Gillian Triggs Just Gave A Brutal Mic Drop On Her Last Day At The Human Rights Commission

"Australia has a government ideologically opposed to human rights."

Gillian Triggs

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During her five-year term as president of the Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs has served alongside four different Prime Ministers and, in her words, has watched human rights across the country “regress”.

Triggs has become an outspoken critic of Australia’s refugee policies, particularly the offshore mandatory detention of refugee children. Her decision to launch an inquiry into the issue led to the Coalition government launching a pretty extraordinary series of attacks on the Human Rights Commission and Triggs herself, even though the Commission criticised both major parties for human rights breaches.

Today is Triggs’ last day in the role and she kicked off her farewell tour with an incredibly blunt interview on ABC Radio National with Fran Kelly.

“We are regressing on almost every front, whether it’s women, Indigenous, homeless, and of course, asylum seekers and refugees,” Triggs said. When Kelly asked why Australia was going backwards on human rights, Triggs answered by saying “I think it’s partly because we have a government ideologically opposed to human rights and I think it’s exacerbated by the distance of most Australians to where these problems are most visible. It’s out of sight out of mind.”

It’s a pretty full-on criticism of the current government’s track record, but Kelly pointed out that almost all the legislation curtailing human rights in Australia, including national security and citizenship laws, “sailed through” parliament with the support of both major parties.

Triggs slammed the suggestion that she had gone soft on Labor and had only focused on the Human Rights Commission’s resources on asylum seeker issues once the Coalition took power in 2013.

“I have absolutely no interest in political partisanship,” Triggs said. “While the Labor government was undeniably detaining children, it was doing so for relatively short periods of time.”

After the 2013 election, Triggs said the Human Rights Commission realised the new government was not going to release children in detention and was holding them for increasingly long periods of time, which is what prompted their inquiry.

Despite the tense political battles surrounding the Human Rights Commission in recent years Triggs said she had “no regrets” and said she hoped in the future the Commission would continue to be “fearless”.

The incoming president of the Human Rights Commission is Professor Rosalind Croucher, the former head of the Law Reform Commission.