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Sign Language Bill bad in principle

Sign Language Bill bad in principle

Stephen Franks
Monday, 18 July 2005
Press Releases - Crime & Justice

The New Zealand Sign Language Bill, reported back today by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee is another misuse of Parliament’s law making power, ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

“ Most people will think it is a good idea because it purports to be about helping deaf people.

“The bill’s promoters may be well meaning, but is bad in principle to pass a law that:

- is superfluous, because the rights are already mostly contained in the NZ Bill of Rights Act.

- is so poorly defined and ambiguous that the rights can be misused for tactical advantage, or to make political points in court.

- undermines equality before the law by endorsing a self-defining group for privileges because they wish to identify as a separate culture.

- is likely to result in future tensions among deaf people who contend for authority to ‘represent’ the opinion of deaf people.

- is wholly uncosted and will benefit interpreters when the money might in future be better used in high quality transcripts, or in computer voice recognition technology, or even remedial surgery for deafness.

- declares a new official language, without saying what that means, leaving the courts with the room to invent things, or perhaps a duty to decide whether it means anything at all.

- makes a mockery of the notion of an “official language” and so devalues the Maori Language Act 1987, which declared Maori to be an official language of New Zealand.

In short, the Bill gives us another legally privileged minority, who will use lawyers and judges to sidestep normal needs based assessment for entitlement to state assistance,” Mr Franks said.


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