Most of you would know that we have a Constitution that—not really so long ago—denied the rights of some of our most vulnerable citizens. It gets away with being silent on fundamental rights by outlining the separation of powers—rights protection through process.

There are 3 arms that balance each other out to make sure that the government—as a whole—does the right thing:

  • elected Parliament, which passes laws—the Legislature. This is the democratic bit
  • administrative decision makers, to implement those laws—the Executive (most know it as the public service)
  • courts that review either the laws or the decisions—the Judiciary.

Each arm is independent—and they kick in to limit the powers of other arms when the balance is starting to tip. I think of it like a wheel with three spokes that meet in the middle. When one of the spokes gets too long, the whole car stops.

(Yes, clearly I know a lot about physics and cars.)

As part of the executive, we have the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)—its president is Professor Gillian Triggs. Among other things, the AHRC is there to make sure that the legislature keep human rights in mind in their lawmaking processes.

Our current Minister for Immigration and Border Protection—a senior member of the elected Parliament is promoting policies that:

  • strip Australians of their citizenship, if ‘the government’ thinks they may be terrorists (and by ‘government’ he means himself…)
  • support and strengthen Australian laws that enable inhumane treatment for people waiting to be confirmed as refugees.

They don’t necessarily want courts getting in the way.

The resulting social media conversation would imply that these laws do not have our support.

Now that courts have been told to go away—and can’t really do much without a formal challenge—the AHRC has kicked in to start a conversation and get the wheel back into shape. Just like it should.

Basically, all Professor Triggs has said is that the ‘new laws undermine a healthy, robust democracy’.

All the Minister needed to do was acknowledge that it take three arms to make a government.

Instead, the legislature has confirmed that it is intent on stopping people who ‘barely justify their existence in our sometimes over-tolerant society’.

Some of the things they’ve said about Professor Triggs are that:

I’m not sure that all members of the current Legislature understand the government processes that put them in power.