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Open Letter To Maori MPs Please Vote Against Covid-19 Public Response Bill

Tena koutou.

I am writing to you as Maori MPs with a plea to vote against the Covid-19 Public Response Bill, and at the very least refer it to select committee for scrutiny.

There are so many problems with the Bill, but I want to focus specifically on Clause 17(3).

As I read the Bill I had images of the invasion of Parihaka – the wording almost mirrors that in the west Coast Peace Preservation Act – and the arrest of Rua Kenana at Maungapohatu. As some of you will recall, I teach both of those to my first year Law and Society students as among the deepest days of racism and colonial oppression in New Zealand. Surely, we can’t be laying the ground to repeat those grave injustices in the name of Covid-19?

The assurances of safeguards echo those we were given when making submissions on the Suppression of Terrorism Act. Some of us predicted those powers would be used against Maori, with sweeping racially biased interpretations and failed safeguards. Sure enough we had raids on te Urewera.

Just today we have stories about the police trialling facial recognition software without any permission. We know that AI has inbuilt racial biases.

This Bill operates for 2 years without effective scrutiny. If the Parliament passes this Bill, and the Maori MPs are complicit in that, what reassurance does a requirement for ex poste scrutiny in the House provide? …

Where is the Treaty of Waitangi assessment, even against the deeply flawed guidelines adopted by the government last year?

The Bill of Rights assessment makes no reference to the Treaty.

Clause 17(3) treats a private dwelling and a marae as equivalent, and the concerns expressed are over privacy not over tino rangatiratanga, tikanga, te kawa of the marae …

Yes, there are health issues, but as with the roadblocks, there are means of cooperating to develop appropriate strategies that recognise tino rangatiratanga and are culturally appropriate and consistent with tikanga.

The Crown is acting today just as it did back in the 1880s. Today, it should know better. But by bypassing select committee it is not prepared even to be held to account within its own forum.

Please vote against this Bill and plead with the government to at least send it to select committee to hear submissions.

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