Features Australia

The hypocrites’ lobby

Where are our human rights ‘experts’ as Covid authoritarians strip away our freedoms?

26 February 2022

9:00 AM

26 February 2022

9:00 AM

I have resisted the temptation to write about the fact that ScoMo and co. have earlier this month decided to unfreeze $84 million previously held back from the ABC, thereby guaranteeing them $3.3 billion dollars over the next three years. You see it comes close to defying belief that a political party would do this, one that is always and everywhere hammered and traduced by a public broadcaster that has not a single, solitary conservative presenter, producer or higher-up type – not one – and which is so skewed to the left that (I quote a British journalist here) ‘it makes the BBC look like Fox News’. Why do it? Stockholm Syndrome? My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that the lefties in the party room – the Sharmas and Zimmermans and yes, our Treasurer Josh Frydenberg – are so desperate to retain their chardonnay-sipping inner-city seats that they begged a pusillanimous PM to do this. On their hands and knees they begged and pleaded. And right now in the Liberal party what the left faction (aka the people who put him in the job) wants, Mr Morrison gives.

But as I argued in a column at the start of this month, in the near to medium term all of these inner-city seats will be lost to the Coalition. Conservative parties, even ones that make only vague genuflections in the direction of anything remotely conservative, will lose all these seats. That has already pretty much happened in the rest of the Anglosphere. Only our preferential voting system is slowing down – not stopping, just slowing down – that trend here because it forces disaffected conservatives like me not just to vote for some other small party and be done with it (as in Britain, the US and Canada under first-past-the-post) but positively to preference Labor over the Libs. Most righties can’t bring themselves to do that. I can. In fact, I did it in the Turnbull election. Yet most can’t. Still, a PM who capitulates to the ABC-appeasing instincts of Messrs Frydenberg and co. is not just devoid of principle and strategic acumen, he’s stupid; he’s unaware of the sort of winning conservative coalition that Mr Trump built and that does not include these sort of seats. Such a placatory PM will lose more votes than he gains with this type of appeasement. Ditto the PM’s net zero cave in. Ditto his abandonment of all freedom-related principles during Covid. Ditto his inability to grasp the presumption of innocence. Etc., ad nauseam. OK, so I only half-resisted that temptation to blast a pusillanimous Coalition for throwing billions of our money, the taxpayers’, at this biased behemoth. But you have to agree it was a powerful temptation, one requiring super-human restraint to resist.

Meanwhile on that point about the way in which not just the Liberal party, but virtually the entirety of the elite and establishment class in this country has actively encouraged or turned a blind eye to the draconian Covid restrictions imposed on so many ordinary people, let us not forget the disgraceful inactions by the human rights lobby. I’ve noted this before, but it is worth another mention. All those highly resourced legal centres, law firms, self-styled human rights barristers and the like have barely said a word while police have hounded citizens, arrested pregnant women and attacked a swathe of civil liberties. The human rights mob will rouse themselves into paroxysms of indignation at the mere thought that someone claiming to be a refugee (who basically isn’t complying with an out-of-date convention from the 1950s, as though we wouldn’t repeal or amend domestic laws that were seventy years old) might have to apply from off-shore – otherwise known as ‘not skipping the queue and cheating others’. Basically the human rights lobby, often able to convince a good few like-minded judges, will fight tooth and nail on behalf of ‘rights’ in these sort of instances. Or give the HR lobby some pseudo-Marxist race-based claim, framed in the language of ‘equity’ or ‘diversity’, and they can kick into gear faster than Lewis Hamilton can take a knee. This might include lawfare, or op-eds in the Guardian or in that scintillatingly good read the Conversation or make-up the entirety of a week’s ABC early evening programming, with the requisite self-flagellating attacks on Australian democracy.

But come, in the words of retired British Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption, ‘the greatest inroads on our civil liberties in over two centuries’ and the human rights brigade in this country is almost completely silent. Actually, to be fair, the same is true in the entire Anglosphere. In the face of governmental despotism and illiberalism and heavy-handed policing and real attacks on the freedoms and civil liberties of all citizens of the sort none of us has ever seen in our lifetimes, these self-proclaimed ‘human rights experts’ and ‘human rights organisations’ are as mute as Oddjob in Goldfinger. And it’s not hard to guess why. It’s because most members of the lawyerly caste (one which leans so far politically left, as a generalisation, that a Rip Van Winkle awakened after fifty years simply would not believe what had happened to the legal profession) agree with all the Covid heavy-handedness. As part of the laptop class they favoured lockdowns. Wanted masking. Liked muscular policing. Couldn’t wait for vaccine mandates. And so on and so forth.

This has long been the core of my claims against bills of rights. When you buy one of these instruments, be it a constitutionalised or a statutory model, all you are buying is the policy druthers of unelected judges. Full stop. The vague, amorphous rights in a bill of rights are not self-enforcing or self-defining. These instruments take that power from elected politicians and hand it over to the judiciary. If most judges happen to put more weight on equality concerns over religious freedom ones – and they do, nearly everywhere – then that is what these instruments will deliver. And notice that nowhere, not even in the US with its admirable free speech First Amendment jurisprudence, have we seen judges using a bill of rights to strike down and invalidate despotic Covid laws. Nowhere. Not once. What we have seen, in a few US state jurisdictions in the last few months, are judges using old-fashioned administrative law principles to rein in despotic Covid rules decreed by the executive. These judges have looked at the governing statute and demanded that it clearly authorise whatever regulations or orders the state governor has issued. Great. But no one needs a bill of rights to go down that path. Long ago I predicted that that was the best shot to win in court. Asking judges to gainsay politicians under the banner of some shapeless ‘rights-respecting’ claim can work when the judges agree with the substance of the underlying claim. (And note here that since 1992 all successful implied rights cases in this country have been against Coalition legislation, never Labor’s.) But when the preponderance of the judges are as happy with the lockdown mania as your average Canberran public servant, well fuggeddaboudit. Some of my fellow writers here at the Speccie think a bill of rights would have helped during the pandemic. Alas, they’re indulging in ‘modelling’ I’m afraid, not looking at the data.

And we know where that leads us.

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