Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian
Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian

Plum job that pays $346,000

THE federal government has begun the search for a new Race Discrimination Commissioner who has an "understanding of middle Australian values" to replace Dr Tim Soutphommasane when his term finishes in August.

Ads seeking expressions of interest for the role, which comes with a salary of $346,250 for a possible seven-year term, were released by the Attorney-General's Department on Thursday.

The successful applicant will be required to promote "understanding and acceptance of, and compliance with, the Racial Discrimination Act", "understanding, tolerance and friendship among racial and ethnic groups" and "the benefits of cultural and linguistic diversity for all Australians".

"I hope people with a fierce commitment to combating racism will apply," Dr Soutphommasane tweeted. "Whoever the next Commissioner is, they must speak up for those who experience discrimination, defend racial equality, and do the job without fear or favour."

Dr Soutphommasane was criticised in 2016 for appearing to solicit complaints under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act against late cartoonist Bill Leak, over a cartoon depicting an Aboriginal father, son and police officer.

A complaint was investigated but eventually lapsed after being dropped by the German-based woman. Leak died of a heart attack in March 2017 at the age of 61, with some supporters partially attributing his death to the stress of the complaints process.

Ten days after Leak's death, Dr Soutphommasane denied ever soliciting complaints. "I reject any suggestion that I have 'urged' or 'encouraged' complaints," he said at the time.

"It is my function, as stated in the Racial Discrimination Act, to promote public understanding and acceptance of the act. This ­includes informing people about their right to lodge a complaint if they believe they have experienced racial hatred.

"It is wrong to suggest that giving this information amounts to soliciting complaints."

Attorney-General Christian Porter, who was critical of Dr Soutphommasane's conduct in 2016, told The Australian the new Commissioner would be someone with "an understanding and empathy not merely for minority groups but for middle Australian values".

Applications for the role close on May 11.



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