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Public service’s lolly underground protests against treatment of Gillian Triggs

Attorney-General Senator George Brandis and Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs during an estimates hearing. Photo: Alex EllinghausenMore public service newsThe public service boss and his missing notes
Nanjing Night Net

Canberra public servants used lollies and chocolates to quietly protest the Abbott government’s attacks on the Human Rights Commission during explosive Senate committee hearings last year.

Commissioner Gillian Triggs has revealed how she and her staff, denied meal breaks during the lengthy hearings, were quietly fed with sweets and chocolates by sympathetic public servants who tried to distance themselves from the attacks.

Professor Triggs has also used her interview with The Saturday Paper to hit back at some of the politicians involved in attacking her office as bullies and cowards who were guilty of disgraceful conduct.

She also said Australian politicians are often ill-informed and uneducated on matters of international law.

In some of the most controversial Senate Estimates scenes in years, Coalition senators went after Professor Triggs in the February 2015 sessions over her report on children in immigration detention, which was dubbed “a political stitch-up” by then prime minister Tony Abbott.

The hearings were tough too for Attorney-General’s Department boss Chris Moraitis, who told the committee that he could not produce notes of a key meeting with the commissioner because he had lost his briefcase.

But in her latest interview, Professor Triggs revealed that she and her staff were not facing a completely hostile environment.

“There were some lovely little side things, like the public servants behind the scenes, coming around with bowls of Jelly Snakes and Jelly Babies and mini Mars bars,” the commissioner said.

“Because we’d had nothing to eat, and they wouldn’t get us any food.

“The senators and members of the committee were all going off and having lunch.

“We’d had no breakfast, no morning tea and no lunch and I thought I’d faint, but these wonderful people were coming in and we were grabbing the food and eating it and they were saying [sotto voce], “You do realise that we are not responsible for this, don’t you?”, because some might think the secretariat had fed them these questions.”

Professor Triggs said that in fact it was Attorney-General George Brandis,  sitting beside her during the hearings, writing questions down and supplying them to his colleagues on the committee.

Professor Triggs was scathing of her pursuers, saying that a criminal investigation into Senator Brandis’ conduct had been considered and her attackers were “cowards”.

“They are cowards and the moment you stand up to them they crumble, and they did crumble,” the commissioner said.

“And several now have been seen off long before me.”

Professor Triggs also criticised the lack of effort by MPs and senators to educate themselves to a high level about important issues.

“One can be astonished at the very simplistic level at which I need to speak,” she said.

“Our parliamentarians are usually seriously ill-informed and uneducated.”

The Attorney-General’s office has been contacted for comment.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.