Grace Tame has called the appointment of a former Liberal candidate as Human Rights Commissioner “a grave mistake”.
The Australian of the Year joins a growing number of people who have criticised the appointment of Lorraine Finlay.
Finlay is a Western Australian lawyer and also a former president of the state’s Liberal Women’s Council.
She has publicly expressed controversial views about human rights issues and affirmative consent laws.
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is an independent institution that promotes understanding and respect for human rights.
It receives and mediates thousands of discrimination and human rights complaints each year.
It also conducts major inquiries into human rights issues, such as its [email protected] inquiry and its Stolen Generations report.
The government appointed Finlay to the role of Commissioner without first advertising the position.
Grace Tame – ‘actions don’t match words’
Speaking at the National Summit on Women’s Safety this week, Tame said Finlay’s appointment showed the government’s actions don’t match their words when it comes to women’s safety.
“What could have been a really progressive step has actually been a backwards one, amid this Summit,” she said.
“I’m seeing that the actions are not lining up with the words that are being spoken at the moment, unfortunately.”
In a Spectator Australia article in 2018, Finlay argued there are “significant legal and practical problems” with affirmative consent laws.
The laws require consent before sex be actively sought and communicated.
Greg Barnes – ‘undermines the independence of the Commission’
Another critic of Finlay’s appointment is barrister and National Criminal Justice Spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, Greg Barnes SC.
He said the Coalition government has spent years undermining the independence of the AHRC.
Barnes writes on the Pearls and Irritations website:
“In 2014-2015 the Coalition made life hell for commission head Professor Gillian Triggs because she did her job in inquiring into, and reporting on, the appalling mental and physical health abuse of children in immigration detention.
“Triggs’ successor as president of the commission Rosalind Croucher, appointed for a seven-year term in 2017, rarely puts her head up to criticise the continued trashing of human rights by the Coalition.
“But now the Morrison government has gone a step further in its undermining of the commission’s independence with the appointment of a conservative academic with strong Liberal Party ties…”
Racial Discrimination Act 18C
Barnes notes that the Liberal Party’s favourite think tank, the IPA, endorses Finlay.
She opposes Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which makes it unlawful for people to vilify others based on their race, skin colour or national or ethnic origin.
“The conservatives loathe this provision because they think it’s an affront to freedom of speech.
“It is a cause celebre for them as they also see the provision as being part of the armoury of so-called cancel culture.
“Finlay was a co-author of a polemic called No Offence Intended: Why 18C is Wrong, published by Connor Court…
“And in 2017 was on a speaking list with Cory Bernardi, Malcolm Roberts and David Leyonhjelm, and Mark Latham among others proclaiming “freedom”.”
Barnes also notes Finlay’s opposition to the proposed Indigenous voice to Parliament, which she called “patronising”.
Rodney Croome – ‘Finlay not an appropriate person’
LBGTIQ activist Rodney Croome has also criticised the appointment of Finlay.
“We have no confidence Lorraine Finlay will uphold our existing discrimination protections and furthermore, fear she will work to weaken them at every opportunity,” he said.
In 2018, Finlay co-authored a submission to the Ruddock religious freedom inquiry declaring:
“In our view, there is presently an unjustifiable imbalance between religious freedoms and anti-discrimination laws, with the balance weighted in favour of the latter…
“We are increasingly concerned about the growing number of examples in recent years that demonstrate religious freedoms being undervalued and eroded in Australia.”
As a result, Croome is calling on the government to appoint a dedicated LGBTIQ Commissioner to the AHRC.
“Ms Finlay is a purveyor of the fear-based narrative that LGBTIQA+ equality poses a threat to religious freedom, and that, as a consequence, anti-discrimination laws be weakened so religious bodies have special legal privileges to treat us badly,” he said.
“She is not an appropriate person to defend the human rights of LGBTIQA+ Australians.”
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