Australian of the Year Grace Tame has labelled the appointment of the new human rights commissioner, Lorraine Finlay, as a “grave, grave mistake”, due to her public opposition to affirmative consent laws.
Tame said the appointment of the Western Australian lawyer and academic to the position of human rights commissioner, has undermined the federal government’s stated commitment to women’s safety.
Lorraine Finlay was announced as the next human rights commissioner on Sunday, and is scheduled to begin her five-year term in the position in November. Finlay is a lawyer and legal academic at Murdoch University, and human trafficking specialist. She has also served as a state prosecutor with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Western Australia.
Tame had made the point that Finlay has opposed affirmative consent laws, and has a public connection to Bettina Ardnt, the men’s rights activist who twice platformed the convicted paedophile who abused Tame.
“As much as I want to be hopeful about this summit, which the Government is claiming is its platform for change on women’s issues, unfortunately in the background, actions are still proving they don’t get it,” she told RN Breakfast on Tuesday.
“For instance, we’ve had a new human rights commissioner appointed, Lorraine Finlay, who has ties to the Liberal party dating back ten years. She is also against affirmative consent – enthusiastic consent – and as well, she has publicly supported the commentator who platformed the twice convicted paedophile who abused me.
“This position of human rights commissioner, this is a power position and also, it’s a five year tenure.”
Finlay was appointed as human rights commissioner by federal attorney-general, Senator Michaelia Cash.
Speaking at the Women’s Safety Summit, Tame, who is an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, said Finlay’s appointment was “very telling of a fundamental lack of understanding at the top level of what really is at the foundation of these issues…the foundation of the issue of domestic violence, the foundation of the issue of sexual violence is one of control”.
In an article published by Spectator in 2018, Lorraine Finlay expanded on why she opposes an affirmative consent model, which requires active steps to be taken to gain consent before sex. This model was legislated by the NSW government in May, with advocates calling it a win for survivors of sexual assault.
“When we require consent to be affirmatively established we are starting from the presumption that there is no consent, meaning that all sexual intercourse is unlawful until proven otherwise. This is contrary to the fundamental legal precept that individuals are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty,” Finlay wrote in 2018.
“At a practical level, the problem is that these laws are simply not workable. They fail to account for the way that humans interact in reality, and they transform any sexual encounter into a potential legal minefield. They also unacceptably blur the line between a bad sexual experience and an unlawful one. A ‘yes means yes’ standard makes it disturbingly easy for an individual to re-evaluate a regretted sexual encounter and to retrospectively withdraw consent, with some advocates in the USA going so far as to claim that ‘regret equals rape’.”
In 2018, Finlay also appeared in a video interview posted to Bettina Arndt’s YouTube channel, to expand on her view on affirmative consent laws.
On Tuesday, Finlay took to Twitter to say she recognises that the “importance of protecting victims from sexual and domestic violence is urgent and undeniable”, and that her views on affirmative consent have also been expressed by various legal experts and groups.
“This is a law reform question that people can have different views about, while still sharing a firm commitment to condemning violence and protecting victims,” Finlay wrote.
Finlay said she is committed to “working constructively to protect and advance human rights” as human rights commissioner.