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Justice minister defends Governments work on human rights

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The justice minister has defended the Governments progress on human rights after new data showed New Zealand is failing to meet every social and economic human rights commitment.
Newly appointed Justice Minister Kiritapu Allan said the Government was committed to protecting the human rights of New Zealanders.

While managing a pandemic response over the past two years that saved more lives than any other OECD country, the Government also made record investments to tackle long-term challenges including the housing crisis, child poverty and address the current cost of living crisis, she said in a written statement.

Justice Minister Kiri Allan acknowledges there is more work to do on human rights, but says the Government is making good progress, while facing economic and social headwinds.

Allan pointed to the work being done to keep communities safe by way of the highest ever number of police on the beat a staffing commitment made under the last coalition government.


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She also cited the prime ministers work on lifting thousands of children from poverty, based on the measures and targets enshrined in law during the last term; along with reference to Kainga Oras house build programmes; and the increase in the number of nurses in hospitals.

Of course, there are ongoing issues with the number of families experiencing poverty, long state housing wait lists, and a shortage of medical staff being felt keenly as Covid-19 and the flu squeeze the system.

STUFF
Global data shows New Zealand is failing to meet its obligations on all economic and social rights.

The ministers comments come after the Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI) found New Zealand has again fallen well short of meeting its commitments on the rights to education (bad), health (fair), housing (incomplete data), food (bad) and work (very bad).

The global data, released on Wednesday night, scores countries by looking at how well they are doing on all key human rights indicators, compared to how well they should be doing based on their income and resources.

On Thursday, Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said the results showed those in power were out of step when it came to social human rights.

Supplied
Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt says the HRMI results are alarming and New Zealand is falling behind other countries.

Hunt described New Zealands human rights scorecard as alarming, with others saying it constituted a human rights crisis.

Aotearoa used to be a world leader on human rights, but these results showed the current approach was out of date, he said.

Public officials dont know what Im talking about, parliamentarians dont hold government to account in relation to these human rights, the courts are not articulating them, the politicians dont seem to know about them.


Compared with all other high-income countries, New Zealand is performing close to average on the quality of life rights. The country is sitting near the bottom of the top third of OECD countries for the rights to education, health, and work.

On the right to food, New Zealand has been getting steadily worse, and is now 35th out of the 36 OECD countries measured. This is happening as the country faces rising food prices, tied to inflation.

Allan said the Government was taking the edge off the current cost of living crisis, to help ease the impact on households. The Government has introduced a range of measures through its cost of living package, including halving public transport costs and cutting fuel tax, and introducing a temporary payment for those earning under $70,000. Its also pushed back on supermarket price hikes.

She also pointed to current low unemployment, which is sitting at a record 3.2%.


The HRMI data shows the only improvement among the social and economic rights was in the right to a job (up 1%). However, New Zealand is still considered "bad" on this measure.

New Zealand generally scored well on civil and political rights the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest, execution, freedom of speech.

However, there was a concerning trend regarding torture and ill-treatment, particularly for Mori and Pasifika people. New Zealand scored fair in this area.

Amnesty International Aotearoa campaigns director Lisa Woods said that added to a staggering pattern of serious human rights concerns in the criminal justice system.

The issues threaded through our criminal justice system are complex and profound, but there are pathways forward.

Woods called on Government ministers to implement a system overhaul, as recommended by the report on justice reform Inia Tonu Nei.


The HRMI data showed the groups most at risk of having their human rights violated are Mori (in direct breach of Te Tiriti obligations), as well as Kiwis from low socioeconomic backgrounds, those in single-parent families, and people with disabilities.

The justice minister acknowledged there was more work to do on human rights, particularly for our vulnerable communities. And were doing it, she said.

Allan pointed to the banning of Conversion Therapy, the development of a national racism action plan, and next months launch of the Ministry for Disabled People.

The National Party was approached for comment.

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