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Howard’s End – Is A Commissioner of Truth Needed?


Howard’s End – Is A Commissioner of Truth Needed?

Allegations of unfairness, incompetence and corruption at the Ministry of Fisheries, District Health Boards using dedicated mental health dollars for other purposes, doctors being advised to take legal advice before taking part in an audit of the cervical screening programe and allegations of unfairness, incompetence and victimisation at ACC. Do we need a Commissioner of Truth and Reconciliation? Maree Howard writes.

What on earth is happening to my country?

"While the Government cannot be asked to do more than its best to keep private individuals from harming others, it is responsible for what its own agents did, unless it acts promptly and effectively to stop them."

That little gem came from a February 2002 judgment in the English Court of Appeal before three top Law Lords.

"Transgressions by individuals under the control of the Government but unchecked by that Government, are capable of amounting to persecution," said the Law Lords.

The allegations flying against the Ministry of Fisheries, the DHB's and ACC are not instances of isolated rogue activity. It is systemic through the whole system.

The Government is faced with its undoubted responsibility and has to examine what it is doing about it.

As constitutional lawyer, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, said earlier this week in the context of the inept handling by the Government of the fisheries issue: " What is the use of people going to court to test the legality of things if it is going to be ignored."

That also applies to ACC.

Since last November there are cases on the public record where ACC was told by both reviewers and the Courts that it was applying the wrong legal test. Yet staff still do it today and put claimants to unnecessary stress, expense and anxiety. I call that persecution.

Last year an inquiry into WINZ discovered that it had not implemented an earlier Court of Appeal decision and 15,000 cases now have to be reviewed.

Sir Geoffrey said, " If the Government can have its way all the time, despite what the Courts say, you've got a real problem."

But its worse, because not only are individuals under the control of the Government breaking domestic law, they also contravene legally-binding International Conventions, Treaties and Declarations which New Zealand has ratified.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights to name just three.

And then there's the ILO conventions.

Convention (159), concerning vocational rehabilitation and employment of disabled persons, has not been ratified by New Zealand Government's although it entered into force generally in international law in 1985. It is also international customary law.

Ninety other countries have ratified that Convention but not mine.

What nation-State, particularly one now led by a Labour Government, would not ratify the Convention to ensure that vocational rehabilitation and employment of disabled persons was a major priority.

It is a great irony that Hon Ruth Dyson is the Minister of ACC and is also the Minister on Disability issues.

ACC's actions, along with the actions of many other departments of State, are so far out of line with the principal International Conventions and the unratified 159 that it could almost be described as a crime against New Zealand humanity.

The courts have already held that when a nation-State ratifies an International document it signals to its own citizens and to the world that it intends to abide by it.

For the most part we have not, and, we do not.

Scoop understands there are many ordinary people who now believe they are unable get fairness and justice through the Minister's and their departments and redress for the wrong can only be received by way of legal hearings.

It seems they are finally realising that New Zealand Government's have signalled to the world that our country intends to abide by these International Conventions, and so will introduce them into their cases at he arings, tribunals and the courts.

Woe-be-tide any reviewer or public administrator who does not take notice for the courts have also held there is a common law duty imposed on adminstrators and decision-makers to act legally, rationally and fairly.

Scoop also understands there is case law from the Privy Council which holds that the statutory authorisation must be conducted with reasonable care and regard for the interests of other persons. Otherwise the administrator loses their immunity.

And 'Yes Minister,' you are supposed to be in charge. Or must we now have a Commissioner of Truth and Reconciliation?

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