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Radical plans for Human Rights Act opposed

Dr Wayne Mapp National Justice Spokesperson

1 November 2001

Radical plans for Human Rights Act opposed

The Government's radical restructuring of the Human Rights Act will be vigorously opposed by National as an attack on the freedom of individual New Zealanders and the further implementation of a politically correct agenda, National's Justice spokesperson Wayne Mapp said today.

The Justice Select Committee's report on the Human Rights Amendment Bill was tabled in Parliament today.

"This Bill could see the Human Rights Commission advocating a theory of human rights which will set people apart, rather than bring them together.

"The Bill gives the Human Rights Commission the role of promoting research, education and discussion on the Treaty of Waitangi. The Commission is particularly ill suited to this role. There is a risk that it will lose focus on its other functions and it will see a divisive debate on the Commission's views on the Treaty rather than its core function of protecting the rights of individuals.

"The move to a 'group' focus is a significant distinction from the traditional focus on 'individuals'. Human rights were traditionally protective of the rights of individuals against the oppression of the majority. Under this Bill, this will change to primarily being about groups being systematically discriminated against. This could lead to people viewing their existence in society as a member of a group, rather than as an individual with the same rights as any other person.

"A proactive educative role brings with it the risk of political agendas being implemented by Commissioners. This year we saw no consultation on the appointment of Commissioners and very political appointments made. The Ella Henry saga lends weight to this risk. The pursuing of politically correct agendas by Commissioners will limit the Commission's ability to deal with genuine issues of discrimination. Greater consultation on appointments must occur.

"The Bill also gives the Courts the power to declare a statute inconsistent with the Human Rights Act. This would be an attack on Parliament's sovereignty," Dr Mapp said.

Ends

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