So much for rights and freedoms

14/05/2020

The government gave in to public pressure and raised the number of people permitted at a funeral from 10 to 50.

However only 10 are permitted to attend a wedding, go to church or gather in a private home yet 100 are permitted in a restaurant, bar, casino or strip club.

Making it worse are the new powers the police have to ensure we all adhere to this.

The government has had nearly two months to work out legislation to cover Level 2 alert level and had it gone about it the right way the Opposition would have worked with it and supported it.

Instead they’ve rushed through legislation about which the Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned.

“For weeks the Government has known that we would be moving to alert level 2. It has not allowed enough time for careful public democratic consideration of this level 2 legislation. There has been no input from ordinary New Zealanders which is deeply regrettable,” said Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt. 

“This is a great failure of our democratic process. The new legislation, if passed in its current state, will result in sweeping police powers unseen in this country for many years.” . . .

“In times of national emergency sweeping powers are granted. There is a risk of overreach. Mistakes are made and later regretted. This is precisely when our national and international human rights, and Te Tiriti, commitments must be taken into account.” 

“Human rights can help to ensure all measures are effective, balanced, fair, reasonable, non-discriminatory, proportionate and subject to independent review. If the Government wishes to retain the public’s trust and confidence, it must honour human rights and Te Tiriti.”  

“A process of regular review by Parliament is needed. If passed in its current form, the Bill should be reviewed by select committee at regular terms and the Government should be open to any recommended changes.”   . . 

The rushed legislation is even worse when it gives police more powers at Level 2 than they had at Levels 4 and 3.

Heather du Plessis-Allan reckons the government has lost perspective:

Look at the powers the Government is giving police today and tell me they haven’t lost perspective over Covid-19.

Because it looks a lot like they have.

From today on – once this legislation passes – police will be able to come into your house without a warrant if they think there is a party going on inside. A party. Of more than 10 people. Not a murder scene, not drug-cooking, a gathering of more than 10 people.

That’s a family of two parents, four children and one grandchild.

Is that proportionate under level 2?

You could perhaps make excuses for the East German police approach under levels 3 or 4 when health authorities were worried about silent community transmission, but under level 2 this is overkill.

We have 74 people with Covid-19 in this country and yet the Government believes it’s fine to allow police unfettered access into the homes of 5 million people.

Because that’s what this means: warrantless entry means no one checks that the officers are doing the right thing … it is entirely up to them. . . 

Under normal circumstances a warrant from the court or a JP would be required and police would have to have reasonable grounds for requesting one.

How have we got to a stage where we think this is fine. Where we accept rules that say only 10 people are allowed at funerals but 100 people can go to a pub? Where families can’t get out of quarantine to say goodbye to dying family members and people in hospitals die without any loved ones holding their hands?

This all feels like a blinkered, mono-focused, perfectionist approach to get zero zero zero and to hell with the sadness and loss of human rights.

Politically the law passing today is not a good for the Government but especially bad for the Attorney General, David Parker. This is the same guy responsible for the stuff-up over whether the lockdown was legal or not. He has high regard for his own abilities and yet created far too many legal headaches for the Government thus far.

Perspective has been lost here.

So have rights and freedoms.

An observation by Theodore Dalrymple is apropos here:

It has long been my opinion that inside every sentimentalist there is a despot trying to get out. 

This government is becoming more despotic by the day and Labour’s coalition partners New Zealand First and the Green Party should be ashamed of their silent acquiescence to these new draconian powers which have been seized under urgency.


Pot, kettle

02/05/2019

The New Zealand Maori Council has asked the Human Rights Commission to investigate Hobson’s Pledge.

The resolution to seek the Human Rights Commission to intervene in what the council has called a “racially charged and motivated group of men” was passed unanimously by the Sixteen Districts of the Council at its national hui over the weekend. Matthew Tukaki, Executive Director of the Maori Council has said that Hobson’s Pledge is nothing more than a divisive group of “haters” who would do nothing more than send us all back to the dark ages:

“Let’s be really clear here this group has been able to get away with anything they please when it comes to race relations in this country and to be blunt; we are sick of it. Maori are sick of it. Don Brach and his cronies do nothing more than seek to divide this nation off the back of their tired old man views and their position that it’s their way or the highway.” Tukaki said.

A racially charged and motivated group of men? Tired old men views? This looks very like a pot calling a kettle black without fulling understanding the kettle’s views.

It pays to know your opposition before you attack them. Hobson’s Pledge’s membership includes women and Maori. Maori could be racist, although it would be difficult to be so against other Maori and women aren’t men.

“That is, they the New Zealand Maori Council has asked the New Zealand Human Rights Commission to investigate the impact that groups such as Hobsons Pledge has by furthering the fires of hate speech and the putting down of Maori and peoples of color.” Said Tukaki.

Putting down?

How can a call for equality and for the state to be colour blind be putting down?

“We are further concerned that comments their leadership have made in public over many months constitutes the incitement to both violence and racism, hate and the segregation of New Zealand society. . . 

Agree or not with what the organisation stands for and its representatives say, anything I have heard or read from them is calm, and polite, and a call for unity not separation.

Hobson’s Pledge has welcomed the investigation call.

Hobson’s Pledge welcomes an investigation by the Human Rights Commission called for by the Maori Council so long as the Commission applies the law, acts independently, and leaves prejudice at the door, Hobson’s Pledge spokesperson Casey Costello said today.

The Maori Council called for an investigation in an invective-ridden media release, which said the call was supported unanimously by 16 districts at a national hui at the weekend.

The Maori Council should be careful of the language it uses because it is more extreme than allegations that have already required apologies and printed retractions, Ms Costello said.

The Maori Council media release ignores the fact that both women and Maori are actively involved with Hobson’s Pledge, she said.

Since the Human Rights Commission exists to resolve disputes about unlawful discrimination, it is difficult to see how our group, which calls for the equal treatment of everybody, can be construed as discriminating against anyone, she said.

Any investigation should look at the actual content of our media releases, public statements, and contents of our website, because this is what we actually say, she said.

Allegations by other parties of what we are supposed to have said, that have appeared in the media, were not created by us, and if they are distasteful, the authors of those allegations should be called to account, Ms Costello said.

I have read and heard a lot of criticisms of what people think Hobson’s Pledge is about but nothing that provides a point by point rebuttal of what it actually says.

The shouting down of Pledge spokesman, Don Brash, at Waitangi this year is a case in point.

He was shouted down but if anyone had a criticism of what he was actually saying, it wasn’t reported.

You can read the speech here.

The only point I would argue against is his criticism of different entry standards for entry into medical and law schools for Maori.

Maori are underrepresented in medicine and law. Preferential entry is a way to address that. As long as they have the ability to master their subject and have to meet the same standards as every other student once in the schools, as they do, I regard this as acceptable discrimination.

Other discrimination he questioned included:

  • appointments to local government committees without democratic process,
  • required representation on every government board or agency,
  • separate government funding for Maori tourism,
  • exemption from corporate tax for the businesses arising out of Treaty settlements,
  • taxpayer funding for customary marine title claims,
  • a legal requirement that Maori have special entitlement to be consulted on environmental planning laws, and
  • mandatory respect for Maori spiritual rites and process despite New Zealand’s officially being a secular society.

Questioning that is an argument for equal treatment, the antithesis of racism.

If there’s something wrong with that it should be easy to counter it with facts and logic, rather than just dismissing it as racist.

There is general acceptance that Maori were badly treated in the past and that Treaty settlements are a legitimate way to compensate for that.

Maori feature disproportionately in negative statistics for health, welfare, income and educational attainment and few would question that addressing that should be a priority.

But the idea that the Treaty made Maori more equal than other New Zealanders is more controversial.

It’s a view Hobson’s Pledge argues against but that does not make it racist.

Like the organisation I welcome the investigation providing, as their response says, the Commission applies the law, acts independently, and leaves prejudice at the door.

 

 

 


Give all to peopleism

15/06/2017

The NZ Human Rights Commission has launched an anti-racism campaign: Give Nothing To Racism:

A campaign urging New Zealanders to give nothing to racism and refuse to spread intolerance has been launched by some of the country’s most well-known people.

“How we treat other people will define what kind of country we become and what kind of person a New Zealander is,” said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.

“Today some iconic Kiwis are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Human Rights Commission and asking us all to give nothing to racism, to give it no tolerance, to give it no acceptance and to give it no welcome. They make me incredibly proud to be a New Zealander.”

“Our campaign is hard case as well as hard hitting. It’s done in a uniquely Kiwi way.”

Overseas and closer to home, racial intolerance and overt attacks are on the rise. 1 in 3 complaints to the Human Rights Commission are about racial discrimination but the overwhelming majority of people never complain when they’re humiliated or abused.

“Hatred and extremism is becoming normal in some places and we want to avoid that future for Aotearoa. Racial prejudice and intolerance starts small, in quiet places, in our everyday lives. When it becomes normalised it turns into overt racism and extremism,” said Dame Susan.

“We live in one of the most ethnically diverse nations on the planet – as well as one of the most peaceful. Whether it stays that way will depend on us, every New Zealander has a role to play in our future. Racism starts small but so too does hope.”

“New Zealanders have a right to discuss important issues like immigration and housing: but we need to do it without racism. Play the ball not the person.”

Today’s campaign is the second stage of an ongoing, nationwide anti-racism campaign. Last September the Commission launched a website that enabled everyday New Zealanders to share their personal stories of racism. It let people who hadn’t experienced racism or prejudice to hear from people who have. The That’s Us campaign has so far reached more than 3 million people. . . 

Feeding and nurturing racism keeps it alive.

Treating people as people, acknowledging and valuing what we have in common, and appreciating differences as differences rather than matters of right or wrong, kills it.

Give nothing to racism, give everything to peopleism.


Do we need a race relations commissioner?

13/06/2012

Like Inventory 2 at Keeping Stock, I’m not sorry that Race Relations Comissioner Joris de Bres is coming to the end of his term.

Sometimes his pronouncements, or lack of them suggested he thought some races were more equal than others.

The Justice Ministry is inviting applications for a replacement..

It comes as an amendment to the Human Rights Act has been introduced to Parliament that could see the position abolished. Mr de Bres, 65, had “some concerns” about the possibility, but the amendment had not yet passed its first reading.

I have just read Alison Wong’s book As The Earth Turns Silver.

The plot is fiction but based on facts about discrimination against Chinese immigrants.  The book also depicts discrimination against women. It was less violent but still harmful.

Recent reaction to the sale of farms to Shanghai Pengxin,  shows that race relations haven’t progressed nearly as far as they need to.

But discrimination isn’t confined to race and I’m not convinced singling it out for special treatment is necessary when similar ignorance is directed at people for other reasons including, but not confined to, gender and disability.

All such discrimination is wrong and I think the Human Rights Commission ought to be able to counter it without the need for individual commissioners.


Public participation prerequisite for democracy

17/05/2011

The Human Rights Commission is concerned that the lack of public participation in fundamental legal reforms is damaging parliamentary democracy.

 In the past five years fundamental human rights issues such as the lack of public participation in submission processes, diminishing collective deliberation about fundamental changes, rushed legislation, the by-passing of select committees, and what appears to be less respect for submitters in select committee proceedings have been of concern, says Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor.

In a submission to the Standing Orders Review, the Commission says that each of these on its own is a cause for concern but the aggregated effect warrants serious scrutiny so that parliamentary processes are not further weakened.

The problem isn’t just a lack of engagement with parliamentary processes, it’s the low membership of and interest in political parties.

What does it say about the strength and stability of a party when someone who isn’t even a member can execute a coup and become its leader?

What danger does it pose when that party is in government and that person can have so much influence without even being in parliament?

MMP gives much greater power to parties at a time when membership is declining.

This isn’t confined to politics – many churches, sports clubs, service groups and other voluntary organisations have difficulty recruiting and retaining members too.

That is a concern because they are part of a strong and vibrant civil society. The declining interest and involvement in political parties is even more serious.

A party leadership change by a takeover of a small caucus supported by a low membership is the sort of thing that should only be possible in banana republics. Now that’s it’s happened once, what’s to stop it happening again with more serious consequences?

Without a resurgence in participation in parties and the political process, how long will it be before our version of democracy becomes of the few by the few for the few?


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