Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs has refused to resign, arguing the body would be undermined if she succumbed to pressure from the Abbott government.
Professor Triggs on Friday vowerd not to bow to personal "attacks" from senior ministers, who have labelled her a partisan "disgrace" whose position has become untenable.
Were I to receive warm and congratulatory words from the government on a constant basis I think that taxpayers would be justified in asking for my resignation because I wouldn't be doing my job
"I'm reasonably tough, I can cope with this," Professor Triggs told ABC radio. "But it's damagaing in the sense that it's not about me, it's about the work we're doing."
Professor Triggs said resigning would be "the very reverse" of what she should do.
"Were I to succumb to these highly personal responses to the work of the commission, that would undermine the independence of the commission," she said.
"Were I to receive warm and congratulatory words from the government on a constant basis I think that taxpayers would be justified in asking for my resignation because I wouldn't be doing my job."
Professor Triggs' comments came a day after Attorney-General George Brandis said the government had lost confidence in the president.
"I say that with some regret because I personally like Professor Triggs," Senator Brandis said. "The Human Rights Commission, in my view, is an important national institution but it has to be like Caesar's wife, it must both be and be seen to be above partisan politics."
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton last week called on Professor Triggs to resign, describing her as "a disgrace".
The Coalition has long criticised the president as being partisan for delaying a report into children in detention until after Labor's widely expected defeat in the 2013 federal election.
But the relationship soured further after recent comments in which a newspaper claimed Professor Triggs linked the government's "turn back the boats" policy with the execution of Bali nine members Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.
Professor Triggs denied she made the link, which was reported in The Australian newspaper.
"What happened was the newspaper chose a headline that was pure fabrication and it's extremely disappointing that ministers should leap upon a headline," she said.
The United Nations has urged the government to halt its attacks on Professor Triggs.
Michael Forst, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, wrote to the government in February calling on it to cease verbal attacks.
Professor Triggs will give a speech in Canberra on Friday night in which she is expected to criticise executive over-reach, including the government's plan to strip some Australian terrorism suspects of their citizenship.
She said on Friday morning her real concern was that the decision to strip citizenship would lie with a minister, rather than a court.