Govt secret plan to keep ACC judges out of access to justice
Government’s secret plans to keep ACC judges out of access to justice
Cabinet has signed off on a paper to remove access to the Courts for injured New Zealanders. The plan, which has not had any consultation, proposes ousting judges from deciding the facts of ACC cases.
ACC is beginning to lose significant cases in the District Court – and its costing them money. In a bid to maintain ACC’s role in propping up the Government’s Budget Surplus, the Government has devised a solution: make it harder for claimants to win.
The plan comes at the same time as the United Nations has directly asked the New Zealand Government to explain whether ACC claimants have access to justice. “From what we understand, the government has basically taken our list of objections to the current dispute resolution process, and exacerbated them.” says the lead author of Acclaim Otago’s report to the United Nations, Warren Forster.
At the same time, Government agencies are resisting any requests for information about the process. The Ministers for Justice, ACC and Courts have not provided any information about the process – Treasury, on the other hand, has indicated the amount of information they hold is substantial. MBIE has done the same. Nonetheless, no documents have been provided despite an urgent request for official information.
“Without being rude, anything less than District Court level competence and experience amounts to a cynical dumbing down of judicial process for fiscal reasons.” says Peter Sara, ACC specialist lawyer. “Once again we see the government blaming claimants, advocates and judges for decades of wrong decisions by ACC.”
“We’re particularly concerned that the Government’s pushing this through without consulting injured people.” says Mr Forster. “A core principle of the Convention on the Rights of People with disabilities is 'nothing about us without us'. The Government has ignored claimants’ objections for years, and now that the UN is investigating, they’ve bulldozed ahead on plans without consultation.”
Mr Sara is particularly concerned that they’re doing this within 3 months of a general election, and after the resignation of one of its support partners. “To be honest, the whole thing is unconstitutional. Is ACC really going to let the Government do this to their clients without consultation?”
“Similar questions need to be asked of other agencies with a responsibility for protecting injured people.” adds Mr Forster.
To have your voice heard on access to justice under ACC, fill out Acclaim Otago’s survey to the UN at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/accesstojusticenewzealand