New Bill Advances Human Rights
Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan and Race Relations Conciliator Gregory Fortuin have welcomed the Human Rights Amendment Bill tabled in Parliament this week.
“New Zealanders will be pleased that the government is finally setting up a system to make its own performance in the area of human rights accountable,” they say.
Both Rosslyn Noonan and Gregory Fortuin are pleased to see the Bill enter the House ending months of speculation over the future of the organisations they lead.
“The Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Race Relations Conciliator will merge and work together from 1 January 2002. We believe that this change will be beneficial to the people of New Zealand and boost the effectiveness of the work we do,” Ms Noonan says.
“Under the new legislation, the Race Relations Conciliator will become Race Relations Commissioner, maintaining the role of leading discussion of race relations in New Zealand and fostering harmonious relations among the diverse groups that make up New Zealand society,” says Mr Fortuin.
“Merging the two organisations will provide citizens with a ‘one-stop shop’ for pursuing their concerns about human rights and race relations,” he says. “The combined expertise and information that we will now be able to draw upon can only allow us to perform better in the drive to promote and protect human rights in New Zealand.”
The amendment bill establishes the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 as the anti-discrimination standard for government. It provides a publicly funded process for citizens to make complaints and, where necessary, pursue Court action against the Government, in the same way that complaints can be brought against fellow-citizens under the Human Rights Act.
A shift of focus from processing complaints of discrimination to advocacy for a greater understanding of and respect for human rights is another important change in the Bill.