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Labour releases Human Rights policy

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Labour's human rights policy released today sets a busy and important programme for a Labour Government, human rights spokesperson Tim Barnett said.

The policy covers law, education and structures. It ensures full public debate on key outstanding human rights matters before the end of 2001

Tim Barnett said the current generation is the carrier and guardian of human rights which others have fought for.

"It is vital that we take that responsibility seriously," Tim Barnett said.

"The National Government has tried to kill the potential of the Human Rights Act with a combination of apathy and hostility. They have under-resourced the Commission, encouraging them not to rock the boat. They have minimal expectations of human rights progress; it is years since any Government Minister made a significant speech on human rights. To add insult to injury, they froze the Consistency 2000 human rights audit process and then tried to give Government permanent exemption from the Act.

"Labour recognises just how important human rights are to New Zealanders. They must be protected by efficient and approachable agencies which focus on the big issues while not forgetting the little person. Our policy has been worked out in close consultation with key human rights agencies. I am immensely proud of it, and excited by the challenge of working with colleagues in Government to make the words reality," Tim Barnett said.

Other specific commitments include:

· Making the Human Rights Act apply to all other laws unless specifically exempted;
· Advocating to other political parties that the Human Rights Act be entrenched;
· Revitalise the Human Rights Commission, refocusing towards education and test case work;
· Ensuring improved public access to the services of the Commission, including contact points in provincial centres;
· Improving resource-sharing between complementary human rights agencies.

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