surely, Errol, the seemingly cynically emotive allusions in your post, such as: “spiteful act”, “reek of nepotism”, “cheering for the government”, etc., are also hardly conducive to sensible discussion on the issues relating to whether or not there is merit in appointing an advocate of free speech to the Human Rights Commission. Can you point to your analysis and/or any sensible discussion of the merits of the other appointees to the HRC over these past few years?


  7. <

    Apparently 30% of the Australian print MSM is reporting that the IPA candidate did not have to undergo a job interview, presented no previous job qualifications and received a direct phone call from A.G. Brandis offering him the job.

    So much for a business case model being presented to the Australian taxpayer.


  8. Rumour is that Mirabella was offered the position of Chairman of the Australian Submarine Corporation by Centrelink. Unconfirmed at this stage.

  9. John Fraser says:

    <

    Memo from The Acting Prime Minister

    Dear Errol Brandt,

    Please try to understand that I am trying to please all of those (people of calibre) who supported Tony in his endeavours to claim the position of titular head of Australia.

    If you could "adopt" a "catholic" attitude to the "children" of Australia then I am sure you will "educate" them in our "heritage" and start assisting to "clean up the mess" that has been left and understand that the "economy" is an "emergency" taking up a lot of our time.

    Should anything more come up you will be contacted via my representative who is currently holidaying in Paris.

    Peta Credlin

  10. Eva Makowiecki says:

    Who remembers when John Howard appointed Janet Albrechtson to the ABC Board? Now Tim Wilson to the HRC? Talk about Dracula in charge of blood bank!

    Left and right wing politics notwithstanding, putting someone in an organisation he was committed to destroying, and making it a direct Government appointment without advertising or any merit selection, makes a very strong statement of the Government’s commitment (not) to human rights. It doesn’t really matter what point the Government was trying to make. The only message that will get through is that the Government has contempt for the HRC. And of course, they won’t talk about it. Anyone seen a Government Minister on television recently?

  11. Jill Storch says:

    It seems the only ones the Abbott government think they can ‘depend’ on is the military. The ultimate insult to all Australians will be when a retired ex-Defence person is appointed to the G-G position in 2014 to ensure the military will be able to then be counted on and deal with any dissent from the masses.


  12. Thank you all for a vital discussion today! Saracmoles’ link validates her comment. Like many others I am troubled by the consistency with earlier statements and recall of facts of the Attorney General. Another minister who I shall not name out of genuine fear of persecution has, er, uttered a terminological inexactitude over West Papua asylum seekers recently. What can we say? Has this become a rhetorical question? Has free non-vilifying speech become a privilege for “people of calbre” in the proverbial 5 eyes anglosphere – whatever that is, or was, in Bob Menzies’ or BA Santamaria’s day?

  13. Bruce the wonder dog says:

    give me a break, the Govt media and institutions are stacked to the ceiling with leftist appointments, so one or 2 from the right are long overdue. Tim has long spoken of the central role of the right of free speech in allowing one to argue for all of the other human rights. And rather than criticising him for accepting the job in an institution the IPA wants dismantled, why not applaud him for entering the lions den to reform it? If the left are really so upset by that aspect, where were the howls when Quentin Bryce argued for a Republic whilst in the post of GG??


  14. I don’t know what all the fuss is about! The majority of Australians in our DEMOCRACY voted for a change, away from the socialist left to a more conservative style of government. Actually expect this conservatism to pervade all levels of government and to ” give it a fair go” . If it fails we reserve the right to vote them out but the right do actually deserve a fair go. No matter what side we
    “dress” it is hard to conclude anything other then the Labor government of the last few years has been a fiasco and even regardless of this, we the majority, have votede for a change of direction and the minority have no right to expect otherwise, to do so is to scorn our political system. You might not like it but “suck it up princess”, conservative voters (ast in, most of us) have had to cop the stacking of Quangos for years and have been just expected to cop it. The boot is on the other foot now and results will speak for themselves. I for one welcome Wilson’s appointment, if only for the symbolism.

  15. John Fraser says:

    <

    "The poll has been removed due to interference from Australia’s leading libertarian and centre-right blog. Thanks for your support though.".

    I'm impressed the IPA sees No Fibs as a serious threat.

    Mind you the "Comments" from them are seriously lacking any substance …. but wtf, getting more "hits" increases the revenue flow and will help No Fibs to continue the good work they are doing.

    No one has ever gone broke calling the extreme right wing evangelists dumb.

    "Murdoch and Abbott lied to Australians".


    • Clearly the libertarians see this place as a threat, given how many of them have come here to be fan bois for Tim’s narrow and antiquated human rights agenda.

      I didn’t see Andrew Bolt in handcuffs for being deliberately offensive (and stating lies), yet all these one track records calling themselves libertarians (they’re just hard right but like to think of themselves as special) say nothing of Fairfax journalists being threatened with jail by Gina Rinehart for not divulging their sources.

      John Howard must be thrilled at how many simpletons have taken up his contrived culture wars as a sincere and important problem.


  16. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.
    The outliers in society shocked.
    Tim one of the main defenders of free speech when ex minister “red underpants” attacked.
    Appointed to role to defend free speech.
    I know some think their free speech is more important than others.
    However most Australians want to say what they think, even if it offends some people.
    To those that don’t accept this attitude. “Grow up” become an adult.


  17. Thanks Errol for the piece, and Tony for reopening the shutters after the storm has passed.

    I want to discuss some meta issues here, as this episode hopefully contains some useful clues about the online world in general and blog / forum formats in particular, in the present environment.

    Firstly, polls are useless – actually, worse than useless – in this context. What regular NoFibs readers think is clear enough from their interest in reading and their substantive comments. All offering a poll does – with a way too small sample base to have any significance anyway – is invite those with diametrically opposed views to skew the hell out of it, QED, so you get this silly left/right battle scenario which has no utility at all.

    As one example from Catallaxy – yes I plumbed some of the depths, same old stuff, I’m mostly immune – is their poll on which organisations their readers support by membership or donations, here:

    https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1sZAcT6eLd3EQvtrlhGwCVns_Hpe_yeoR19tYHr4k2Uk/viewanalytics

    No surprises there, but it’s a classic self-referential poll amongst a given class of users. Would it have made any difference tp anything had a bunch of NoFibsers boosted the vote for, say, the Australia Institute or Friends of the ABC? I expect not.

    Even the thumbs up / down stuff, introduced along with infantile emoticons and such in the BBS / forum world many years ago and now perpetuated by the likes of Facebook, does disservice to any serious publication I believe, and also invites similar gang swoop attacks – again as demonstrated.

    Lefties and greenies got into the online game early and drove some agendas through it long before the right woke up, but at least half woken up they have, and the effectiveness of such as polls, petitions and “click here to save the world” posts – examples of which I receive several times per week lately – has just about vanished.

    This thinking spawned Getup and Avaaz and a lately ever expanding universe of organisations forming largely self-serving little bureaucracies, all competing for the same oxygen. Time for some new analysis, methinks, because that sort of advocacy just isn’t going to carry much if any weight in present circumstances. You can’t blockade from the living room.

    As for post moderation, yes it is necessary on any site that definitively wants to present points of view within an at least loosely defined ‘position’. Let them squark about ‘free speech’, especially galling from those who advocate or support turning water cannons onto people freely expressing points of view, and freedom of association, that they find alarming.

    Many a once good site, notably the ABC sites and some of the less disciplined Climate Science sites, have been rendered all but useless by the relentless left/right commentary warriors. I hope NoFibs has more sense, despite ongoing barbs, because it’s an important venue, and I hope ways of non-intrusive sponsorship and support will be found.

    Best, Ian

    • Errol Brandt says:

      Thanks Ian. Wise feedback.

      I have written a piece that addresses many of your points. I’ll not send that for review until after Christmas.

      The polls were my experiment. They have been useful for me on other sites, but for No Fibs I see now that they detract, not augment the story.

      I have one more poll in mind, but after that I’ll not do them again. That, along with tightening of the moderation process, should help keep No Fibs in a different league to those other sites.


  18. i’ve experienced this scenario before, in America, with the election of Nixon – what will Abbott’s Watergate be, I wonder -

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