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Human Rights start at home

Human Rights start at home

Justice Minister Andrew Little should not be lecturing the world in Geneva on human rights when he is breaching them at home, National’s Electoral Law Spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says.

“It is hypocritical of Mr Little to be lecturing the world on human rights and democracy when his first bill as Minister, enabling party leaders to dismiss MPs from Parliament, breaches basic human rights of freedom of speech at home.

“There is no more important place for free speech than in the Parliament. Mr Little’s electoral law change will have a chilling effect on free speech. It breaches the Bill of Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“Twenty legal and political academics, including eight professors from the Universities of Auckland, AUT, Victoria, Canterbury and Otago released a submission opposing the law change and attesting to the breach of the Bill of Rights.

“Mr Little should visit the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) while in Geneva to get an understanding of how badly his proposed law changes would damage New Zealand’s good reputation for democracy and human rights. The IPU has described such laws as a breach of ‘fundamental human rights’ and said that they create ‘political party dictatorships.’

“It would put New Zealand in the company of only a few authoritarian regimes like Pakistan Zimbabwe, and the Central African Republic that have such draconian electoral laws. The Minister in the House today was unable to name a single country that has high standards of democracy and human rights that has such provisions as proposed for New Zealand.

“The Supreme Court in Papua New Guinea in 2010 struck down similar laws, saying they breached the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Bill of Rights. Mr Little needs to explain why laws unacceptable to PNG are acceptable to New Zealand.

“The Government cannot justify this draconian law change on the basis of MMP. Germany has had MMP for over 70 years and has no such provisions, because it would breach their constitution approved by the Allies like New Zealand to prevent a repeat of the atrocities of World War II.

“The Government must abandon this unjust attack on our democracy and the rights of free speech of MPs before it seriously damages New Zealand’s reputation as a free and open democracy.”

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