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While antisemitism convulses Australia, the Human Rights Commission runs dead. One reason is its pro-Hamas fifth column – on one estimate it totals more than 20 per cent of staff.

They intimidate and insult their HRC President Rosalind Croucher (above) with impunity. Some turn up for work in keffiyehs. Imagine a Jew going to the HRC in Sydney about racist threats, and greeted by staff in Palestine headgear!

 Meanwhile Croucher strives to placate her insurrectionists while issuing blancmange condemnations pairing “antisemitism and Islamophobia”. An odd coalition now want the HRC axed and/or Croucher defenestrated. [thrown out the window ]

 

♦ MHR Julian Leeser (Liberal wet): “We should put the AHRC on notice. I believe Australians will not tolerate the continued funding of government agencies and programs charged with building social cohesion, turning a blind eye to racism or prejudice.”[1]

♦ The Australian editorialists (requoting Leeser on March 14): “If an institution charged with protecting Australians from racism and hate is not fulfilling its mandate, then Australians should question why it exists.”

♦ Greens’ Justice spokesman Senator David Shoebridge, attacking Croucher from the far-left:

“The commission has failed to hold the Australian government accountable for its involvement in human rights violations in Palestine and repressive rhetoric and practices directed towards and actively harming communities in Australia. Due to a lack of leadership, the commission has become complicit in the erosion of human rights.”

By way of background, antisemitic attacks have risen more than seven-fold since Hamas invaded Israel on October 7. Last November more than 100 Australian Holocaust survivors here “an unprecedented outpouring of antisemitism raging on our streets, on our television screens, on social media and in our universities.”

Last month the Executive Council of Australian Jewry commented on the doxing (listing and publication) of prominent Jews’ personal details,”We have endured difficult times and overcome many challenges, but never have we seen a period where so many in our community are so fearful for their physical security and loss of livelihood.” As Leeser says, during all this collapse of morality the HRC has remained “frozen by political paralysis that has made the Commission fearful of acknowledging and engaging with the anti-Semitism that Jewish Australians are facing. The AHRC has gone AWOL.”

 

A new affront to Australian values came around 9pm on Saturday, March 9, at Nova cinema on Lygon Street, in inner-city Melbourne. The Holocaust film Zone of Interest concerned the tranquil family life of Auschwitz commander Rudolf Hoess. In the audience four men and one woman made audible racist slurs. Then they rose to deliver the now-illegal Nazi salute despite the risk of a $23,000 fine and 12 months gaol. Cinema-goers called security who escorted the group out, and staff complained to police. They’re investigating, probably with the same futility they investigated Antifa thugs’ assault on Andrew Bolt on the same Lygon Street, two blocks further south.

 

HRC President Croucher is on a salary of $525,892 (page 100) and her retinue of seven commissioners’ pay is from $357,000-416,000.  Their functionality is so slight that Aboriginal Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma also did the work of the Race Commissioner on an acting basis, gratis, for almost six years, after which Dr Helen Szoke got the gig at $324,000 a year. The HRC is not even competent to manage its own budget. Overstaffing created annual losses requiring a $16 million federal bailout last year.[2]

Croucher’s failure to stand up against anti-semitism while urging tolerance for pro-Hamas demonstrators was first noted by Quadrant on December 5, and again on January 12. The case was finally picked up by The Australian on March 12, when Leeser criticised Croucher and the HRC in his speech to the Cook Society. The Australian followed up on March 13 with a second front-pager featuring Croucher’s justifications, plus the excellent editorial. The Guardian has been following the saga by pushing a narrative that HRC has not been anti-Israel enough.

On the Liberals’ dry-wet spectrum, Leeser would be a proud wet. He had staunchly defended the race-offence s18c of the Racial Discrimination Act[3] when conservative Liberals and the IPA were campaigning for its abolition.[4] Famously, Leeser quit Dutton’s shadow ministry last year to campaign for the Voice, rejected by 60 per cent of voters. Yet judging by the full text of his  Cook Society address a week ago, he maintains a coherent humanitarian approach to the great issues of today, which harder-line conservatives can respect if not always agree with.

 There’s a lot here to document, so here goes.

HRC President Croucher’s defence

Croucher has persistently bracketed antisemitism with (negligible) Islamophobia in order to keep sitting on the barbed-wire fence. As she explained to the Australian, “all racism is of equal concern.” It’s as though antisemitism and Islamophobia are equal blights. Do mobs of rabbis shout “Gas the Muslims!”, taunt mosque-goers and dox the personal details of prominent Muslims?[5]

On March 13, stung by Leeser’s accusation, Croucher  specifically condemned intimidations of the Jewish community as a “source of alarm” for her HRC. The Australian quoted her, “Racist, hateful incidents against Australia’s Jewish communities are of great concern to the commission. Suggestions to the contrary are untrue and harmful to those communities. All racism is of equal concern, no matter which community is targeted.” (The HRC has not re-posted this material on its website, which is crammed with trivia and puerile announcements, e.g. “Historic forum to build momentum for Australian Human Rights Act“).[6]

She also explained that the HRC was meeting with “Jewish communities and others” to see why they were under racist attack, to empathise re “their experiences and concerns” and perhaps do something about it in the way of “support”. This “support” would even be “additional to that provided through the commission’s dedicated information and complaint handling services.”

The sudden urge to consult Jewish communities (and others) seems all of a few days (or hours) old — on March 6, when the attacks were coming from the HRC’s Hamas fifth column, she announced the consultations “will soon commence”.

Croucher also called for upholding of human rights “in Australia as well as in Israel and Palestine”. She didn’t mention the human rights of Israeli women sexually tortured and murdered by Gazan invaders on October 7, or Israeli babies beheaded or baked, or the 130 men, women, child and infant hostages alive or dead in today’s Hamas tunnels, or the human rights of Gazan civilians used by Hamas as human shields to inflate its death-tolls for gullible Western media.

If anyone thinks such overseas events are outside her remit, on March 6 she enthusiastically re-posted to the HRC website some UN messaging from New York that the Israeli army shouldn’t attack the remaining Hamas hideouts in Rafah. Moreover, her statement urged the Albanese government to “advocate for a sustainable cessation of hostilities” — no mention of pre-conditions, like returning the hostages, or what on earth a “sustainable” solution involves.[7]

The HRC staffers’ mutiny

On Sunday, January 28, staff across eight of the HRC’s main teams sent Croucher a prodigious 2600-word complaint that she wasn’t going in to bat for Hamas concerning “Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank”. The Guardian claimed at least 24 staffers endorsed the letter — but since they hid under anonymity, this number is unverifiable. The (at least) 24 mutineers would be 20 per cent of HRC staff of 122.

Numbers aside, it’s astounding that the President didn’t use her mouse to drag the encrypted-source email with its giant PDF appendixes to the Trash icon and get on with earning her $525,000 pay. Actually, she got the missive on a Sunday — maybe the insurrectionists have claimed  double-time and a meal allowance.

From that Sunday the uproar in the HRC replicated the chaos at the ABC, where the journos at least had the guts to put signatures on their pro-Hamas ranting. (State Library Victoria currently has about 120 staff agitating similarly, more than a third of staff). Croucher told the Senate Estimates she responded to the email a few days later after caucusing with her commissioners.

She didn’t table that response, but the rebels leaked it to the Guardian anyway. In it she grovelled that commissioners had all

“considered the letter and acknowledged staff concerns around the conflict. We acknowledge that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is causing a great deal of pain for many in Australia, and it is understandable that people feel strongly about it. There are a diversity of experiences and perspectives among commission staff, as there are within the community.”

She also said the commission’s focus is “primarily on human rights within Australia”. This deflection is odd as the HRC has weighed in countless times on international controversies.[8] Its entire rationale is to bring Australian democracy into fealty to UN “human rights” cabals in New York, helmed by the likes of China, Russia, Iran, and  “shit-hole countries” [Trump’s idiom] like Gambia,.Sudan and Togo. (Proud vice-president of the Human Rights Council in 2020 was Nasir Ahmad Andisha of Afghanistan.) Croucher’s response continued

“The commission continues to listen to, consult with and support communities in Australia that are affected by the conflict. We are also working with the federal government under the national anti-racism framework to address antisemitism, Islamophobia, racial hatred and racial discrimination.”

Rather than dispute the staff’s claim about Israeli “genocide” (Gaza’s population has risen eight-fold since 1950 to 2.1 million), she responded that it wasn’t the HRC’s job to assess Australia’s obligations under the UN genocide convention.

What she didn’t do was tell staffers to grow a spine and sign their whinings Instead she told them she was “concerned” that they felt the need for anonymity and she wouldn’t carry on the discussions using their encrypted email address rather than official channels.

What the HRC staff letter said

The letter was signed cautiously by “A collective of Commission staff”. These taxpayer-funded militants wrote insultingly to their President that the HRC had “given into (sic) a fear of criticising the Australian Government and Zionists for fear of losing funding…” They accused the HRC of “misrepresenting or watering down” Israeli alleged atrocities: “This upholds racist and dehumanising attitudes towards Palestinians and enables the atrocities.”

 Commissioners, they said, should ask forgiveness for the workplace distress they have caused “from the shocking lack of Commission leadership on the ongoing human rights violations and war crimes perpetrated by Israel.”

Their letter demanded that the Commission “assess psychosocial risks in the workplace to address factors distressing staff in relation to Israel’s crimes against humanity and war crimes.” The HRC must “cease suppressive and intimidating treatment towards staff who have spoken out about human rights and war crimes in the workplace and offline.” The authors claimed to have witnessed staff being cautioned and disciplined for pushing human rights of Palestinians.

It continued that the government was complicit in violations of Palestinians human rights and “repressive rhetoric and practices directed towards, and actively harming communities in Australia.” It wanted the HRC to push government to, in effect, eliminate the state of Israel. The government should

♦ Blame Israel for the Gaza war “and embed an acknowledgement of Israel’s apartheid, occupation and genocide in all communications [about the conflict], saying

“This challenges the framing of the current genocide as incited by Hamas and of equal harm to Israelis and Palestinians, as it would acknowledge the 17 years of Israeli blockade and military siege of Gaza.”

♦ Demand an immediate permanent ceasefire [without preconditions like release of hostages] along with complete withdrawal of Israeli settlers and soldiers from all “Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

♦ Under the UN genocide convention, punish Israel-friendly perpetrators “whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.” This includes punishing citizens leaving Australia to assist the Israeli military’s alleged genocide, and bans on military exports to Israel. It also wanted the HRC to implement its own boycott/divestment/sanctions against any pro-Israel suppliers to the HRC.

Amid the letter’s psychobabble and agitprop about genocide, apartheid and settler-colonial war-criminal Israelis, there was no reference among 2600 words to the October 7’s slaughter of 1200 Israelis , nor Hamas’ use of human shields.

The authors gave Croucher an ultimatum to distribute its “Full Demands” letter and appendixes to all staff by February 5. She should also open “safe channels” for all staff to endorse the letter “without fear of reprimand” to help staff’s “well-being and psychosocial safety”.

Croucher does Senate Estimates

At Estimates on February 13, Queensland Liberal Senator Paul Scarr asked Croucher why she hadn’t made any speech since 2018 explicitly condemning antisemitism  (in 2018 she gave an excellent speech on Shakespeare’s Shylock and antisemitic traditions).

Scarr: President, we need this speech now. This is when we need the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission to give this speech.

Croucher replied that HRC’s focus was on “all communities … We have not only the antisemitic attacks … but also rises in racism of different kinds: Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian racism, anti-Arab racism.” 

Greens Senator David Shoebridge asked why the HRC had condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but hadn’t condemned Israel’s invasion of Gaza. [As if they’re twin atrocities]. She replied that the Ukraine statement was only one commissioner’s “opinion piece”, not that of the HRC per se. 

Shoebridge: You know that many, many of your staff are deeply, deeply unhappy with the approach that the commission has taken [on] the violence in Palestine and Gaza. Are you aware of the significant concern amongst your staff?

Croucher: I’m aware of some concern, but the extent of such concern is unknown to me.

Shoebridge referred her to the anonymous January 28 letter.

Croucher: “I have no idea how many people were behind it. As it expressed concern of staff, of course I am deeply concerned that they felt the need to write in that way … our focus has been to understand the motivation and the disappointment, and to assure staff that our concern for their wellbeing is a paramount concern.[9]

Shoebridge: They explain to you why they approached you anonymously. It’s because they were fearful of the response.

Croucher: I responded directly to the correspondence in a letter on the following Monday that I wrote in consultation and as an expression of the commissioner group.

When the text leaked to the Guardian, “That shocked a lot of the staff who were not part of the group,” Croucher said. “We had people asking ‘What’s going on?’ They were terribly concerned.” So she sent the entire staff a “very carefully worded” email. 

Shoebridge: Staff have told you they don’t feel safe approaching you. They’ve raised concerns including that there are sanctions being applied to them when they raise these concerns. Have any staff been sanctioned for such things as signing pro-Palestine petitions or wearing a keffiyeh to work? Have sanctions or actions been taken against staff for taking either of those actions?

Croucher: No.

She said her CEO and the staff’s union both reminded staff about apolitical impartiality and their obligations under the public service code of conduct. “I find the idea of sanctions a little concerning, because there are no sanctions,” she said.

Heaven forbid that public servants are held accountable under the Public Service Code!

Shoebridge: Have you indicated to staff that such conduct as the signing of a pro-Palestinian petition or the wearing of keffiyeh might be a breach of the code of conduct?

Croucher: No.

Shoebridge: So you are telling me no staff member has been sanctioned in any way or disciplined for expressing pro-Palestinian opinions?

Croucher: Staff have been reminded about their need to behave within the constraints of the code of conduct … Ms Smith deals with staff matters.

HRC CEO Leanne Smith: We have been working with our staff to help them understand as Australian public servants their right to freedom of expression as individual citizens and their responsibilities under the code of conduct. That’s for staff with differing views on what is happening at the moment in the Middle East. No-one has been sanctioned at all.

Shoebridge aggressively asked whether her denial of victimisation of staff would be taken as dismissively questioning staff’s integrity and legitimacy of their concerns.[10] Croucher said commissioners were deeply concerned about staff’s welfare post-October 7. “We set up a whole series of internal channels to consider things. They were open channels, not silencing ones.”

Shoebridge next pivoted to attacking Croucher’s leadership from the far-left’s perspective:

Shoebridge: President [Croucher], one of the very real concerns that staff put in this communication to you was about the failure to show leadership:

‘The commission has failed to hold the Australian government accountable for its involvement in human rights violations in Palestine and repressive rhetoric and practices directed towards and actively harming communities in Australia. Due to a lack of leadership, the commission has become complicit in the erosion of human rights.’

In light of the now almost 30,000 Palestinians, majority women and children, who have been killed in the conflict in Gaza [this tally is Hamas propaganda and statistical nonsense], have you reflected on your role and your need to speak to the fundamental human rights issues at play there given what staff have told you?

Croucher: We reflect on such issues constantly … We acknowledge that some within the commission would have preferred us to be stronger on various issues. The position that the commission as a group have reached may not always align with the position that some of our staff would like us to take. However, we have consistently called for respect for human rights, including the right to freedom of assembly [especially for Muslims protesters, TT] and, I might point out, the protection of civilians, the provision of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza and the return of all civilian hostages…

Croucher’s  seven-year term has only a few months to run. She must be longing for a cushier job, like decarbonising the electricity grid, or running a National Anti-Corruption Commission inquiry  into Brittany Higgins’ $2.4m payout…

Tony Thomas’s latest book from Connor Court is Anthem of the Unwoke – Yep! The other lot’s gone bonkers. $34.95 from Connor Court here


[1] Leeser’s humorous aside apropos of the HRC’s parallel phobia about its CO2 emissions: “At least, we know there have also been zero emissions resulting from their lack of action!” In fact the HRC emissions last year were one half a tonne (Annual Report, p101).

[2] “The buck stops with me as ­accountable authority,” Croucher told a Senate estimates hearing.

[3] ”  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:

(a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and 

                     (b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.”

[4] s18c was cited by Justice Mordie Bromberg in 2011 to shame and silence Andrew Bolt over his critique of people self-selecting certain forebears to claim privileges for their “Aboriginality”. Bolt’s argument has since been mainstreamed by prominent Aborigines themselves.

[5] MHR Julian Leeser: “The government has stopped being unequivocal about anti-Semitism – always having to add the word Islamophobia as if they are embarrassed about defending Jewish Australians, or as if there is an invisible ledger needing to be balanced.”

[6] “Presented by the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Free + Equal Human Rights Conference will take place over 6 and 7 June at the Hyatt Regency in Sydney and will include 12 engaging sessions and events featuring a diverse line-up of more than 50 eminent experts, thought leaders, social justice advocates and community heroes.” Registration – $325-650.

[7]  As usual, Croucher did her moral-equivalence thing: “The antisemitism, anti-Palestinian and other racism we have seen in Australia during the conflict is unjustifiable and must be condemned.”

[8] HRC March 6: “The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, delivered a powerful statement last week raising the urgency of the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza. “The war in Gaza must end. Clear violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, including war crimes and possibly other crimes under international law, have been committed by all parties. It is time – well past time – for peace, investigation and accountability,” he said… The Australian Human Rights Commission urges the Australian Government to use its influence to advocate for a sustainable cessation of hostilities. 

[9] MHR Leeser commented, “No, Professor, the paramount concern should be racism and Jew-hatred and prejudice faced by Australians, not the preciousness of staff.”

[10] Shoebridge to Croucher: Do you not see how your response to my questions challenging the reasons for anonymity and challenging the validity of the statement that it comes from a collective of concerned staff across eight teams may be received by staff in your workplace as you dismissing these concerns and, indeed, questioning their integrity and the legitimacy of the concerns raised?

republished with permission. 

 Footnote: Disqus is playing silly buggers. You need to hit the refresh and reload the page to see new comments. Monty. 

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