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Human Rights Commission Review Urgent - Franks

An overhaul of the Human Rights Commission is clearly urgent, following the anti-gay video case, according to ACT Justice spokesman Stephen Franks MP.

"The Court of Appeal's thumping decision yesterday defends freedom of speech.

"The judges voided the censors' ban of the videos, not because they agreed with the message [of the videos], but because freedom only means freedom when it extends to unpopular opinions.

“This is a resounding embarrassment for the Commission. It is not the first time they have tried to cut human rights instead of protecting them.

"Human rights defenders in countries that understand and respect freedom are usually the first to challenge censorship, even of arguments with which they profoundly disagree. Any other freedom of speech is of the soviet slogan kind.

"But our Human Rights Commissars had lawyers in court urging the censor's case. Even after the decision, the Proceedings Commissioner was still at it on the Kim Hill show. He was probably unaware that his arguments echoed those of the NZ town worthies who passed bylaws against the Salvation Army last century, because the Sallies "stirred up hatred of drinking and publicans.

"Attorney General Margaret Wilson has commissioned a review of our human rights institutions. But we can’t expect much concern for basic legal freedoms from her. The Attorney General also had lawyers in the video case, supporting the suppression of anti-gay argument.

"Any members of the Government who appreciate our inheritance of liberty should be pressing now to get a new Commission with some respect for freedom," concluded Stephen Franks.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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