Human Rights Commission budget should accommodate Wilson, says Attorney-General George Brandis

Friday, 14. September 2018

Australian politics: full coverage

Attorney-General George Brandis says the Australian Human Rights Commission should have no trouble finding the money to pay for the salary of Tim Wilson.

He has suggested the commission look at its own staffing expenditure, which has nearly doubled in the past three years.

Commission president Gillian Triggs warned on Monday that Mr Wilson’s appointment as a commissioner to the AHRC – with a salary of about $320,000 a year – may have to come at the expense of programs on school bullying and education for older Australians.

That is because Mr Wilson’s appointment will not coincide with a boost in the commission’s annual budget of about $25 million.

Ms Triggs said his appointment would ”squeeze” the commission because it would be forced to find the money within its existing budget.

She will meet other commissioners next month to decide where spending cuts to programs will come from.

But Mr Brandis says the commission should have no trouble coming up with the money.

He has pointed to the commission’s annual reports, which show staffing costs have risen by $5.4 million over the past three years, representing an increase of nearly 50 per cent.

”If the commission decides to increase its staffing costs by 50 per cent in three years, it is difficult to understand how the salary of a single statutory officer cannot be met by economies within its staffing expenditure rather than elsewhere in its budget,” Mr Brandis said. ”However, that is a matter for the commission.”

According to its 2013 annual report, the commission spent $16.37 million on ”employee benefits” last year. These expenses included wages and salaries, superannuation, entitlements, redundancies and other expenses for staff. In its 2010 annual report, it spent $11.01 million.

Mr Brandis said the management of the commission’s finances were a ”matter for the commission”.

”The public expects that the commission, like all statutory agencies, will find the funds for the remuneration of statutory officers from within its budget,” he said.

Ms Triggs said on Monday that she will meet with the Attorney-General and his representatives in mid-January ”to discuss these budgetary issues”.

Mr Wilson, who was a director at libertarian think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, is due to take up his position on the Human Rights Commission in February. The IPA has called for the abolition of the commission.

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