The following is a snippet of Tim Wilson’s persuasive essay framed to convince us all he is a suitable candidate. Do read the article in full (it is quite short) if you haven’t yet done so.
The Australian Human Rights Commission is statutorily charged with promoting the principles within the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. That obligation is entirely consistent with my view that the government’s role is to create the legal framework to preserve and protect traditional human rights, such as free speech, association, movement, worship, property rights and self-determination.
Those who have read Love versus Goliath or followed this site since inception will know I have a deep and abiding love for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It was the provisions of the ICCPR that allowed me to lodge a case with the AHRC in relation to my husband’s visa. I don’t apologise for using my own situation as an example – it is one I know intimately and can speak about knowing the facts.
Here is Tim Wilson, whose ideologies I queried recently as being unsuitable for the job of a Human Rights Commissioner, sounding very like myself. So why am I not convinced? Because it is very easy to sound convincing when selling concepts and ideas. Practice is a different matter.
What is the difference between his approach and mine to protecting “traditional” human rights? I suggest it is in the interpretation of the provisions by each of us as individuals with different fundamental values and beliefs.
Mark Fletcher very kindly provided the detail of the freedom of expression provision of the ICCPR:
Article 19 relates to the notorious ‘freedom of expression’:
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals. [Source]
Now here is where Tim and I diverge. He declares Section 18 C of the Racial Discrimination Act must go because it restricts paragraph 2 above. I believe it must stay because of paragraph 3. Who is right?
What about Article 17?
1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.
2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
I see Section 18 C as ensuring the above provision is protected.
Then let us look at the article that I sought help with, Article 23.
1. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
2. The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized.
3. No marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
4. States Parties to the present Covenant shall take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. In the case of dissolution, provision shall be made for the necessary protection of any children.
Let’s just look at Article 1 (in conjunction with the above article).
1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
So the ICCPR protects the right to marry and implies I can choose (self-determination) my own spouse.
Yet the ideological framework which Tim subscribes to did not support me. Why? Readers can draw their own conclusions without my needing to spell it out, I think. The fees are now prohibitive for many to marry the one of their choice if that person is not Australian.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has a similar marriage provision.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
You see, we can all interpret these provisions based on our own values and beliefs. If we look at my Word of the Day: Voluntarism investigation we can see that one word alone has many meanings. We can also wrap these provisions up in other legislation that qualifies the provisions and that is where debate can really rage (such as over Section 18 C).
Appointing Tim Wilson (sans merit-based selection process, sans bipartisan support) shows that Brandis doesn’t understand the ideological ground for the Human Rights Commission. This isn’t about protecting the ‘rights’ of the Bolts, tobacco companies, and unions; this is about protecting the people who don’t have many other options. If the Left wants to protect the Human Rights Commission (and I think it should), then it needs to get over its squeamishness about engaging with ideology.
I agree with him. The AHRC is about protecting individuals from those people, groups or entities that would trample them. I’m not of the left or, these days, of the right, but I do appreciate different ideologies. I hope the human species can be mature enough to take the best of the various ideologies to the benefit of ALL, not just a few. Self-determination is, I believe, a basic human right. The powers-that-be can’t cherry pick what aspects suit them and exclude others if our choices aren’t the choices they would make.
They can’t cherry pick what restrictions are applicable under Article 19 either. Different ideologies exist. Neither “side” can claim to have the correct ideology and those who refuse to enter into debate are being shortsighted. The left seem to interpret self-determination as an ideology of self-interest at the expense of the society, whereas the right interpret self-determination as an ideology of not being dictated to by more powerful groups or entities (such as government departments), but this should not be at the expense of the society as a whole. For example, we don’t allow one to self-determine to murder people.
As for rights more generally, Tim went on to say:
A practical example is Wednesday’s decision by the High Court on the rights of unions to donate to political parties. From a human rights perspective, the NSW laws preventing any collective of individuals seeking to speak through a common voice – unions, environmental groups, businesses and non-profits – from donating to a political party violated freedom of speech and association.
To its credit the court unanimously struck down the NSW government’s restrictions on the basis that they “impermissibly burden the implied freedom of communication on governmental and political matters, contrary to the Commonwealth constitution”.
The court’s decision is important because it affirms the right to free political communication that the court found was implied in Australia’s constitution two decades ago.
All good stuff, yes? Nice appeal to the left to allow unions to donate. But let’s be clear here. There is a BIG difference between freedom of communication on governmental and political matters (a case I am sure Michaela Banerji is pleased to hear about) and ethnic vilification. Of course, vilification does contravene paragraph 3 of Article 19. Political discourse does not, PROVIDED the communicators play the ball and not the player. So the above example is really not about allowing columnists to vilify people publicly.
Did I misjudge Tim Wilson’s suitability for Freedom Commissioner? We shall see, shall we not? I’ve stated what I expect to see him work for if he is REALLY into the ICCPR provisions and not just into them to protect the rights of others to vilify the less powerful. I’m not convinced his background or personal values and beliefs allow him too understand the provisions as they are intended.
What about Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Well, you see, Tim just resigned his membership of the party who is, as far as I am concerned, ignoring this provision totally. Oh, you say, his interest is the ICCPR? I didn’t see either of the provisions below from the ICCPR mentioned in his article in relation to the people on Nauru or Manus, or the children being born without a nationality in Australia, even though both are hot topics currently.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.
1. Every child shall have, without any discrimination as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property or birth, the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society and the State.
2. Every child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have a name.
3. Every child has the right to acquire a nationality.
I remain skeptical, despite Tim’s persuasive essay. Another concern I have is the emphasis on “traditional” rights. Once upon a time owning slaves was a “traditional” right but as we learn, evolve and mature socially we deem some rights abhorrent and determine new rights for the benefit of humanity. I didn’t see any of that in Tim’s essay.