ACT's Stance On Sign Language Bill Clarified
12 August 2005
Dear Mr Peck ,
I did not respond to your earlier messages because the questions appeared to be rhetorical, more statements of position than requests for information.
I can understand puzzlement about the differences between Mr Eckhoff's original welcome to the Bill, and my release.
The explanation is that his speech was given when the Bill was introduced. The government did not consult with the Act party before then. He had just seen the Bill. Naturally it was taken at face value. My comments came after hearing many hours of evidence before the Select Committee which reported on the Bill.
I read all the material provided by submitters and officials. As the release it says, it became clear that there was no proper costing, that the designation as an "official" language was purely symbolic, a hollow gesture with no meaning set out in the Bill, leaving it for judges to decide whether it means anything at all. I was disturbed by the militance that seeped through one or two submissions. Though the matter was not raised, I think some supporters showed something of the attitude that in Britain is now contesting cochlear implants.
I will not be indifferent to an attitude that elevates group identity over common citizenship, whether the identity is racial or religious or otherwise.
The Ministry of Justice was quite clear in their advice that the bill did not essentially expand on rights already assured to deaf people in courts and proceedings, by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
The comments in my release would have appeared as a minority view in the select committee's report if I had been able to be present at the critical meeting which deliberated on the report.
I was well aware that there would be people in the deaf community offended by my opposition. I did not make the statement to attract votes. I knew that it would be of interest to few outside the deaf community.
I have seen it as my duty as an MP to oppose law that is misleading, deliberately ambiguous, and potentially a gift mainly to professionals, in this case lawyers and interpreters. Act has consistently stood for principles at the expense of popular support. I do not believe we should be passing legislation that appears to promise things which the fine print does not deliver.
I have twice now asked questions of ACT in relation to Stephen Franks press release on 18 July regarding ACT's position on the NZSL Bill. It appears from Mr Franks press release that ACT is now going back on what Gerry Eckhoff said at the first reading of the NZSL Bill. I have tried to clarify if this is correct, yet I have had no reply what-so-ever from ACT or a representative, not even to acknowledge my correspondence, let alone provide some answers.
My latest email also included a read receipt, so I know that the second email was received and read, yet I have again been ignored. I am now sending this to other parties and news organisations in then hope that they might bring pressure on ACT to respond to what I consider basic and justifiable questions about ACT's own press release. Surely ACT is required to respond to my questions, if for no other reason than polite professionalism - or is that not important to ACT?
My original emails and the questions posed are below. Please help me to get some answers from ACT Regards