In recent years, I have watched the government totally ignore the rule of law principles and several acts of parliament. In this article, I highlight four instances of this. I will address co-governance and democracy in my next article, though I do mention these two matters here.
The government’s MIQ system was cruel and restricted the rights of New Zealanders to return to New Zealand. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government was adamant that New Zealanders had a right to return home as part of international law, without restrictions. New Zealanders did come home carrying the virus, when the government instead should have paused for several weeks to implement a safe system for allowing New Zealanders home. This was not done. Rather, our government chose to lock everyone out. Over a period of time, the government implemented the MIQ system, which began to lock thousands of New Zealanders out of their own country. As a result, New Zealanders stranded overseas were forced to take legal action against their own government.
Grounded Kiwis took the government to the High Court, and besides the many heart-breaking examples given, Grounded Kiwis were arguing “It’s pitting the Human Rights Act, including New Zealand citizens’ rights to re-enter New Zealand, against the Public Health Act.” (Radio NZ, 14 February 2022).
Charlotte Baylis blew the MIQ process right apart with her spectacular hit on the meanness of the whole system. In effect, she helped end the very demise of this cruel, and in many ways, illegal system that breached our own Human Rights Act, and international law that you can not make your own citizens stateless.
Through my own experience, I can vouch that Kainga Ora has continued to have total distain at applying their own act of parliament in protecting vulnerable neighbours, whether they are fellow Kainga Ora tenants, or neighbours of Kainga Ora. The NZ Herald reported on this on 18 November 2021 when litigation lawyer Adina Thorn stated “A “repugnant” policy that protects violent and abusive state house tenants who intimidate law-abiding neighbours is potentially unlawful and open to legal challenge before the courts”.
Essentially, “Kāinga Ora’s ‘sustaining tenancies’ policy has cost the taxpayer thousands in compensation pay outs to neighbours terrorised by unruly tenants”. (Radio NZ, 24 November 2021). The article went on to say, “Tenancy Tribunal decisions seen by RNZ document the state landlord’s juggling act between this policy and its legal obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act. In some cases, the tribunal has ruled against the state landlord and ordered it pay out thousands of taxpayer money to those most badly affected by unruly tenants”.
As National’s Nicola Willis put it, “As if it’s not bad enough that the government has failed its legal obligation to keep its tenants safe from other tenants, we now have the spectre of the government spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting good tenants at the Tenancy Tribunal”. (Radio NZ, 24 November 2021).
The New Health Authority
We now have a new health authority that includes a Māori Health Authority, with veto rights over the main health authority. Again, according to Dr Lawrie Knight in his submission to the government on this proposal, this was illegal under the Human Rights Act.
Dr Lawrie Knight’s submission should be read in full to understand the lie that has been perpetrated by the government and the review process that was undertaken to develop the new entity. The first part that needs to be addressed is “That primary contributing factor for Māori ill health is “systemic racism,” “white privilege,” and “unconscious bias” in the New Zealand Health system”. These emotive statements are fundamentally incorrect, and Dr Lawrie Knight outlines why in detail. His argument is quite compelling.
For example, he states (and he backs this up with a series of statistics) that “Until now, none of these basic criteria for a systemically racist system exists in the New Zealand Health Service. Thus, for the Chairman of the New Zealand Medical Council, the two Associate Ministers of Health, and the CEO of the Ministry of Health, to state that we have “systemic racism” in the New Zealand health system, is just not factually correct. The New Zealand system does not compare to the internationally criticised South African health system that was legislated to be completely systemically racist. Under the Code of Disability and Consumer Rights, we have a health system that legislates for equal services and access for all races, as also required by the UN Declaration of Principles on Human Rights, the Declaration of Commonwealth Principles, and the New Zealand Bill of Rights. Had there been any discrimination on racial grounds, there would have been prosecutions. There have been none”.
Further, he states “To not address the needs of this exceptionally large non–Māori medical underclass, twice the size of the Māori medical underclass, and selectively increase the per capita funding for Māori, is an infringement of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Commonwealth Declaration of Principles, and the New Zealand Bill of Rights. Each of these pieces of legislation require equality of access to health care for equally disadvantaged groups, irrespective of race, gender, sexuality, religion, age etc., as a basic human right. The $200,000,000 recently allocated to Māori to encourage vaccination is an example of this”.
Additionally, “As this $200,000,000 funding was based purely on race, and which ignored the other 660,000 equally deserving but non- Māori New Zealand citizens, it is in breach of our Bill of Rights which states, “The Human Rights Act protects people in New Zealand from discrimination in a number of areas of life. Discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfairly or less favourably than another person in the same or similar circumstances”.
An interesting fact I learnt reading Dr Lawrie Knights submission was that “Since 2000, most Māori health services for Māori enrolled on the Māori electoral roll in both rural and urban regions have been provided by seventy-seven Māori Health providers (Ref 13). They have been funded by the state but completely managed by iwi throughout New Zealand during this time. They were created twenty years ago to provide a “by Māori, for Māori” health service as a solution for the Māori health problems – the identical reason as for this current bill “.
Finally, in his conclusion he makes the point that is relevant to this article that “The government can allocate any amount of funding it wishes to Māori health but must also fund other equally medically underprivileged groups with the same per capita amount. Not to do so is in breach of New Zealand Bill of Rights and the stated aim of the Pae Ora (Health Futures) Act – to improve the health of all New Zealanders”.
So why the need for a separate Māori Health Authority when a system already existed? I can only conclude it is purely driven by ideology and a desire to create an Ethno Nationalistic system separate of the main system for purely ethnic gain.
Much has been written in the last year on Three Waters, one of the most divisive frameworks of the Labour government reforms. Not only does Three Waters remove control from councils and hand power to a behemoth, centrally controlled bureaucratic organisation, but it fundamentally destroys the democratic process and hands potential control to powerful iwi.
As Karl du Fresene wrote in March 2022, “In the longer term that raises profound constitutional implications, because Three Waters could serve as a test run for implementing a radical re-interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi. If the government gets away with it, we should expect the principle of 50-50 co-governance to be extended into other spheres of government”.
“Already we’re seeing parallel Māori governance structures taking shape in health and education. The Three Waters project will take that a step further. No one should be in any doubt that what’s underway is nothing less than a subversion of democratic principles and a jettisoning of the notion that all citizens enjoy equal rights”. (Karl Du Fresene)
David Farrar of Kiwiblog has stated that “regional groups require a 75% majority to decide anything, so the councils with just 50% can never ever decide anything. Also, David Farrar notes that the review committee “…have also recommended that not only do Iwi get given 50% control of all the three waters assets in New Zealand, but that taxpayers fund Iwi to allow them to fully participate”.
Not only do iwi get control, “The bottom line remains the same – these new water entities will be unaccountable to the people who have to pay their compulsory charges. They could triple or quadruple what you pay for water infrastructure, and you will have zero ability to vote anyone out to stop it (unlike central and local government where you can). Have no doubt, that water charges will massively increase when you have a model where those who pay the bills have no ability to push back against huge increases”. (David Farrar)
In addition to the political ramifications of Three Waters, commentator Ashley Church’s main point about the weakness in Three Waters is “Namely, a loss of local democratic control, unwieldy and illogical boundaries and, most alarmingly, the likely creation of huge, bloated, faceless bureaucracies which will almost certainly be less efficient than the bodies they replace. It’s also important to note that water is not the same as a utility like electricity where scale provides cost and delivery efficiencies. Water issues are usually quite specific to local communities and require localised solutions based on geography and a unique mix of lifestyle, commercial activity and rural production.”
Finally, as Executive Director Jordan Williams of The Tax Payers Union said:
“One of the key flaws in the proposed Three Waters model is the total lack of safeguards against rent seeking by tangata whenua. Indeed, it appears that the scheme is being set up to allow expensive water royalties and other financial ‘support’ to iwi groups – something the Minister would not deny when I asked her about this on our Taxpayer Talk podcast”.
“Co-governance is a recipe for rent seeking and new taxes, and decouples those imposing the costs from democratic accountability”.
In all, Three Waters is a shambles that has many disturbing implications for councils, the public and the fundamental matter of democracy.
In summary, the current Labour government has:
- breached Acts of Parliament
- been found guilty in the courts of law
- enacted policy and proposed policy that has and will breach the Human Rights Act and potentially the Treaty of Waitangi (re Three Waters court case)
- fundamentally undermined the core principles of democracy
This is a government that is showing a contempt for democracy, the rule of law and acts of parliament. Sadly, mainstream media have been complicit in much of this by not challenging the government strongly on these issues, if at all.
If a National Government did as much as Labour are doing, there would be natural outrage and I would agree with it too. But sadly, I worry at the duplicity of much of mainstream media in not calling out the current government on its own blatant attack on these matters. I worry that New Zealanders are quietly being deceived as to what is happening to their country in a political sense. We are certainly heading down a frightening path.