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Flavell: Human Rights (One Law for All) Bill

Human Rights (One Law for All) Amendment Bill

28 June 2006 (delivered 9.06pm)

Te Ururoa Flavell; Member of Parliament for Waiariki

Tena koe, Mr Speaker, tena tatou katoa.

Tena koe Rodney Hide i whakaaro nei i tenei kaupapa ki mua i te aroaro o te Whare Paremata. I acknowledge Mr Hide for placing this Bill before the House.

I am not one who, as a rule of thumb, turns to the Church to seek some sort of view about responding to legislation, but in this case I have.

I have tried to figure out and get a view from the church.

The Maori Party sees this Bill, which seeks to amend the Human Act to remove the Government’s exemption in respect to discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, as extremely significant.

In an ideal world, One Law for All, is something that the Maori Party would normally sign up to with absolute commitment.

But the reality is, Mr Speaker, that this is not the ideal world.

In October 1994, the Joint Methodist-Presbyterian Public Questions committee, put together a paper. It was called Towards a Maori Criminal Justice System.

In that paper, we were told that the concept of ‘one law for all’ is fundamentally flawed in that it pretends that the law is culturally neutral. The paper stated:

“All law embodies and protects a particular culture's values. The argument for one law for all in Aotearoa assumes our law incorporates universal notions of justice”.

The changes proposed in this Bill fail to recognise that the thinking behind one law for all - which translates into ‘one process for all’ - does not result in ‘one justice for all’.

The debate becomes focused on avoiding ‘special privileges’ rather than seeing the law as an expression of one set of cultural ideologies. The ‘one law’ for this Bill - is a law shaped by the values of a particular culture - not, we would assume, the culture of tangata whenua.

Maori cultural values are simply not reflected in our criminal law. What is reflected is the sum of values from British and Western history, with Maori law dismissed as having no validity at all.

In case the selection of Methodist and Presbyterian advice is seen as partisan, I chose to also look at what the Catholic church was saying about how well ‘one law for all’ includes Maori.

Bishop Peter Cullinane acted as key signatory for the Bishops statement, which was called, ‘Let us be fair and informed’ . It was released in April 2004.

In that statement, the Bishops of Aotearoa, told the nation that:

“The difference between a claim to privilege based on race, and the claim to rights based on indigenous status and recognised by the very existence of the Treaty, has been blurred”.

I refer that statement to the Members of this House for the way in which it describes how ‘one law for all’ has acted so fiercely against the interests of Maori.

The Bishops described the impact of the 1862 Native Lands Act which made lawful the Crown's extinguishing of millions of hectares of Maori title in wrongful alienations.

The Bishops also articulated the force of the 1864 Public Works Act which took Maori land without compensation for roads and railways; a Bill that was still in force to the 1960s.

Mr Speaker, I could go on and on - indeed in the 1970s, the Waitangi Action Committee identified as least 57 Acts of the 19th century that discriminated against Maori.

And in case any member wants to dismiss this as being part of a long forgotten past, cast your mind back to May 2004, with the passing of the latest act of extinguishment, the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Mr Speaker, Te Tiriti o Waitangi gave us a commitment that Maori would be treated as equal citizens.

There should always have been one law for all New Zealanders. But there never has been. The historic injustice of confiscation and colonisation has led to serious social and economic deprivation - that is race specific.

If we really want to talk about One Law for All and human rights - we need to ask why there are these ongoing inequalities.

We are not all the same - and being treated the same will only serve to increase the inequalities.

There are times when special measures are required to ensure the equality of all members of a society.

Although we commend the intention of Mr Hide to aspire for a situation in which all people are equal under the law, our lived experience tells us that we are far from that ideal right now.

Two months ago, the United Nations Special Rapporteur came to Aotearoa and urged our Parliament to restore our reputation in the international arena of human rights. His report was pooh-poohed; and he was denigrated.

This Bill does nothing to achieve the goal; and for that reason, the Maori Party will not support this Bill.


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