Friday, December 18, 2009

National's human rights appointments

The Human Rights Review Tribunal is a body established under the Human Rights Act 1993 to hear complaints of discrimination. It is a judicial body with powers to make orders and award compensation. In certain circumstances, it can even declare legislation to be inconsistent with the BORA and force Parliament to respond.

You'd expect those appointed to such a body to be experienced in law, particularly human rights law and discrimination. National has just announced nine new members of its panel. And while some meet that description, it also includes the following:

  • Wendy Gilchrist - real estate agent and failed Christchurch local body candidate (Independent Citizens - which is the local National Party);
  • Pastor Ravi Musuku - failed National Party candidate (Mt Albert, 2008), a fundamentalist Christian bigot who thinks that "having no kids makes you inferior".
  • Brian Neeson - former National MP, archconservative who blames everything bad on prostitution and abortion and who virulently opposed the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Human Rights Act. More recently, he opposed the Human Rights Amendment Act 2001, which restructured the HRC and HRRT as well as removing various discriminatory provisions from new Zealand law, as an "Orwellian" bill about "social control" by "Big Sister".
  • Ken Shirley - former ACT MP.

In other words, National is treating the human rights bench as a sinecure for its failed candidates and mates, at least two of whom are outright bigots. The former is merely tawdry cronyism; the latter undermines the Tribunal itself. Musuku and Neeson are simply unfit to be appointed to the HRRT. Their previously expressed views call into question their ability to rule fairly and according to law on cases involving discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, marriage, family status, and sexual orientation. Their presence on the panel calls the fairness of the Tribunal into question, and risks making it a laughing stock.