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HRC Says Government’s Action Inequitable


The Human Rights Commission said today that, although the government’s action in relation to the community services card is not covered by the Human Rights Act, it nevertheless creates an inequity.

The Commission confirmed that it had received a complaint from the Leader of the Opposition, Jenny Shipley, which stated that the Government’s actions in relation to the community services card breached the Human Rights Act.

Proceedings Commissioner Chris Lawrence said that the government’s action was outside the scope of the complaints provisions in the Human Rights Act for several reasons.

“The Commission remains concerned, however, at the inequity which has apparently been created between those who are employed and those who are not. The Commission will be taking the matter up with government,” said Lawrence.

The Commission replied to Mrs. Shipley’s complaint today.

Background Notes:
Chris Lawrence, the Commission’s Proceedings Commissioner said:
“Mrs Shipley complains that the Government’s action in raising the income threshold for beneficiaries but not for low paid employees discriminates against such employees on grounds of their employment status. The question for the Commission is whether this action contravenes the Human Rights Act.
The Government’s action is, clearly outside the scope of the Human Rights Act. There are three reasons why. Firstly “employment status” is defined in the Act as being unemployed or a beneficiary. The people said to have been discriminated against are neither unemployed nor beneficiaries. Therefore they are not protected by the employment status ground as defined.
Secondly, the raising of the income threshold is to be done by regulation and at present regulations, unfortunately, override the Human Rights Act.
Thirdly, the Government has the benefit of an exemption from the operation of the Act in relation to the new grounds introduced in 1993. Employment status is one of those grounds”.
Lawrence added:
“Mrs Shipley’s complaint illustrates the limitations of the Human Rights Act. Those limitations result from the legislation of the early 1990s and may well be addressed as part of the Government’s review of our human rights legislation”.


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