The Useful Idiocy of Gillian Triggs

The Useful Idiocy of Gillian Triggs, by Tim Blair.

It was a source of amused frustration for the late cartoonist Bill Leak that no matter what he did to satirise Triggs in the Australian, the AHRC president would inevitably respond by doing something even more absurd that made Bill’s art seem timid and understated by comparison.

Bill would depict her goose-stepping through a crowd of racial caricatures and asking: “Anyone here been stereotyped and speaks English?” Triggs would come back with another fantastically evasive Senate appearance.

Bill’s drawing of Triggs as a star-chamber judge would be followed by Triggs actually behaving even more like a star-chamber judge. It was almost as though they were in competition, but as team-mates aiming for the same outcome — the AHRC’s collapse. …

Just as well Triggs has Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane in a crucial $300,000 supporting role. Soutphommasane is Jackie Wright to Triggs’s Benny Hill. He’s a blundering sidekick attempting to mimic his boss’s dictatorial style. During his own Senate testimony last year, Soutphommasane defined the AHRC’s Bill Leak witch-hunt as an orderly matter of civil chat: “Cartoons will be subject to all matter of public debate. It’s a healthy part of our democracy that we have that debate.”

This is where the laughter fades. Bill Leak’s son, Johannes, does not believe that the AHRC’s pursuit of his father caused Bill’s death. But he is justifiably furious that the AHRC’s demented quest stole from Bill’s family much of what turned out to be the great cartoonist’s final year.

Bill Leak did not endure a “healthy debate”. Instead he suffered a toxic wave of tax-funded censorious hostility, requiring substantial time-consuming responses. He was battered by people who believed, to use Triggs’s phrase, that he did not come “from a good place”.