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Harawira: Personal and Property Rights Bill

Protection of Personal and Property Rights Amendment Bill

First Reading; Hone Harawira

Wednesday 6 December 2006

Madam Speaker, I find it more than a little bizarre, that we can be focussing on a Bill for the protection of personal and property rights, when just over a week ago, our government supported a delaying motion at the United Nations on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Now this was no ordinary declaration, Madam Speaker. This was a declaration for the protection of personal and property rights of indigenous peoples; a declaration to affirm the fundamental human rights of the most politically, economically, socially and culturally marginalised people in the world – indigenous peoples; a declaration that took twenty years to reach resolution; and a resolution which this Government took great joy in unwinding.

In the very early days of hui around this declaration, a delegation including Nganeko Minhinnick, the late Alec Kaihau, Aroha Kaihau, Joe Williams, Hinewhare Harawira and Aroha Mead, attended the UN Working Group on Indigenous Peoples, on the relationship between indigenous peoples and states, and they were party to a statement which read, and I quote:

“The failure of states, governments and nations to seek negotiation as a means of dispute resolution is strongly indicated as the principal reason for sustained violence and war between indigenous nations and states….. While both indigenous nations and states seek to guarantee their sovereignty, there must be an acceptable process for bringing disputes to an end”.

At the same time as those early discussions were being held, here in Aotearoa the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988 was passed, to allow decisions to be made on behalf of those unable to manage their own affairs or properly look after themselves.

Madam Speaker, how ironic then that our own government can be so quick to strengthen legislation to protect vulnerable people; while denying Maori the fundamental human rights guaranteed to all other people.

Madam Speaker, this Bill puts into place the recommendations from the Law Commission and the 2001 report Misuse of Enduring Powers of Attorney, to provide for the protection of the personal and property rights of people who are not fully able to manage their own affairs.

It aims to get lawyers to act in their client's best interests, and we hope that the proposals of the Law Commission will ensure caution against abuses, such as:

- abuses in the granting of power of attorney;

- high-handedness, bullying, failure to consult [like when a lawyer sells a clients home without the client's knowledge];

- and embezzlement and theft.

The abuse of the powers of attorney takes place within a relationship of trust, and the Maori Party believes that that must never be tolerated.

Madam Speaker, behaviour like this, exploitation of vulnerable people, material and financial abuse, is an infringement of human rights. It is behaviour which breaches the code of conduct one expects of a socially responsible society.

Indeed, it is an abuse of power not unlike what this Government has done in their political manoeuvring at the United Nations; abuse condemned by indigenous peoples around the globe; abuse condemned by organisations such as Amnesty International; abuse which has resulted in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples being delayed, perhaps indefinitely.

Madam Speaker, this Bill pays particular attention to the vulnerabilities of the elderly, their welfare and their rights; the harmful physical, psychological, sexual, material, financial or social damage caused by the behaviour of someone they trust.

When the Law Commission consulted for their 2001 report, they sought wide involvement from older people and their organisations, because they saw that their welfare and interests should be a paramount consideration in this Bill.

As part of that consultation process, the Law Commission recommended the creation of a Commissioner for the Aged – a person chosen to champion the needs of the elderly throughout Aotearoa.

Today we talked about the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, we talked about the appointment of a new Police Complaints Authority, and we made reference to the Commissioner for Children.

In the same vein we also see the importance of our now considering a Commissioner for the Aged, one who also understands the special needs and dreams of kaumatua and kuia as well.

Of course Madam Speaker, it hardly needs be said that if lawyers acted professionally and properly, if that abuse and neglect didn’t occur, if standards were upheld, then we wouldn’t need a Commissioner and we wouldn’t need this Bill.

Unfortunately though, our society is falling so far behind in managing the problems of great swathes of our population, that the Maori Party must support this Bill to Select Committee.


ENDS

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