Abuse breach of human rights law: Triggs

Christopher Pyne
Christopher Pyne has warned against a long, drawn-out inquiry into juvenile detention abuse. (AAP)

Human Rights Commission head Gillian Triggs says you don't need to be a lawyer to see footage of boys abused behind bars breaches human rights law.

Teenage boys being stripped naked and tear-gassed behind bars breaches just about every fundamental principle of human rights law, the Human Rights Commission boss believes.

And you don't need to be a human rights lawyer to know it, Gillian Triggs says.

Ms Triggs believes CCTV footage of the abuse has been seen before and the key test of a seven-month royal commission into NT youth detention will be accountability.

She predicts there's "every chance" senior ministers will be recommended for prosecution, particularly if it's revealed they knew of abuse inside centres including Don Dale.

"This is well known," she told Sky News on Friday.

"Quite obviously, you don't need to be a human rights lawyer to view that footage and to say that is breaching just about every fundamental principle of human rights law you can think of."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday brushed off criticism his government didn't consult with indigenous leaders or the opposition on the terms of reference for the royal commission.

He insists the right balance was struck to ensure the commission is effective.

"The terms of reference are broad but not so broad as to make the inquiry an endless one," the prime minister told reporters in Sydney.

Labor is upset about a lack of consultation saying there's scope for a broader inquiry and a second commissioner with an indigenous background.

Ms Triggs also wasn't consulted about the terms of reference but says that's a trade-off for its speedy establishment.

"Of course we're very pleased about it," she said.

Commissioner Brian Ross Martin was also forced to defend his appointment after reports his daughter worked as a justice adviser to the NT attorney-general during the period being examined.

"It is my daughter's memory that during the period of her employment with the NT government, she had no involvement in the NT child protection or child detention systems," he said in a statement.

His daughter's former job was disclosed prior to Justice Martin's appointment and he is satisfied it does not compromise the independence of the commission.

Justice Martin, the former chief justice for the NT, also denies his close contact with the territory legal system could cause a conflict.

The inquiry was sparked after the ABC aired footage of young boys stripped naked and held in solitary confinement.

The videos also showed one boy shackled to a "mechanical device" chair before being left alone for two hours and another tackled, lifted and hurled across a room.

Mr Turnbull promised the commission would be the highest priority for his government.

"I said we would get on with it speedily and we have," he said.

Acting opposition leader Tanya Plibersek revealed the prime minister had spoken with her on Thursday after the terms of reference had been set and after the commissioner had been selected.

But she said any suggestion the government had consulted with the opposition were false.

Mr Turnbull had indicated the terms of reference could be amended if necessary during the inquiry.

"I am disappointed that that's the attitude. I would have thought it would be good to get this right the first time," Ms Plibersek told reporters in Brisbane.

The commission is due to report its recommendations by March 31.

Source: AAP