Margaret Court wants ‘good Christian’ in top Australian human rights job

Margaret Court wants ‘good Christian’ in top Australian human rights job, by Andrew Burrell.

Outspoken tennis great Margaret Court and her husband, Barry, are lobbying political figures, including John Howard, to back legal academic Augusto Zimmermann’s bid to replace Gillian Triggs as president of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The Courts wrote to Mr Howard last month asking him to back Dr Zimmermann’s application ­because he was a “good Christian”, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Australian.

The Perth-based couple suggested Mr Howard could speak to people “in the right circles” to make Malcolm Turnbull aware of Dr Zimmermann’s suitability for the job. They said they believed that a non-Christian was the preferred candidate and such an ­appointment would damage the Liberal Party.

The Brazil-born Dr Zimmermann is a commissioner of the West Australian Law Reform Commission and has been a prominent critic of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and a defender of freedom of speech. …

It is understood the Courts’ ­letter was prompted by growing concerns in conservative circles that the federal government is about to appoint Human Rights Commissioner Ed Santow to replace ­Professor Triggs.

Barry Court is a former president of the West Australian Liberal Party and the son of former long-serving West Australian premier Charles Court.

When contacted yesterday, Dr Zimmermann said he was grateful for the “powerful endorsement” by the Courts. He said he believed the AHRC needed to move away from political correctness and to reject identity politics.

Three vie for new human rights presidency, by Chris Merritt.

The Triggs era has been a dis­aster for the commission: its influence on public policy has been diminished and it has left many with the impression that it views freedom of speech as dangerous. …

The real test for the government is whether it will use this ­appointment to wipe away the structural core of the Triggs ­approach. Will it make an appointment that leaves public advocacy to ­others in the commission and ­returns the presidency to what it should be — a relatively low-­profile, semi-judicial position? …

Speculation has centred on three people:

1) Augusto Zimmermann is one of the nation’s strongest proponents of free speech. He is co-­author of a book outlining the adverse impact of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

2) Sev Ozdowski is a former human rights commissioner who favours returning the presidency to the pre-Triggs orthodoxy.

3) Ed Santow is a current Human Rights Commissioner, is a former head of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and has an ­academic background.

Santow’s main claim to the top job, in the eyes of some, is that unlike Triggs he has been almost ­invisible since taking office almost a year ago. Others see this as his greatest flaw.

If Zimmermann were to win the presidency, it would almost certainly remain a position of ­advocacy — this time for freedom of speech, instead of section 18C.

Well done Augusto — hope it works out. Comments of support at the article on The Australian’s site might be helpful.

hat-tip Stephen Neil