“ACT is calling on all parties in Parliament to renounce the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“Helen Clark got it right when her Government refused to sign up. John Key got it wrong when his Government signed the Declaration. He may have thought it was just symbolism, but it is now creating great division with the He Puapua report demanding it transform New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements with ‘declaration compliance’ by 2040.
“Parliament never voted for New Zealand to sign up, beyond a Ministerial Statement that ACT spoke against in 2010. ACT is calling on all parties in Parliament to renounce the Declaration that Government Ministers signed up to without full democratic consent.
“Helen Clark’s Government was correct when it said that the Declaration is “fundamentally incompatible with New Zealand’s constitutional and legal arrangements.” We are seeing that today with calls in He Puapua, the document that the Labour-New Zealand First coalition Government commissioned, calling for ‘declaration compliance.’
“Labour has traditionally been on the right side of key UN declarations, both when Peter Fraser led New Zealand’s delegation to Paris signing the Universal Declaration, and Helen Clark rejected the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“The provisions in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are a combination of redundant or impractical. Redundant in many cases, because the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and New Zealand’s Bill of Rights Act already delivers them. For example the Declaration says: ‘Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity.’ This should and does apply to all New Zealanders equally under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and New Zealand’s Bill of Rights Act.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,’ and ‘Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.’ By singling out indigenous people for specific rights within New Zealand, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples contradicts the Universal Declaration.
“The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says that ‘Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, de-signs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.’ But the Bill of Rights makes it clear that all people should have such rights: ‘A person who belongs to an ethnic, religious, or linguistic minority in New Zealand shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of that minority, to enjoy the culture, to profess and practise the religion, or to use the language, of that minority.’ The only effect of the Declaration is to reserve rights in the Bill of Rights for select people.
“In other areas the Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples is impractical and contradicts liberal democracy, because it attempts to give some people different rights because of their birth, effectively taking rights from others. As Helen Clark’s then Minister for Māori Affairs said, “The declaration also implies that indigenous people should have a right of veto over parliamentary law-making.”
“New Zealand is now clearly at a crossroads brought about by the Key Government’s naïve signing of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Either New Zealand is to be a liberal democracy where all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, or a kind of ethno-state where some are born more equal than others.
“It is time the National Party realises its mistake, and the Labour Party recovers its former position on both UN Declarations.”