Legal body pushes for deaf juror equality


An Australian legal body has called for immediate reforms to Queensland’s Jury Act following an “unacceptable” incident, which saw a deaf person restricted from performing jury duty.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) said it is gravely concerned about the operation of Queensland’s Jury Act, after the High Court dismissed the appeal in Lyons v Queensland, upholding that the exclusion of deaf woman Gayle Lyons from performing jury duty is not direct or indirect discrimination under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld).

“The High Court has found that without specific legislative provision, the Jury Act does not permit an Auslan interpreter to be present during jury deliberations,” ALHR president Benedict Coyne said.

“Accordingly, Ms Lyons is not qualified to serve as a juror and the deputy registrar was required to exclude her from the jury panel. As a result, the exercise of the deputy registrar’s powers under theJury Act is not discriminatory.

“The role of the jury is to reflect the composition and values of the community. It is unacceptable to have current laws which exclude members of our community on the basis of their disability. The lived experience of disability is a part of the makeup of the community and must be reflected on our juries to ensure access to justice is preserved.”

Mr Coyne suggested that the decision contradicts Australia’s commitment to the human rights of people with disabilities.

“It is absolutely clear under article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) that people with disabilities have the right to participate as direct and indirect participants of the justice system, which includes serving as jurors,” Mr Coyne said.

“The current operation of the Jury Act in Queensland violates that right by excluding people on the basis of their disability and must be reformed immediately.

“While the decision of the High Court today dismissed the appeal in relation to the claim of discrimination, it is resoundingly clear that the Jury Act must be changed to be inclusive of people with disabilities, including deaf persons who require Auslan interpreters to communicate. A failure to do so will perpetuate this gross violation of the human rights of people with disabilities.”

Obituary: Union leader Helen Kelly



The Kelly name was already heavy with political pedigree. She only grew its legend.

Helen Kelly was born to be a unionist. Her parents Pat and Cath met while distributing People’s Voice Communist newspaper.

Pat was the staunch president of the Wellington Trades Council at the time of the 1984 Trades Hall bombing. Cath spent time planning Vietnam War protests. Their daughter was organising meetings before she could write.

Her best school friend told everyone Kelly would be Prime Minister. She did consider politics, but unfinished union business always got in the way; workers being mistreated or industries dismissing workplace deaths as “most unfortunate”. And then there was the lung cancer that killed her, at the young age of 52.

But the woman with the deep dimples and deep well of resolve seemed indefatigable to the end. Even while undergoing chemotherapy she would pop up regularly on television, radio and in newspaper opinion columns, fighting for fair access to medical marijuana or a better deal for downtrodden workers.


A trained primary school teacher, Kelly taught for only two and a half years – at Johnsonville Main School – before diving headlong into unionism. She once said it was the hardest job she ever did. She was already a workplace union delegate and the transition to the world of her childhood seemed inevitable. She joined the Kindergarten Teachers Association as a union organiser, beginning 20 years of fighting for better pay and conditions in education.

She moved on to represent teachers and university staff. But it’s her work since 2007, as president of the Council of Trade Unions, that will be added to the Kelly legacy.

The first woman in the job, Kelly seemed a gentler face than her father’s uncompromising reputation. But those who underestimated her no doubt regretted it. When Kelly took very public aim at the forestry industry’s abysmal safety record, industry heavyweights dismissed her as “naive and uninformed” and accused her of conducting a desperate campaign to increase union membership.

But Kelly did not give up. Far from it. She drove to Gisborne to talk to the Callows, whose son Ken was crushed by a falling pine tree. They fronted a CTU-produced video and television interviews to put a face to the statistics. Then she drove to Tokoroa to talk to Maryanne Butler-Finlay, whose husband Charles Finlay was killed by a falling log later in 2013.


Kelly also got stuck in to the farming industry, publicly shaming farmers who offered jobs that worked out at less than the minimum wage. She supported the Unite Union’s campaign against zero hour contracts.

She was fearless and everywhere. And no-one was safe from her tough tongue. In 2010, during the failed fight to block employment law changes to smooth the way for the Hobbit filming, Kelly uncharacteristically lost her rag and called Sir Peter Jackson a spoilt brat. She regretted the comment, but not the fight.

In the early weeks after the 2010 explosion at Pike River killed 29 miners, while everyone was lauding mine boss Peter Whittall, she was already questioning. “We’ve got to be more mature about who we honour, how we think about things, what we demand,” she said.

Her campaigns were not universally popular. Many of the workers she fought for weren’t even union members. Some unionists thought she was wasting time and money at the expense of those who actually paid her wages.

Kelly didn’t see it that way. Unions, she believed, were about values not membership fees.

Kelly was tempted by politics and considered standing for the Labour Party in the 2014 election. But she put it off and then never got the chance, being diagnosed with incurable cancer in February 2015.

She stuck at the CTU job until October, sitting in the High Court for the Pike River families’ judicial review of the government’s decision to drop charges against Whittall over those 29 mine deaths.

She also took the opportunity to marry long-time partner Steve Hurring.

A year on, Kelly admitted the chemotherapy was taking a toll, while still tweeting daily about threats to workers’ welfare and wellbeing. An irrepressible scrapper, she continued to appear in public, fighting for access to medicinal marijuana to ease the cancer pain and for a frank discussion about the right to die.

At her CTU leaving speech, Labour leader and union stalwart Andrew Little called her fearless and a complete pain the arse. Even Prime Minister and ideological nemesis John Key has praised her tenacity, determination, can-do spirit and willingness to work.

She did not return the compliment. She was too busy holding the government to account.

 – Stuff

Changes to NZ spy laws not justified – ex-MP

RNZ 4:12 pm on 13 October 2016

Proposed changes to New Zealand’s two spy agencies are not justified and police can adequately deal with politically motivated criminal behaviour, says a former Green MP.

no caption


Public hearings started today on legislation that would establish a fresh set of rules for the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and the Security Intelligence Service.

Former Green MP Keith Locke told MPs the changes were unnecessary.

“If you’re going to expand the surveillance powers of the intelligence services, you first have to give a reason in terms of a substantially increased threat, and my point is that in the last 100 years, there has been no case of politically motivated violence resulting in death, other than the Rainbow Warrior.”

Mr Locke said he was also concerned that, under the proposed changes, it would be possible for non-criminal activity to be classified as a threat to national security.

Vodafone has also appeared before the select committee, saying it did not want discretionary powers to decide when information should be given to the spy agencies.

Spokesman Tom Thursby said it was up to Parliament to make that decision, but under a proposed clause, its staff would also have that ability.

“The practical impact of this clause, if left as not amended, is that I would not expect any agency to make any pro-active or voluntary disclosure of information to security agencies pursuant to this clause. We will respond to warrants, we will respond to compulsion, we will not co-operate on a voluntary basis.”

Mr Thursby said the clause should be removed to avoid confusion.

The proposed legislation removes the restriction on the GCSB intercepting New Zealanders’ communication.

But that would have to be signed off by the Attorney-General, the Commissioner of Warrants and could only be for the purposes of ‘national security’, as defined in the bill.

The legislation creates a two-tier system for all of the agencies’ activities, and requires them to follow the same warranting and compliance regime.

It also allows the agencies to access personal information held by government departments and private companies.

However the bill makes the agencies subject to the Privacy Act and lays out specific guidelines on how such information is accessed.

The select committee is due to report back to Parliament in February.

Radio New Zealand

The Guardian: New Zealand child poverty a source of deep concern, says UN – Unicef says 300,000 children live below the poverty line, and criticises the government for failure to tackle the issue


The UN has said in a damning report that it is deeply concerned about New Zealand’s persistently high rates of child poverty.

Unicef says 300,000 children – a third of New Zealand’s child population – now live below the poverty line. This is a rise of 45,000 in a year.

Government representatives travelled to Geneva last month to present the country’s progress on its commitment to protecting the rights of the child to the UN.

The UN committee’s report acknowledges widespread public debate and media attention on child poverty in New Zealand, but expresses serious concern about the government’s failure to address the issue systematically.

“The committee is deeply concerned about the enduring high prevalence of poverty among children,” the report says, highlighting “the effect of deprivation on children’s right to an adequate standard of living and access to adequate housing, with its negative impact on health, survival and development, and education”.

The report expresses particular concern about the number of Maori and Pasifika children living in deprived circumstances. Both groups are disproportionately represented in child poverty statistics.

It calls for “urgent measures to address disparities in access to education, health services and a minimum standard of living for Maori and Pasifika children and their families” and says more effort should be invested in preserving Maori children’s cultural identity.

The government of the National party is urged to take a systematic approach to tackling child poverty, and to establish a “national definition” to measure child poverty, something it has repeatedly refused to do.

The Green party co-leader Metiria Turei welcomed the UN report. “The national government has repeatedly denied the seriousness of the problem and deserves the criticism it has received from the committee,” she said. “And that means thousands on NZ children are missing out on their chance for a decent life, especially Maori and Pasifika children.”

Labour’s spokesperson for children, Jacinda Ardern, agreed with the UN’s assessment and said “bold targets” to tackle the problem would be a good start.

“There is a huge amount of consensus in parliament around the need to take much more decisive action on child poverty, though sadly that consensus just hasn’t extended to the government,” she said.

The children’s commissioner, Andrew Becroft, challenged the government and opposition parties last week to cut child poverty rates by 10% by the end of 2017.

Labour and the Greens accepted the challenge, but the prime minister, John Key, said his government would not.

In August the government announced the creation of a new ministry for vulnerable children. Becroft has repeatedly said the name is stigmatising, and Ardern has said any ministry should cater to all children in New Zealand, not just the most vulnerable.

The UN report also suggests the government consider a different name for the ministry, and calls for the creation of a national database to collect information on the welfare of all New Zealand children, something the opposition parties have long campaigned for.

It recommends a second national database to record every act of abuse against children in New Zealand.

Anne Tolley, the minister for social affairs, said the government was considering the UN’s recommendations and work was already underway on how some of the suggested changes could be implemented.

However Tolley said child poverty was “too complex and multi-faceted to use just one measure”.

“We do accept there is an issue with children in hardship, and we’ve delivered on a promise to do something about it,” she said.

Tolley listed the introduction of free GP visits for those under 13, the kickstart breakfast program which provides 27,000 free breakfasts for school-age children every week and raincoats and shoes provided for needy children through Kidscan.

  • The Guardian

United Nations child committee wants Government to set definition of poverty

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the UN committee appeared to have ignored MSD's work. Photo/ Mark Mitchell
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the UN committee appeared to have ignored MSD’s work. Photo/ Mark Mitchell

The Government is on the defensive over child poverty after a United Nations monitoring group called on it to introduce “a systemic approach” to addressing child poverty, implying it doesn’t have one.

And it wants New Zealand to establish a national definition of poverty.

The recommendations released at the weekend are from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNROC) which reviews progress of 195-member countries every years.

It follows a call by Children’s Commission Andrew Becroft for the Government to set specific targets for the reduction of poverty.

The Government says there are many measures for poverty and it refuses to have just one official measure.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) appeared to have ignored detailed analysis from her ministry- and apparently her – when she appeared before it in Geneva last month.

“New Zealand is among the best in the world at monitoring and analysing long-term data and I also explained to the committee that child poverty is too complex and multi-faceted to use just one simplistic measure,” she said.

“It’s disappointing that the committee appear to have ignored this detailed analysis carried out by MSD.”

She said that out of 250 questions asked by the committee, only one had been about child poverty.

“I then took the time to go through the findings of MSD’s recent Household Incomes Report which showed the income poverty is either flat or falling and that there had been no rise in poverty or material hardship trends for children, which the report says are either flat of falling depending on the measure used.”

Labour's Jacinda Ardern says the consensus in Parliament around child poverty has not extended to the Government. Photo/ Brett Phibbs
Labour’s Jacinda Ardern says the consensus in Parliament around child poverty has not extended to the Government. Photo/ Brett Phibbs

She had pointed to the $750 million child hardship package in which social welfare benefits had raised for the first time in 43 years, free doctors’ visits for children up to 13, Children’s Teams and welfare reforms which had led to more than 40,000 fewer children in benefit-dependent households.

UNCROC said that while it welcomed attention given to the prevalence of child poverty in New Zealand including through the appointment of an expert advisory group on solutions to child poverty “the committee is deeply concerned about the enduring high prevalence of poverty among children, and the effect of deprivation on children’s rights to an adequate standard of living and access to adequate housing, with its negative impact on health, survival and development, and education.

The challenge is not legislating to say you’ll get rid of it. That’s just comfort blanket stuff.

Bill English

“It is particularly concerned about the disparities faced by Maori and Pasifika children with regard to the enjoyment of these rights.”

One of its recommendations was to strengthen the independence of and funding for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

Bill English says the Government's approach is to work on the drivers of persistent deprivation. Photo/ Doug Sherring
Bill English says the Government’s approach is to work on the drivers of persistent deprivation. Photo/ Doug Sherring

Becroft recently called for political parties to agree to set a target to reduce by 5 – 10 per cent numbers of children in the material deprivation index.

It is measure with 17 criteria and children which meet at least six of them are deemed to be materially deprived.

Asked why the Government couldn’t do that and make it part of its Better Public Services targets, Finance Minister Bill English told the Herald: “It is not a matter of cant. There’s a whole lot of measures. We are not short of measures.”

“The challenge is not legislating to say you’ll get rid of it. That’s just comfort blanket stuff.”

The challenge was to change the system to actually support families through intractable social problems.

“Which is why we have put a lot of focus on the drivers of persistent deprivation which is not just low income. ”

He cited the Government new policy on family violence, on recidivist offending and long-term welfare dependency.

“That stuff is covered in so many bloody targets you don’t need more.”

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says John Key is showing a failure of leadership.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says John Key is showing a failure of leadership

Labour’s spokeswoman for children, Jacinda Ardern, said the Government had to do more to help babies living in horrible and unacceptable conditions.

“A proper discussion that includes establishing a national definition of child poverty while setting bold targets would be a great start and is long overdue.

“There’s a huge amount of consensus in Parliament around the need to take more decisive action on child poverty, though sadly that consensus hasn’t quite extended to the Government yet.”

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei said a refusal by Prime Minister John Key to have a measure for poverty appeared to be because he did not want to be judged on his failures.

“None of us want to live in a country where child poverty is considered normal. But John Key continues to say it’s too hard to measure – and that’s simply a failure of leadership.”

NZ Herald

Dominion Post Editorial: Governments can reduce poverty if they really want to



Prime Minister John Key believes in setting goals and measuring progress. In 2012, speaking about education standards, he said, “If you don’t measure, monitor and report on things, I don’t think you can make progress.”

But he doesn’t apply the same standard to measuring or monitoring child poverty, which is at least as important as education standards. He says child poverty is too hard to measure, that it’s somehow “airy-fairy”, and that measuring pests like stoats and weasels is much easier.

None of this is persuasive. It is true that the measurement of child poverty is more complicated than counting stoats or kiwis. But governments can’t avoid doing things just because they are difficult. And in fact governments do measure poverty and monitor progress in fighting it.

Britain’s Conservative Government has done this since 2010 following a bi-partisan agreement with other parties. If Britain can do it, so can New Zealand.

Child poverty, it hardly needs saying, is not only a great social evil, it is a dreadfully expensive one. Children raised in poverty are more likely to fail in all areas of life, and taxpayers must fund that failure. Child poverty costs a fortune in increased spending on jails, social welfare benefits and health budgets. It costs money in lost production and economic inefficiency.

Peter Dunne has called for bipartisan action on this subject, and most people will just dismiss his call. It’s all too easy for insignificant political parties to play the bipartisan song; it elevates their own role into something more important than it is.

But Dunne is right about child poverty. It’s too important to be left to point-scoring politicians.

Cynics will say bipartisanship is impossible, but it’s not. All the main parties broadly support the treaty settlement process, for instance. There has been a broad consensus for a generation over the anti-nuclear policy.

And governments can reduce poverty if they really want to. Child poverty expert Jonathan Boston points out that poverty among the elderly in New Zealand is low by international standards, while poverty among children is embarrassingly high.

New Zealand parties have reached a kind of rough consensus over national superannuation levels, perhaps the major reason for the lack of poverty among older people. We must be able to do something similar for children.

Britain’s Child Poverty Act has a number of agreed definitions of poverty and requires governments to show progress in each area. There is plenty of room for disagreement about how to measure poverty. But it must include both low income and a measure of “material deprivation”, such as lack of heating in the home, inadequate food and lack of warm clothes.

Housing costs are an increasingly important part of poverty and perhaps help explain why the Key Government is so reluctant to measure in this area when it is so enthusiastic about setting goals and measuring achievements in so many others.

Poverty springs from many sources, and reducing poverty will require action on many fronts. And housing affordability is one of the Government’s most glaring failures.


– The Dominion Post

You have the right to smile…

From UK Human Rights Blog

I have a right not to know Elena Ferrante’s real name* – George Szirtes


I have so many rights I am thinking of flogging some off on eBay. Though I have the right not to do so.

Stop telling me whatever it is you may be telling me. I have a right to tell you not to tell me.

I have the right and you have the right. What we have rights to may be different but let’s pool our rights and make one big right.

My right to have rights is being threatened by people who claim they have the right to other rights. Other people are bastards.

My rights are constantly threatened by people claiming to have rights. They have no right to such rights.

I have the right to stamp my foot. If I am not granted the right to stamp my foot I will stamp my foot. That is my right / my foot.

Everyone has the right to have rights. They are right to have rights. It is right to have rights. It is right to be everyone.


*Article in Guardian to this effect. ‘Stop telling X what to do’ is a favourite Guardian meme to be fully explored another time.

George Szirtes is a British poet and translator from the Hungarian language into English

Colin Craig pays ‘humiliated’ Rachel MacGregor six-figure sum

colin-craigColin Craig has been forced to pay former press secretary Rachel MacGregor more than $120,000 for publicly humiliating her.

Until now, a court order prevented Newshub from revealing the details of the scathing Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT) decision against the former Conservative Party leader.

The March ruling ordered Mr Craig to pay Ms MacGregor $120,000 in damages for humiliation, loss of dignity and injuring her feelings, and more than $8780 in lost earnings and legal fees.

The decision followed Mr Craig’s repeated breaches of a confidentiality agreement signed as part of the settlement of a sexual harassment and pay claim Ms MacGregor filed after resigning as his press secretary two days before the 2014 election.

It’s on top of an earlier settlement in which Mr Craig agreed to pay Ms MacGregor $16,000 and to wipe an $18,000 loan he’d given to her.

In total, Mr Craig has paid her more than $160,000.

“In 2015 my reputation came under a completely unexpected and relentless public attack. As the attack worsened, my position became increasingly impossible,” Mr Craig said in a statement on the ruling.

“Responding to the attack was a very difficult decision to make, but in the end the attack was so bad I felt I had no real choice. I accepted that I was in breach of my confidentiality obligations both publicly and when the breach was considered by the HRRT. However, I thought there were very strong mitigating circumstances.”

For four months during the latter part of the 2014 election campaign, the pair were locked in a pay dispute about contract fees for her work as his political press secretary.

As a consequence Ms MacGregor wasn’t paid, although Mr Craig did make two $10,000 bridging payments.

The pay and sexual harassment claims were settled in tandem in May last year.

Ms MacGregor agreed to drop her sexual harassment complaint and the pair signed a confidentiality deal preventing them from speaking to the media, other than to say they had “resolved their differences”.

‘Deliberate, repeated breaches’

However, in March, the Human Rights Tribunal found Mr Craig had repeatedly breached that confidentiality agreement and those breaches were “deliberate, repeated and choreographed in such a way as to attract maximum publicity and attention at a national level”.

The former Conservative Party leader held two press conferences and gave several media interviews, in which he commented on Ms MacGregor’s finances, on their relationship and also asserted that she agreed her conduct had, on occasion, been inappropriate.

Mr Craig also circulated nationwide 1.2 million copies of a booklet in which he denied any allegations of sexual harassment. The same denial was included in newsletter that went to 8000 people on the Conservative Party mailing list.

The tribunal said one of the most egregious features of Mr Craig’s breaches was the “relentless exposure” he subjected Ms MacGregor to over a prolonged period.

“Her humiliation and stigmatisation as ‘that woman’ has been held up for all to see,” the ruling said.

It also concluded Mr Craig’s breaches were on a scale possible only “because of his political connections and personal wealth”.

Mr Craig has repeatedly said there was no six-figure settlement of a sexual harassment claim with his former press secretary. However he has paid – or been ordered to pay – more than $160,000 to her to settle the sexual harassment and pay claims and confidentiality breaches.

Mr Craig has always denied he sexually harassed Ms MacGregor. Those allegations were not considered in the tribunal’s rulings.

Colin Craig ‘driven by self-preservation’

Mr Craig was motivated by self-interest and a desire to preserve his political career, the tribunal ruled.

He held two press conferences, conducted multiple press interviews and circulated printed material, even though he knew it breached the confidentiality deal with Ms MacGregor.

But the ruling concluded Mr Craig did not tell the full story.

“Mr Craig was controlling the narrative. He was exercising power and control over what was in the media by carefully releasing what he thought would save his position and save his reputation,” the ruling said.

“The released information was selected … to paint himself as a person who had been falsely accused by a woman who was clearly incapable of managing her money, and the clear inference was that what she was seeking through the sexual harassment complaint was money.”

Mr Craig broke the confidentiality agreement after he discovered members of the Conservative Party knew details of Ms MacGregor’s sexual harassment claim, and after a poem he had written and sent to her appeared on a blog site.

The former Conservative Party leader said he thought Ms MacGregor had leaked the information, but later conceded his assumption had been wrong.

In a decision highly critical of Mr Craig, the tribunal said the breaches of his confidentiality obligations had been “deliberate, sustained and calculated… and engineered to attract maximum publicity”.

“He did not stumble into the breaches. He sought, fed and received media attention.”

On the other hand, the tribunal described Ms MacGregor as “an honest witness” and it accepted her evidence “in its entirety”.

It also agreed with her description of Mr Craig’s evidence as being “nothing short of a vilification of her”.

Mr Craig also told the tribunal he “held her responsible for his political downfall”, an allegation he later retracted.

The tribunal found Ms MacGregor’s reputation had been “severely tarnished”.

The ruling said Ms MacGregor signed up to a process designed to protect claimants in sexual harassment cases, but the “systematic violation of her legal rights has left her traumatised, marginalised and disempowered”.

The association with Mr Craig and the much talked about “inappropriate behaviour” is now indelible.

“For a woman navigating a career in communications, the harm will be long-lasting.”


What Is The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights?


Sixty-eight years ago, Eleanor Roosevelt gave a speech before the United Nations General Assembly on the preparation of an International Bill of Rights. One of the core documents which forms the International Bill of Rights is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed on 10 December 1948.

Writing the Universal Declaration

…[D]isregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind…

Following the atrocities of World War II and the international community’s resolve that nothing so awful can be allowed to happen again, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was designed to complement the United Nations Charterand provide a road map of the rights of all people around the world.

The drafting committee was chaired by American diplomat Eleanor Roosevelt and consisted of 18 members from various political, cultural and religious backgrounds. The British Representative was Charles Dukes, a trade unionist and Labour politician and David Maxwell-Fyfe, a British Conservative MP and lawyer, was alsoinvolved.

The drafting committee met in two sessions over two years. It considered human rights documents from all around the world, including the Sankey Declaration on the Rights of Man, named after the committee chairman, Lord Sankey. That declaration was originally drafted by great British writers including (primarily) H.G. Wells, along with A.A. Milne, J.B. Priestley and others. It distilled key human rights principles and was closely followed in what became the UDHR. The drafting committee for the UDHR also considered a detailed report on the prosecution evidence at theNuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals.

A draft of the Universal Declaration was prepared by René Cassin, a French jurist, law professor and judge, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968. Over 50 member states participated in its final drafting. Of the 56 UN member states at the time, none of them opposed the adoption the UDHR, although eight states didn’t vote.

So, what does it say?


…[R]ecognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…

The UDHR sets out certain core human rights principles, including universality (they apply to everyone), interdependence (they interact with each other), indivisibility (they cannot be separated from each other), equality and non-discrimination. The UDHR also shows that the concept of human rights recognises both rights and obligations.

The first two articles of the UDHR emphasise its universal nature, providing that ‘all human beings’ are entitled ‘without distinction’ to the rights proclaimed. Then the UDHR focusses on the ‘substantive’ rights we are familiar with: the right to life, prohibitions on slavery and torture, the right to a fair trial, and the rights to privateand family life.

You can see the desire to respond to the wickedness of the Nazi regime reflected in many of the UDHR’s articles. For example, Article 2 UDHR, which prohibits discrimination, addresses the Nazi’s ‘master race’ ideology. Article 3, guaranteeing the right to life, had originally included an exemption where the taking of life is ‘prescribed by law’, but this was changed as many Holocaust deaths had resulted from valid laws. The fair trial rights were included to address corrupt courts, such as those packed with Nazi judges to enforce Nazi laws.

How does the UDHR work?


Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms…

The UDHR is not a legally binding treaty. At the time of the UDHR’s drafting, British representatives were frustrated that it had no legal, as opposed to moral, force. But many international lawyers now believe that it forms part of customary international law (that is, laws that have developed through custom, rather than by formal agreement).

The UDHR has inspired more than 200 documents since its proclamation, including regional human rights conventions, like the European Convention on Human Rights, domestic human rights bills, like the Human Rights Act, and constitutional provisions. The UDHR, along with two UN human rights covenants: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), form the International Bill of Rights. The covenants are legally binding on States which have signed and ratified them.

On 1 January 2009, the UDHR became the Guinness World Record’s most translated document – it was then translated into 370 languages, but it’s now up to478, showing that it truly is the most ‘universal’ document in the world. The UDHR’s adoption is celebrated on 10 December each year – which is nominated by the UN as International Human Rights Day. Last year, RightsInfo celebrated with this post.

You can read the full text of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights here.

And you can read Eleanor Roosevelt’s speech to the United Nations – The Struggle For Human Rights – here.

Why Did The Human Rights Commission Back Tabloid TV?

By John Drinnan

The Human Rights Commission has been pumping up the”race row” in Real Housewives of Auckland. It reminds me of its unorthodox action back in 2012. Then Equal Opportunities Commissioner Judy McGregor, a former tabloid newspaper editor, went undercover as an aged care worker, and publicised how aged workers are underpaid. It was a worthy cause, but an unusual approach

Former EEO Commissioner Judy McGregor went undercover

I said in the NZ Herald media column:

The former Sunday News editor’s report comes across as a ripping yarn about the life and devotion of staff.

But did anybody else think it was a bit odd for a commissioner to go undercover like this? And would the elderly patients mind if they had known they had been showered by the EEO commissioner.

We asked the former editor and member of the Broadcasting Standards Authority if she had used a false name and whether she had access to personal medical records on her undercover stint. We asked what physical tasks she performed but got no answer.

We also wonder if the Privacy Commissioner was involved. After several attempts to get details of the undercover arrangement, the Human Rights Commission refused to comment.

That was four years ago. There seem to be similarities with Real Housewives of Auckland racial incident wherever Julia Sloane used the N word about Michelle Blanchard, who is black, and who was understandably furious. It seems like the Human Rights Commission was pre-warned by producers and knew there would be a broadcast of a bleeped racial comment. It does not appear to have tried to prevent the show going ahead, Instead it seems to have been taking the producers view that it would be helpful to race relations

The Human Rights Commission was approached for comment but declined while it was awaiting legal advice.

The Commission was advised by RHOAKL broadcaster Bravo on June 23 about the incident but the Commission chose to say nothing about the broadcast until after it ran last Tuesday. On September 1 the Commission launched “Thats Us”  digital ad campaign against racism and in a tweet Race Relations conciliator Dame Susan Devoy singled out the use of the N word. The theme for Real Housewives is about bitchiness and meanness.

I’m not backing Sloane, whose comment was clearly foolish  and hurtful  to fellow housewife Michelle Blanchard. I question the Commission hyping a tabloid TV and contorted a foolish statement by an individual represents the state of race relations.


Julia Sloane: Screwed up and apologised. But still attacked by Human Rights Commission

Why has a government agency aligned itself with tabloid “reality” TV channel?

Meanwhile, The Spinoff website had been giving extensive publicity to the reality series and heavily supporting Bravo and the RHOAKL production team from NBC Universal. A podcast published on September 21 examines that looks at the episode and makes it clear its supports the decision to highlight the slur and criticises people who do not hold that view. In my opinion More information needs to be made available by the Commission for its approach.   Turning on an individual three months after the event, does not seem to be more about publicity than fighting racism.

John Drinnan

Why Did The Human Rights Commission Back Tabloid TV?