Abbott shoots himself in the foot – again

Chris Uhlmann and Sabra Lane say that pressure is building in the Liberal Party to remove Prime Minister Tony Abbott and that backbenchers and ministers say the Malcolm Turnbull now has the numbers. The leadership issue has risen again because of the brutal attack launched on Gillian Triggs as President of the Human Rights Commission. Ben Eltham says:

In a show of belligerence that has stunned seasoned political observers, the Abbott government has declared a personal vendetta against one of the most respected lawyers in the land. Triggs’ personal ethics have been questioned, her competence and impartiality attacked, and her conduct impugned.

Turnbull has certainly put some distance between himself and Abbott on the matter. He says that criticism of Triggs “misses the point” the point being the children in detention. Further, he said that Triggs was “a very distinguished international legal academic”.

Eltham again:

The findings of The Forgotten Children report should shame us all. Triggs found that children have been sexually and physically assaulted in federal care. Some children have been detained for more than 27 months. Many are denied education. Unaccompanied children are locked up in adult compounds. They are mentally and emotionally traumatised. There have been multiple instances of attempted suicide and self-harm.

A government with a scintilla of compassion would have welcomed the report, and redoubled its efforts to get children out of these hell-holes. And, if the Abbott government had wanted to, it could have spun the findings in its favour. For instance, the report found that there are fewer children in detention now than under the previous Labor government.

Instead the Government advised her that it had lost confidence in her and suggested that her legal talents might otherwise be employed by the Government. She declined. It then launched a public attack, bringing up also her finding in the Basikbasik matter.

A galaxy of legal scholars has signed a letter supporting Triggs, pointing out, inter alia, that the Government is not obliged to take her advice, a point she understands well.

Distinguished retired lawyer Hal Wooten tells why he signed up. He respects Triggs personally and professionally, the facts of the report speak for themselves.

Once again Mr Abbott has proved a loose cannon, but this time his wild firing threatens grave pain and injustice to a courageous and honourable public servant, and the undermining of a much needed national institution, as well as obscuring the terrible effect of detention on innocent children.

Richard Flanagan says that some day a PM will apologise for what it is now doing. He thinks:

The only accusation of Gillian Triggs with the ring of truth is that she has lost the confidence of the government – but then so too has Tony Abbott. Gillian Triggs’s real crime is that as human rights commissioner she spoke up for human rights with a government that has no respect for them.

He also sees women and children as being at the bottom of the pile, as it were. Triggs is being attacked as a woman speaking up for children.

Bill Shorten says Tony Abbott sank to ‘a new low’ over Gillian Triggs’s treatment and that Abbott was ‘psychologically unsuited’ to the prime ministership.

Annabel Crabb says the Government is thumping Triggs when it could/should be thumping Labor. It has also presented Labor with the moral high ground.

Jonathon Green has written the speech Abbott could have made about Triggs’ report, with Triggs at his side.

One point is that there were 1500 children in detention when the LNP took over. Now there are 126.

For the record, from Berard Keane at Crikey, this is what Chris Moraitis from Brandis’s department told the Senate hearings:

“There were essentially three points that I was asked to make. One was that the Attorney had lost confidence in Professor Triggs as chairperson. He retained significant goodwill towards her and had high regard for her legal skills. In that respect, he was asking me to formally put on the table or mention that there would be a senior legal role, a specific senior role, that her skills could be used for.”

Brandis later quibbled over the word “position” being tossed around, emphasising that the offer was for a role. But an offer there surely was, later denied by Julie Bishop representing Brandis in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile much of importance, such as the McClure report on social security, is not being discussed.