Human Rights (One Law For All) Amendment Bill – First Reading


The Green Party will be opposing the Human Rights (One Law For All) Amendment Bill. The starting point for us is that there is serious social disadvantage among ethnic groups in our society, for various reasons, including a legacy of discrimination that is often combined with a lack of recognition of minority cultures, a marginalisation of those cultures in society, and the exclusion of those cultures and their languages from major institutions in our society, both public and private. No doubt the member from the Māori Party who speaks after me will go into that disadvantage among Māori in more detail, so I will talk on a general level here.

As a society we have a vested interest in ending social disadvantage as fast as possible. To do this, preferential treatment and affirmative action have been proven to work. If Mr Hide wants to quote Martin Luther King, he should also indicate that Martin Luther King was a supporter of preferential treatment and affirmative action. The first thing the black population of America did, once it had overcome some of the legal disadvantages of discriminatory laws, was push for, and succeed in bringing in, affirmative action programmes. Those programmes created social advancement for the black people of the United States, just as affirmative action here has sped up an end to social disadvantage.

We are not, as the ACT model seems to provide, just a number of individuals in one national community. Many of us are members of organised ethnic subgroups — ethnic cultures — and we are proud of that. We can harness those cultures to overcome social disadvantage, and I think the wānanga is a case in point in relation to overcoming disadvantage in the educational area. The wānanga enabled thousands upon thousands of Māori to get a much better education and reduce the difference in educational attainment between Māori and the rest of the population. By recognising affirmative action for different minority cultures we help to create important role models within those cultures.

Michael Cullen mentioned that, years ago, at the time he was going to school, there were very few Māori professionals — Māori lawyers, etc. But through what has happened now, with affirmative action being part of the process, there are many more role models and much more equality in society. More and more we are seeing those role models develop at the very top levels of our society. Most recently the new Chief of Defence Force, Jerry Matepārae, has provided a role model to Māori in that area.

This week the nation’s attention has been gripped by the tragic death of two young Māori babies. Although we should not buy into the prejudicial idea that Māori are more likely to kill babies, there has been a national recognition that Māori can help other Māori in relation to addressing violent behaviour. We saw an example of that on Tuesday on Māngere Mountain — one of our MPs, Pita Sharples, was there — where the Māori community mobilised at 5 o’clock in the morning. There were also other Māori events to help address that issue, and we should all welcome that. What is wrong with the Government providing money and assistance for such initiatives from Māori? Rodney Hide’s bill would stop that. It actually states that preferential treatment cannot be given, and that Government money cannot be given specifically to an ethnic group for things like “family responsibility”, which is one of the terms used in the bill.

One area where there is clear discrimination is in relation to new migrants, from Asian countries in particular, who are trying to get jobs. Those people do suffer discrimination. There has been report after report about that. There are programmes at the migrant centre at Three Kings in Auckland, for example, to help address the problem. Government money is put in to help reduce that discrimination, to talk to employers, and to help those migrants specifically to get jobs, because they suffer very serious discrimination in that area. Why should we not be compassionate like that?