Gillian Triggs hires top silk in 18C university case

Gillian Triggs hires top silk in 18C university case, by Hedley Thomas.

The cost to taxpayers of an 18C ­racial hatred case involving Facebook posts by university students barred from an indigenous-only computer room is escalating, with the Human Rights Commission briefing an external silk. … The total legal bills for the university and other parties are estim­ated to be nearing $1 million.

The Queensland University of Technology students were accused under the controversial section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act by indigenous staffer Cindy Prior, who told them to leave the campus computer room because they are white. See here and here.

Judge Michael Jarrett is yet to rule on their bid to have the racial vilification case dismissed.

Two students, Jackson Powell and Calum Thwaites, who accuse the commission of “recklessly” breaching their human rights in the row stemming from a $250,000 damages claim brought by Ms Prior, were joined in their complaint yesterday by a third student, Alex Wood.

They allege the commission has treated them with “flagrant ­indifference” because they are “white Anglo-Saxon heterosexual citizens who maintain a male ­gender identity” and have no criminal rec­ord, no outspoken political opinions and no record of particip­ation in trade unions or ­religious sects.

This bad legislation is not working out well for Ms Prior either.

Ms Prior has been unable to work for 2½ years and wants $250,000 from QUT and the stud­ents. The students have insisted their posts were innocuous, harmless and a legitimate ­expression of their freedom of speech. …

[The lawyer for one of the students, Michael Henry] said that, apart from the pressure on the young men, Ms Prior had been let down, humil­iated and made a focal point of mass community outrage ­because “until very recently nobody ever had the moral courage to ­actually tell Ms Prior that her conduct and sense of grievance with (the stud­ents) was patently unreasonable and totally disproportionate”.