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