Testing the thesis . . . Disdain for the importance of human rights (continued)
And now something about the dramatis personae – two of them to be precise.
First is George Henry Brandis QC, briefly Minister for the Arts and Sport in 2007 until the Howard Government was defeated in the 2007 election, Abbott Government’s Attorney-General, Minister for the Arts, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, confirmed as Attorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader in the Senate by Prime Minister Turnbull.
Brandis was schooled by disciples of St. Augustine, he of the ‘Lord make me pure but not yet!’ – at Villanova College – motto: ‘[Omnia] Vincit veritas = Truth conquers all’, located in Coorparoo, a southern suburb of Brisbane; he went to the University of Queensland where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, and a Bachelor of Laws. He served as Associate to Justice Sheahan of the Queensland Supreme Court. He was then selected as a Commonwealth Scholar and went to the University of Oxford where he obtained a Bachelor of Civil Law from Magdalen College.
It is not known how and/or where he acquired the kind of hauteur – haughtiness, arrogance, high horse, bumptiousness – with which he customarily addresses ‘commoners’. He seems to be treating them tamquam de merda geretur, freely translated, as if dealing with shit. No matter. He once was seen ostensibly engrossed, reading a book of poetry during a Senate Committee hearings, to which he should have paid attention.
In that way, he always appears flottant littéralement au-dessus de la mêlée = literally floating as if keeping himself above the fray, as it becomes one who has his eyes on the High Court, one day.
Next comes Christos ‘Chris’ Moraitis PSM, a senior Australian ‘public’ servant, currently Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department. He holds Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees from the University of Melbourne and a Masters of International Law from the Australian National University. He was admitted to practice in Victoria as a Barrister and Solicitor in 1988. From November 2002 to December 2006 Moriatis held the position of Senior Legal Adviser in the Department. Between 2006 and 2009, he was Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea. In April 2013 he was appointed a Deputy Secretary at the Foreign Affairs Department, serving less than 18 months in the role before being chosen in September 2014 to head the Attorney-General’s Department, his first appointment outside the Foreign Affairs Department since he commenced his ‘public’ service career.
On 24 February 2015 Professor Triggs testified that Moraitis had approached her on 3 February 2015 with a request from the Attorney-General. She was requested to resign her position as President of the Australian Human Rights Commission – a statutory role from which she could not be removed without proof of criminal misconduct. In return for her resignation, with two and a half years still to run of her five-year role, Moraitis specifically said that Brandis would make available another position – a senior role reflecting her expertise in international law, although – Brandis had said – he had “lost confidence in her.”
In the common language spoken at the market, among low-lifers, ‘people who make offers which cannot be refused’, had she accepted she would have been “looked after”.
Indignantly, Professor Triggs ‘refused the offer’. “I thought it was a disgraceful proposal”.
Disgraceful? Another word comes to mind: inducement.
Now, there is a civil definition for it – as in ‘inducement to breach a contract’, as well as a criminal – as in ‘the motive, or that which leads an individual to engage in criminal conduct’.
In the case, the latter would precisely define ‘the state of play’. At the market it would be called ‘bribery’. By the first law-officer of the country, the Attorney-General, through his own ‘public servant’? There was even the added farce of a briefcase, allegedly containing notes of the ‘offer-not-accepted’, which was appearing and dis-appearing depending on the need: farcical?, burlesque?, make it farcesque.
The Abbott Government: a band of pompous ignoramuses? or a troupe of Mafiosi?
Even the Abbott Government realised that it had to appear as doing something about children in detention. So it commissioned its own independent review into the treatment of asylum seekers in detention.
Unfortunately the review by the former integrity commissioner Philip Moss not only confirmed everything that the Human Rights Commission had reported, but went further – thanks in no small part to its authors being able to investigate Nauru. The ‘Moss Review’ confirmed that the abuse was rife there, that the mental and physical health was poor, and that entire families – including children – were sleeping in un-air-conditioned vinyl tents, with little privacy and precious little safety. The ‘Moss Review’ was released with little fanfare on 20 March 2015. (‘Review into recent allegations relating to conditions and circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru’).
The Abbott Government also had another plan: the militarisation of customs services through the Border Force Act, which – among many other things – made it illegal for any workers in detention centres to report abuse, complete with a two-year jail sentence for doing so. Teachers and doctors were specially outraged, pointing out that they are actually obliged under law to report any suspicion of child abuse and can be prosecuted for failing to do so. A supine Labor Opposition, even though having been given barely any time to read the proposed legislation, supported it and thereby allowed it to pass in May. The Australian Border Force is the agency charged with border protection and ‘national security’ duties. It was established on 1 July 2015 after the merger of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and some parts of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. The A.B.F. officers are also now equipped with firearms and wear a different uniform.
An open letter, signed by more than forty current and former detention centre staff on Manus Island and Nauru, was published on 1 July 2015, the day the Border Force Act came into effect. The forty staff confirmed that they had witnessed abuse of children in detention; they demanded that the government remove all children from offshore detention and challenged the government to prosecute the signatories for speaking out. Nothing happened. (Australian Border Force Act (No. 40 of 2015), assented on 20 May, 2015).
Tomorrow: Testing the thesis . . . Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause (continued)
* In memory of my friends, Professor Bertram Gross and Justice Lionel Murphy.
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975 he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra. He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.