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Govt's Card Decision In Breach Of Human Rights Act

National says the Government is breaching the Human Rights Act by discriminating against people who are employed in its decision to increase the income threshold on the Community Services Card for beneficiaries, but refusing to do so for workers.

In almost all situations it is a clear breach of the Human Rights Act to discriminate against anyone on the basis of their employment status. "That is exactly what this Government is doing by barring 48,000 low-income workers from eligibility for the Community Services Card, while allowing beneficiaries, with equal or higher incomes, to get the cards," Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley said today.

"I have written to the Human Rights Commissioner seeking her ruling on whether the Government has breached the Human Rights Act - and also seeking any written or oral advice her office provided to the Government prior to this decision. If the Government did not seek any advice then serious questions must be asked.

"By law New Zealand Governments must make their decisions consistent with the Human Rights Act or justify why they have not done so. In National's view there is no justification for the Labour-Alliance Government's decision.

"Those cards should be available on the basis of need. Do workers on low incomes have any less need for health care than beneficiaries on the same income? No. Do their children have any less need for medical care? No. In point of fact low-income workers often have higher needs because they face higher costs for things like childcare and transport due to the fact they work.

"Helen Clark's comment that she will talk about the issue with other parties but is unlikely to change the Government's decision is arrogant, heartless and unacceptable. This unfair decision must be changed.

"It is against all commonsense and fairness to make people in work worse off than people on welfare. This is the sort of thing Labour specialised in during the 1980s, and it was something National had to spend a lot time putting right after we came to office in 1990. Giving preferential treatment to beneficiaries over workers is no longer tolerable," Jenny Shipley said.


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