Was the Human Rights Commission censored?

I wondered why the Human Rights Commission did not make an oral submission on the Electoral Finance Bill, considering the strength of their written submission?

Well from this question in Parliament yesterday, it sounds like they did wish to appear but the Committee refused to hear from them!!

Christopher Finlayson: Does the chairperson agree with her colleague the Hon Steve Maharey, who said: “I am looking forward, of course, to the Human Rights Commission getting a chance to talk through its submission with the select committee.”; if so, why did she ensure that the members of the Human Rights Commission were not able to present oral evidence to the committee, where no doubt they would have voiced their strong opposition to the bill?

If this is correct, it is beyond outrageous. And can anyone think that the Committee is going to seriously consider the merits of the arguments, if it refuses to hear from the most important and damning critic – the Human Rights Commission. Hey let’s flush those human rights down the toilets without even hearing from them.

Up until very recently, the lack of an oral hearing would have meant the criticism from the Human Rights Commission would never ever have been public. Media tend to only report on oral submissions. But because all the written submissions were placed on the parliamentary website, and because took the time to go through all 575 submissions highlighting important ones, that their submission even became public.

I look forward to hearing defenders of the Government explain how it was a good thing that the Human Rights Commission were stopped from making an oral submission. Maybe it was so Mark Burton could continue to insist they are all wrong:

Christopher Finlayson: Does the Minister disagree with the submission of the *New Zealand Law Society when it said: “The bill seems to be inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights 1990 as it limits freedom of expression in a way that cannot be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”; if so, on what grounds does he disagree with the Law Society?

Hon MARK BURTON: I do disagree with the Law Society.

Christopher Finlayson: Does the Minister disagree with the written submission of the Human Rights Commission, which states that “the inroads on freedom of expression which will result from the Bill are disproportionate and. in the Commission’s opinion, do not amount to reasonable justification under s.5 of the BoRA”; if he does, on what grounds does he disagree with the Human Rights Commission?

Hon MARK BURTON: … Secondly, I rely on Crown Law advice, which differs from that opinion.

So everyone is wrong, and just to make sure they are wrong we won’t allow them to be heard in public.

[UPDATE: It is possible that the HRC did not explicitly ask to make an oral submission, and that what happened is that a member of the Select Cmte moved that they be invited to appear, and this was refused by the Committee.  It is not unusual to have such invites extended – for example I understand the HRC was asked to appear on the sedition bill even though they did not even make a written submission]

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