Tim Wilson, was appointed as Australia’s ‘individual freedom’s’ Commissioner in February 2014. According to an article in the Australian by Chris Merritt (“Faster erosion of rights ‘threat to rule of law’, 15 April 2016) the attack on the individual’s right to justice in Australia, between 2014-2015, has included 95 reversals of the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ principle in federal laws – 48 in 2014 and 47 in 2015. The position of ‘Freedoms Commissioner’ was given to Tim Wilson in February 2014 after he resigned from the Liberal party to take up the role. He served in this role from 2014 – Feb 2016. He has now resigned, after a 2 year term, to re-join the Liberal party and seek election in parliament in the seat of Goldstein (Melbourne). In other words, during Tim Wilson’s reign as ‘Freedoms Commissioner’ Australians lost many human rights with little public knowledge or debate. Specifically, Merritt states that the breaches have attacked the 4 key areas that are necessary to achieve justice and prevent coercive power:
- the right to silence
- privilege against self-incrimination
- adherence to natural justice
- the principle of innocent until proven guilty (i.e reversal of the onus of proof)
During the 7 years that Tim Wilson worked for the Institute of Public Affairs (2008-2013) he was a vocal critic of the Human Rights Commission and even called for its abolition. Merritt states that federal statutes in 2014 contained 262 provisions for breaching legal rights and in 2015 they contained 290. Most of these breaches affected the right to silence – 14 breaches in 2014 and 33 in 2015.
Whilst Breheny, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) director of policy, is quoted in the Australian article as saying “in order to protect our liberties and to achieve just outcomes, we must be vigilant in safeguarding these rights”, it is notable that the IPA’s report did not present an argument for a federal charter of rights and Tim Wilson (a former IPA employee) was appointed as ‘freedom commissioner’ even though he believed the HRC should be abolished. Perhaps the IPA director could explain why Australia does not need a Bill of Rights to protect these fundamental freedoms even though they are being continually eroded?
The Australian article states that the IPA audit also noted a sharp increase in the volume of federal legislation in 2015. Parliament was “adding 86.4 new pages of legislation every sitting day”. This increase in the number of federal laws results in greater complexity and is a threat to the fundamental tenet that says the body of law must be capable of being understood. An example of this confusion was demonstrated in the recent passing of the Victorian Health Complaints Bill. This was passed in a sea of confusion on Friday night (15 April 2016) at 10 pm. The reversal of the onus of proof (guilty until proven innocent) allows the legislator to make subjective decisions about ‘guilt’ according to the evidence they choose to include in their assessment. The right to ‘innocent before proven guilty’ is being removed in Australia along with the right to freedom of speech. Here is an article describing the removal of freedom of speech in Australia written by a criminal lawyer.
There would appear to be every reason why the IPA’s report should have been advocating for a Bill of Rights or a Freedom Commissioner who believes in protecting individual freedoms so please publicise this information because our letters to the government and IPA are not being addressed. Here is the letter that I sent to the president of the HRC in September 2015 describing the removal of our rights in Australia before the ‘No Jab No Pay’ social welfare policy was implemented. Professor Triggs did not reply to this letter.