By Mike Kelly
It appears the country’s Human Rights commissioner has recieved so many complaints these past few months he hopes to bat away the majority with a ‘form’ email letter to all who have raised a complaint about his paymaster.
Two weeks ago chief human rights commissioner Paul Hunt launched a patronising website – Dial it Down – essentially telling people to calm down and to not moan so much about their human and civil rights being stripped away by Jacinda Ardern’s government – all in the name of covid (the gift that keeps on giving to dictators the world over).
Rather than meaningfully address the very real issues facing the population of New Zealand – such as unvaccinated people not being allowed to enter Auckland’s public libraries – Hunt had a crack at victim blaming.
He appears to be saying that those who are unhappy with Ardern’s two-tier society (vaccinated V unvaccinated) should all calm down, stop complaining, be kind, roll over and play dead.
It seems all this moaning and complaining is causing his office just too much work and perhaps he doesn’t want to bite the hand that feeds him. We’re left to speculate because he’s not saying.
According to Hunt, the Human Rights Commission (set up in 1977) works under the Human Rights Act 1993. Its purpose is to promote and protect the human rights of all people in New Zealand.
“We work for a free, fair, safe and just New Zealand, where diversity is valued and human dignity and rights are respected,” which is all very nice, until it’s not.
One reader of The Buzz complained to Hunt’s office that because they refused to confirm their vaccine status they could not open their stall at a popular Sunday market. The trader was banned from trading at his normal place of business and hoped Hunt and his team of lawyers and highly qualified staff might raise an eyebrow.
What our friend got back – six weeks after laying a complaint – was a form letter pointing the independent trader to its own website and suggesting they contact their local Citizens Advice Bureau for help.
In my view, the trader faced discrimination because she would not reveal her medical status to the pencil-pushing form-fillers running an outside farmers’ market.
Below is the best Hunt and his team of hot-shot human rights professionals can offer:
Thank you for contacting the Human Rights Commission. We apologise for the delay in responding to you. The Commission is receiving a very high volume of enquiries and complaints about Covid-19 at present, so we are unable to individually respond to all questions and concerns.
We are aware the Covid-19 response has evolved since you first contacted us. We have provided some general information below which we hope will be helpful for you.
The best place to find answers to common questions about Covid-19 and your rights is on our website here: https://www.hrc.co.nz/resources/human-rights-relation-covid-19/ . You can also read more on our News page about other work the Commission is doing during Covid-19.
This email explains more about:
– Human rights and Covid-19
– Complaints we can and can’t help with
– How we help with complaints
– Other agencies who can help
– Where to get information and advice about Covid-19.
Human rights and Covid-19
The Government measures to combat Covid-19 are extraordinary and place significant restrictions on New Zealanders’ human rights.
Even during a pandemic, everyone has human rights and freedoms under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and the Human Rights Act 1993. However, there are times when limiting these rights and freedoms can be justified under section 5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. You can find out more on our website .
Complaints we can help with
We offer a dispute resolution process for complaints about unlawful discrimination under the Human Rights Act. Under the Human Rights Act, unlawful discrimination happens when:
1. a person is treated differently to someone in the same or similar situation, and
2. there is some indication or evidence they were treated differently because ofone of the grounds in the Human Rights Act (such as their disability, age, ethnicity), and
3. the different treatment happens in an area of public life (such as employment, education, government services, access to housing), and
4. they are disadvantaged or significantly impacted by the different treatment, and
5. there is no relevant justification or exception in the Human Rights Act.
Our role is defined by the Human Rights Act, so we are limited in what we can help with in our complaints process.
Complaints we can’t progress
We cannot offer dispute resolution for these complaints:
· General complaints about the Government’s response to Covid-19, unless they meet the criteria for unlawful discrimination (as defined above).
· Situations where a person makes a personal choice. For example, where someone chooses not to wear a face covering, or not to get vaccinated, for personal reasons. This is because personal choice and vaccination status are not prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Act.
Please note: ‘Political opinion’ and ‘religious belief’ are both prohibited grounds in the Human Rights Act. However, these grounds do not cover personally held beliefs, views or preferences.
· Immigration matters, because the Immigration Act prohibits us from taking any action on complaints about immigration policy or decisions.
· Complaints related to your rights under the Bill of Rights Act, or other laws or human rights mechanisms. We can only help with unlawful discrimination complaints under the Human Rights Act.
If you contact us with the above complaints, or with other human rights concerns that aren’t covered by our dispute resolution process, your contact still helps inform our broader advocacy work. However, we are unable to progress or respond to your individual complaint.
How we help with complaints
We use impartial dispute resolution to resolve complaints. The Commission does not investigate complaints, give legal advice, make decisions, or impose penalties. Our dispute resolution process involves a mediator talking to the relevant people and helping them communicate to resolve the complaint. Our process is fair to everyone involved and we don’t take sides or advocate for people who complain to us. If you believe you have been personally discriminated against, you can provide more information through our complaint form: https://www.hrc.co.nz/complaint-form/.
We will check if the complaint meet s the criteria and contact you. We are experiencing higher demand than usual, which is causing delays in us responding to complaints.
Other agencies who can help with complaints
· Employment NZ offers a mediation service for employment complaints.
· The Ombudsman can help with complaints about government agencies, including MIQ facilities.
· The Health and Disability Commission can help with complaints about the service you have received from a health and disability provider.
Information and advice about Covid-19
For more information, please read the Covid-19 page of our website. We answer a variety of frequently asked questions about face coverings, vaccines, vaccine passes, and more.
You can also find more information about Covid-19 on the following websites:
· Employment NZ has information about COVID-19 in relation to employment , including specific information about vaccines and the workplace
· Disabled Persons Assembly NZ has COVID-19 information for the disabled community
· Community Law has information about COVID-19 and the law
· The government’s Unite against Covid-19 website has the latest information aboutvaccines , the new traffic light system, rapid antigen tests, and more
· The Ministry of Health provides the latest updates and advice about Covid-19
If you need legal advice, this Citizens Advice Bureau page offers some options.
We hope this information is helpful for you. Thank you for contacting the Human Rights Commission.
Human Rights Information and Support Services
New Zealand Human Rights Commission