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Human Rights Office Politicised

Human Rights Office Politicised

Tuesday 20th Mar 2001 Richard Prebble Media Release -- Governance & Constitution

ACT Leader Richard Prebble says the minority coalition government’s intention to appoint trade union official Rosslyn Noonan as Chief Human Rights Commissioner, breaks a pledge by Prime Minister Helen Clark.

“Prior to the last election, Helen Clark as leader of the opposition, objected strongly to the National government appointing a human rights commissioner without consulting the opposition,” Richard Prebble said.

“On 20 August 1999, Helen Clark said “no significant appointment should be made unless they enjoyed bipartisan support” and objected to the woman lawyer proposed by National on the basis that the person was “not qualified”.

National did not proceed with the appointment, even though the nominee had survived through an original 30 applicants, reduced to a short list of eight and after interviews with three people who the civil service said were qualified.

“ACT has now received a copy of an e-mail sent only to Labour and Alliance MPs from the Minister of Justice, Margaret Wilson, calling for nominations for three Human Rights Commissioners. The existence of the e-mail shows that the Labour/Alliance government is politicising the Human Rights office and breaks the word of the Prime Minister by inviting only party political nominations.

“It also breaks New Zealand’s word internationally. Labour MP Tim Barnett stated in parliament on 31 July 1999, prior to the election, that “New Zealand is signatory to an international agreement…which commits to involving Parliament in the appointment of members of the Human Rights Commission”.

“This principle has been abandoned by this government. It appears that no proper appointment process has been followed. I understand Ms Noonan’s appointment is a result of Margaret Wilson nominating her to the Labour and Alliance caucuses. No vetting process, no interviews, no calling of nominations and no public input.”

Richard Prebble says if Rosslyn Noonan’s appointment was put before parliament, it would have to be thrown out.

“This person is a committed Labour party member and militant trade unionist who lacks the judgement required to be a human rights commissioner. Throughout her adult life she has been an extreme left radical, notably as the teachers union secretary and as a member of the ill-fated Royal Commission on Social Policy whose ideological diatribe of a report became the biggest door-stop ever published. More recently she failed in an attempt to become secretary of the Council of Trade Unions.

“The Human Rights Commission should not be the preserve of failed Labour candidates and rejected trade union secretaries looking for a pension.

“Had parliament been consulted, ACT would have said that Human Rights Commissioners should be people who are widely acceptable to the community, similar to the way ombudsmen are appointed. The real loser in this process is the office of the Human Rights Commission, which relies on public esteem and acceptability to fulfil its role,” Richard Prebble said.


For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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