INDEPENDENT NEWS

Govt. set to fast track human rights apppointment

Published: Wed 28 Jul 1999 05:50 PM
The Government is fast tracking the appointment of a new Human Rights Commissioner - breaking a long-held unwritten convention that major appointments are not made in the period leading up to a general election.
Labour human rights spokesperson Tim Barnett said despite Justice Minister Tony Ryall's promise in Parliament today that he would consult with opposition parties over the appointment, Labour was aware that interviews have already been held to replace Human Rights Chief Commissioner Pamela Jefferies, whose term ends in October.
Tim Barnett said it was accepted practice that high ranking Government appointments should not be made in the three months leading up to an election. He said that even if the appointment for new Chief Human Rights Commissioner was made before the end of next month, Justice Minister Tony Ryall should have followed the convention.
"If Mr Ryall had consulted Labour, the main opposition party, we would have told him that either Ms Jefferies term should be extended to carry on past the election, or an internal acting appointment should be made.
"The job as Chief Human Rights Commissioner is too important, and too sensitive, to be so controlled by party politics and a new appointment should not be made before the election."
Tim Barnett said Mr Ryall had also ignored an international human rights agreement which said that appointments to key human rights positions should be made with wide consultation
That agreement, known as 'The Paris Principles' is supported by the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions - of which the New Zealand Human Rights Commission is a member.
"An important aspect of the Paris Principles is that members of national institutions dealing with human rights should be decided with the co-operation of groups and organisations outside of the Government - including all parties in Parliament," Tim Barnett said.
"A rushed pre-election appointment, involving only limited consultation with other party leaders, is inadequate. This job is simply too important to be effectively controlled by a handful of Government members and officials," Tim Barnett said.

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