Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson quits to run for Parliament -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

MARK COLVIN: As we've been hearing, one of the contenders for Andrew Robb's prized safe seat is Tim Wilson.

He's quitting his current role as an Australian Human Rights Commissioner This Friday to concentrate on winning pre-selection on March the 19th.

On his appointment two years ago, Mr Wilson told PM he wanted to "advance the Government's freedom agenda".

Today, the Attorney General George Brandis issued a political thank you note. It was a superlative-laden media statement that the young would-be Liberal MP could only agree with.

Peter Lloyd.

PETER LLOYD: How good is Tim Wilson?

A day after Valentine's Day, the Attorney-General George Brandis came out with the political equivalent of flowers and choccies.

STATEMENT BY GEORGE BRANDIS (voiceover): In just two years, Tim Wilson has single-handedly reshaped the human rights debate in Australia.

PETER LLOYD: Tim Wilson says his boss reminded all of us that freedom is the most fundamental human right of all.

His reward: $400,000 a year, plus a bonus serving of political praise.

STATEMENT BY GEORGE BRANDIS (voiceover): The Australian people owe Tim Wilson a huge debt of gratitude for his passion and commitment.

PETER LLOYD: Tim Wilson?

TIM WILSON: Well they're the Attorney-General's words, not mine, but I do think before I was appointed Human Rights Commissioner, the absence of somebody in the office - it was left vacant for three years - did mean that the Human Rights Commission wasn't focusing as much on its full sense of responsibilities.

When there was a Human Rights Commissioner in there, obviously I was the lucky person to serve in that role, we were able to shift the discussion as well as dealing with anti-discrimination issues, onto basic issues of freedom for the individual, such as free speech, religious freedom, property rights issues, equality before the law.

PETER LLOYD: So in all modesty Tim Wilson does think he single-handedly reshaped the human rights debate in Australia?

TIM WILSON: Well those are the Attorney-General's words.

I think what I have done over the past two years is amplify those issues and that discussion, and it's been important, because we've had big debates.

PETER LLOYD: If it's such important work, why are you going now?

TIM WILSON: Precisely for the reason I just said: these conversations have begun.

There are now constituent groups and you know, in the old policy world, there were some stakeholders working together to effect change, but these conversations will always be finished in the Federal Parliament.

PETER LLOYD: Can you link your tenure to any changes, material changes, substantive changes in regulation or law?

TIM WILSON: Well I think what we can do is we can look at a lot of the significant debates, like what's occurring now around free speech and revisiting reform of section 18C, the Racial Discrimination Act.

PETER LLOYD: You've said previously in speeches that it's, liberalism in your view, is about protecting the individual from government.

You want to join government now?

TIM WILSON: Well I already work within the structures of government, but in the end you can look at an institution like government and say that you are happy with how it's working, or you can look at it and say you're unhappy with how it's working, and that leads you to say: "Do you want to participate, or do you want to just throw rocks from the side?"

PETER LLOYD: As freedom commissioner, Tim Wilson stood in opposition to some sections of his prospective future party room.

One example: the debate about whether to allow a visa for Dutch anti-Muslim MP Geert Wilders.

Would a future Tim Wilson MP hold his nerve on those principles of Voltaire?

TIM WILSON: I'm not going to talk about what I'm going to do in the future, because that's against the rules of the pre-selection process that I'm about to go through.

But I think what you can say, and look through my track record, and say I have always worked from a base of principle.

PETER LLOYD: So in a caucus where there are people of very strong opposed views, you'd stand up for gay marriage?

TIM WILSON: My views on marriage of same-sex couples as Human Rights Commissioner, and in positions before that, have been articulated for years and years and years, and I am not someone who is going backward in coming forward, I don't think anybody would think I had that reputation.

And so I think you can draw from my history a pretty logical conclusion about what's going to happen in the future.

PETER LLOYD: Mr Wilson's exit means there's a vacancy at the Human Rights Commission.

The Attorney-General's media statement is silent on when or whether another freedom-focused commissioner will be appointed.

Labor always thought Tim Wilson was a Liberal Party stooge.

It reckons his successor should carry the torch for disabilities, and so does Craig Wallace, president of People with Disability Australia.

CRAIG WALLACE: Disability seems to have been lost form the human rights agenda.

I hope that in the spirit of resetting the government and its relationships with the sector, that the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will do the wise and prudent thing, and appoint a disability discrimination commissioner to replace Tim Wilson as he moves on to fight for Goldstein.

MARK COLVIN: Craig Wallace, president of People with Disability Australia, ending Peter Lloyd's report.