INDEPENDENT NEWS

PM's Health Bill Treaty Clause Claims False

Published: Thu 26 Oct 2000 11:19 AM
The Prime Minister’s claim on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report that the Treaty clause in the Health and Disability Bill intends no racial preference is either deceptive or ignorant, according to ACT Justice spokesman Stephen Franks.
“As a lawyer of some experience I was infuriated to hear a Prime Minister misrepresent a legal provision so blatantly in order to get out of a political jam.
“If a clause is there the Courts have to try to find an effect for it. Interpretation and drafting rules say that Parliament is not to be taken as passing meaningless or pointless provisions.
“But if health care is to continue to be rationed according to need and not according to inherited racial privilege the clause has no purpose. The PM is blustering about this indefensible step. The only objective of replicating treaty clauses is to entrench racial privilege in our law.
“Ms Clark says this clause will be changed. We all need to know exactly what it will mean.
“Her Cabinet has people who sneer at our inheritance of equality before the law and ‘one person one vote’ democracy. They are even embarrassed by the Treaty promise of ‘the same rights and duties of citizenship [as British subjects to] all the ordinary people of New Zealand (Art. 3)’.
“Their constitutional re-engineering won’t fly if they do it openly. So, in a thinly disguised scheme the push their clauses into our law, piecemeal. As Professor Margaret Wilson described the goal in 1995, it must enable ‘the whole issue of Maori sovereignty to be debated in the Courts in a variety of circumstances…[to] give the Courts an opportunity to judge all legislation against the provisions of the Treaty to see if it conformed with its terms’.
“Their objective is a state in which all power is exercised by negotiation among elite representatives of groups defined by culture. Or rule by lawyers through the Courts.
“The Race Relations Conciliator rightly turned the public searchlight on to the scheme and the people pushing it. I think it is a pity he didn’t go the next step, to point out that there is no middle ground on this principle – that our law must be colour blind, treating all equally irrespective of status,” said Mr Franks.
For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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