18 Feb HRC continues on prideful and mean-spirited course
Hedley Thomas — The Australian — 18 February, 2017
Gillian Triggs and her staff have had many opportunities to admit their big mistakes and say sorry in the year since Queensland University of Technology students gained the advantage of aggressive lawyers, which resulted in the lamentable conduct of the Human Rights Commission being exposed in the public arena.
The shabby treatment of the students is plain to anyone making an objective study of the facts.
But Triggs and her advisers have never acknowledged their part in it.
The taxpayer-funded body, which is required by statute to “investigate” formal complaints of racial hatred, played footsies with Cindy Prior, her lawyers and the university as those parties haggled over money for 14 months — but didn’t tell the students of the serious allegations levelled.
They were unable to defend themselves against a charge they didn’t know existed.
Since February last year, as the release of documents and The Australian’s reporting has put beyond doubt, Triggs and the commission have blame-shifted to QUT to avoid responsibility, and misled the media and even the parliament.
But yesterday, Liberal senator James Paterson, who has studied the documents closely, cut to the chase after extracting a series of admissions.
Surely, he asked Triggs, the students are now owed an apology? She admitted that as a result of the case the commission has now changed its procedures and “will never, ever” again fail to contact persons accused of racial hatred; that the young men have “suffered from this”; and that “things went badly wrong”.
“Have you offered an apology?” Paterson asked.
“But I can’t concede that the commission did anything wrong,’’ Triggs said.
This is mean-spirited, prideful nonsense.
Sorry is the hardest word for the head of a human rights body which encourages people who appear before it to conciliate, apologise and make amends.
Student Calum Thwaites said before the hearing he only wanted to hear the commission admit “we stuffed up, we’re sorry”.
He and the other students will be waiting a while yet.
This article originally appeared in The Australian