Last August Triggs, a darling of hypocritical Labor luvvies, was the subject of a fawning profile by Sydney Morning Herald feature writer Tim Elliott.
“The first thing you notice about Triggs, aside from her pale honey coloured hair and pearl earrings, are her manners, which are mesmerising and create a force field of niceness, a form of very agreeable mind control. After half an hour with Triggs, it’s possible to imagine doing virtually anything for her, which is another way of saying she is a natural born leader.”
According to a footnote, the SMH article was in fact recycled from material which appeared in Sydney Magazine a year earlier in April 2013.
What makes it so pertinent today is Triggs’ description of her own treatment of one of her children, daughter Victoria, who was born in 1984 with a profound chromosomal disorder known as Edwards syndrome.
“Victoria was as severely retarded as anyone who is still alive can be,” she told her interviewer.
“Her condition usually results in the death of the baby before or shortly after birth. In fact, the doctors kept saying, ‘Just leave her in the corner and she’ll die.’ So, it sounds terrible, but I’d look at Victoria and think, ‘Well, you’re going to die, so I’m not going to invest too much in you.’ But she didn’t die. She had this inner rod of determination, and she simply refused to die.”
When Victoria was about six months of age, Triggs and her then partner took her home from hospital and with the assistance of the Uniting Church, found a family who took over her primary care until her death at the age of 21.
Triggs said the arrangement bothered her but rationalised it thus: “Yes, because you have a child and you expect to look after her. But in the end I simply made the judgment that I would rather put my time into my other children and family, because I also never believed she would live to that age.”
Had an appointee of a conservative government made such a statement, he or she would unquestionably have been hounded relentlessly by the ABC and the Fairfax press.
Not so Triggs.
Indeed, since her appointment in 2012 and the subsequent change of government, she has been one of the leading spear carriers in the partisan war against the Abbott government, descending to levels unplumbed by Labor’s gutter-crawling parliamentary smear merchants.
Triggs’ commission failed to take any action on children in immigration detention when the numbers peaked after Labor dismantled the Howard government’s lifesaving border protection policies.
When Labor came to office in 2007, there were four people in immigration detention, and no children.
During Labor’s six chaotic years of government, 50,000 people arrived on 800 boats and stretched the capacity of the intelligence and security agencies, even as Labor stripped them of more than $700 million, effectively hamstringing their operational capacity.
In Labor’s last year in office, 302 boats arrived — though Triggs was apparently unaware of this.
There were almost 1400 children in detention then. Today there are fewer than 200, or close to 90 per cent improvement.
Triggs ignores the obvious. She displayed her political sympathies when she led an attack on the Howard government’s commitment to the Iraq war in 2001 and suggested in 2003 that he could be charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
Having sat mute during the Labor years, Triggs’ HRC launched its inquiry into children in detention when the Abbott government took office — although she revealed when she was called before a senate inquiry last year that she had been in discussion with two of Labor’s failed immigration ministers, Chris Bowen and Tony Burke.
Her testimony was riddled with falsehoods, among them her claim that armed guards were present at the Christmas Island detention centres, and that the detainees were “being detained in a prison effectively”.
At that, she was interrupted by immigration department secretary Martin Bowles who stated: “We do not have armed guards, president. I would like you to acknowledge that.”
Immigration minister Scott Morrison followed: “Madam president, you would have been at many jails and prisons and are you suggesting Long Bay Jail is the same as a pool fenced, alternative place of detention at Phosphate Hill, Christmas Island?”
Triggs imperiously demanded: “I would like to move on.”
She also falsely claimed that 10 women had attempted suicide on Christmas Island. Not so.
And she said “almost all of them, including the adults, were coughing, were sick, were depressed, unable to communicate (and) weak,” — another fabrication.
Just last month, her commission recommended $350,000 compensation be paid to a detained Indonesian refugee who beat his Australian spouse to death with a child’s bicycle and that he should be released into the community.
Again, Triggs ignores the fact the detainee, John Basikbasik, was repeatedly deemed too dangerous for release following decades of violent offending fuelled by alcohol, including the manslaughter of his de facto wife in 2000 and numerous assaults during his seven-year jail term from 2001. The government has so far ignored Triggs’ plea and does not intend to release Basikbasik.
Under Triggs, the HRC has become a laughing stock. She should resign. But that would require a conspicuous display of the sort of morals in which she is so apparently deficient.