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“…Gillian Triggs may well be the nation’s highest paid activist. The Australian Human Rights Commission president draws a $417,800 annual salary from taxpayers and spends much of her time advocating for pet political causes, in particular to dismantle the offshore processing element of our border protection regime. Her rhetorical flourishes, emotive posturing and wild claims differ little from those of the vocal activists who campaign for no recompense. Professor Triggs also benefits from the gravitas accorded her views because of her position. Yet, as we have seen again this week, Professor Triggs has a habit of giving misleading evidence to public inquiries and having to change her statements after people draw attention to errors. After more than four years in her role, this habit has diminished her effectiveness and undermined confidence in the AHRC.

The taxpayer-funded political activism that Professor Triggs has come to personify is a deep and broad problem. Four Corners this week continued the ABC’s long-running, jaundiced and deceptive campaign against strong border protection and offshore processing. In its eagerness to demonise government policy, the public broadcaster portrayed Nauruan people and Australian staff on the island in an appalling light. Rather than focus on the obvious toughness and difficulties of the policy and the possible solutions, the ABC — in cahoots with activist groups — is intent on accusing Australia and Nauru of brutalising and even torturing people.

Such campaigning is encouraged by many publicly funded institutions, especially our universities. Refugees, climate change and identity politics have become the defining issues of our age for so-called progressives. By proclaiming progressive positions on these issues, many define themselves as morally superior and are exempted from normal constraints of debate such as facts, reason and tolerating the views of others. Many groups receive public funds or are given tax-free status. We need a diversity of views but it seems occasionally absurd that green groups receive government support to protest against developments governments encourage. Refugee advocacy centres are funded to challenge government policy. And activists at the extremes of gender politics are funded to develop insidious social engineering projects such as Safe Schools. As a society we seem to lack the courage to defend the values and policies that underpin our success. Yet we help groups that undermine policies, projects and institutions that benefit all of us. We need a stocktake….” Taxpayer-funded activism undermining the nation