Saturday, April 27, 2019

Karl du Fresne: Is this the man we want to shape our human rights policies?

I did something a couple of weeks ago that I’ve never done before. I made a request under the Official Information Act.

I suppose it might be seen as shameful, as a journalist, to admit that I’ve never previously had recourse to the OIA, but there you are. I never felt I needed to.

My request was to Justice Minister Andrew Little and asked for information about the appointment of the Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt.

Hunt is in a powerful position to influence laws that could affect the quality of New Zealand democracy at its most fundamental level. We can assume that he will be very closely involved in the fast-tracked review of our “hate speech” laws, which has serious implications for freedom of expression.

Yet prior to his appointment last October, virtually no one in New Zealand, outside a narrow political and academic elite, had heard of him. Even now, he’s largely an unknown quantity. But what we do know about him isn’t reassuring.

Hunt is described as a New Zealand and British national, but he comes from a British academic background. He has made a career in the burgeoning international human rights industry.

His lengthy Wikipedia entry, clearly written by an admirer, describes him as a “human rights scholar-activist” and a professor of law at the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex. He has held senior appointments with the United Nations, including that of rapporteur on the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“Rapporteur” is a fancy word for a UN official who checks to ensure that member countries measure up to the UN’s high expectations. Readers with long memories may recall that a UN rapporteur, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, was sent to New Zealand in 2005 and gave us a telling-off for our multiple human rights failings.

Countries represented on the UN commission that sent Stavenhagen here included Sudan, Zimbabwe, China and Cuba – nations internationally admired for their unstinting commitment to freedom.

Similarly, Hunt’s fellow rapporteurs 20 years ago included representatives from Russia, Belarus, Cameroon and Egypt, all of which are ranked as “not free” by the international organisation Freedom House. So we may be entitled to feel just a tiny bit sceptical about the credentials of UN officials professing to champion human rights.

But wait, there’s more. When Hunt wasn’t busy polishing his human rights credentials, he was dabbling in British politics.

To be precise, he contributed to a website called Left Foot Forward, which describes itself as “the home of political news and comment for progressives”. Hunt’s writing on social justice issues aligned closely with the policies of the Corbynite socialist (aka “progressive”) Left of the British Labour Party.

Last year, Hunt put himself forward for election to the party’s National Policy Forum. The aim was to “ensure Labour has an election-winning manifesto”. In a pamphlet, Hunt wrote that he could help strengthen and deliver Labour’s “exciting social policies”.

Of course he’s entitled to embrace whatever brand of politics he likes. But at the same time, we’re entitled to ask whether Hunt, a man steeped in British left-wing activism, is the right person to shape New Zealand’s human rights policies.

We’re also entitled to ask whether there was no suitably qualified candidate from a New Zealand background – someone with an intuitive understanding of New Zealand society and unencumbered by imported leftist ideology. This is one of the questions I’ve put to Little.

Many New Zealanders first heard of Hunt on the Tuesday following the Friday Christchurch mosque shootings, when he had an opinion article published on Stuff. In that article he warned of “violent, transnational, neo-fascist ideology” and issued a thinly disguised call for tougher hate speech laws.

He wrote passionately about the importance of protecting tolerance, diversity and equality, but strangely his polemic made no mention of one of the most fundamental human rights of all: freedom of expression.

Hunt certainly wasted no time seizing the moment. The opportunity was apparently too good to pass up. But New Zealanders might have been more impressed if he hadn’t so quickly rushed to judgment about what caused the shootings – which, after all, were perpetrated by someone from Australia – and deciding what, if anything, needs to be done to avoid a repetition.

No doubt Hunt’s CV ticked all the boxes for Labour and even more so for the Greens, but I wonder whether New Zealand First thought to challenge his appointment. The party’s supporters would surely have expected it to.

I also wonder whether the National Party raised even a squeak in protest. Probably not, since the Nats' election strategy for 2020 seems to consist of keeping their heads down and hoping not to be noticed.

Karl du Fresne, a freelance journalist, is the former editor of The Dominion. He blogs at published in The Dominion Post and


Brian said...

The Appointment of Comrade Hunt.
The Labour/Green alliance has chosen the right person to pursue their ideology; install Hate Speech laws (applicable to Right Wingers justifiable) and further pave the way of a one party state. Lenin’s objectives coming to fruition with the demise of part democracy!
This appointment is like placing a fox in a hen coop with instructions to “look after the inmates”. True to his ideals this Commissioner considers thet “State is all supreme and knows what is best; for us”. The introduction of hate speech will be an Orwellian disaster, and lead to the the introduction of a NZ brand of Communism?
This secrecy over his appointment is bad enough, with the general public unaware of Mr.Hunt’s political legacy, his outspoken contempt for democracy; and now the chance supreme to dominate any right to dissent.
As Karl states the NZ First Party has ignored his appointment, and National the so called party of the rights of the individual; has sat so long on the proverbial fence it has almost disappeared. Since the last election it has been hard to discover what, if anything, the present National Party actually stands for? Or if indeed it is really an opposition party of the right!
Around the world in democratic societies concern is mounting on the way political parties are running our democracies. In France it is the Yellow jackets causing chaos; Brexit in Britain is almost a musical hall joke, with its leadership seemingly committed to sabotaging any Brexit exit; Italy and those indebted European nations to Germany have to watch their P’s & Q’s; that is before a Brexit outcome. While Germany is on the verge of an economic setback.
The far left have an open battlefield, and are they using it to advantage with Western Civilisation going through a process of self flagellation, and political correctness over “white supremacy”.
We need leaders, not appeasers with cringing atonement indefensible policies. Our Judeo/Christian Western Civilisation is now facing annihilation, as it was after the fall of Rome in the 5th century.
To counteract this advance of neo Marxist barbarism, we need to ditch apologising for our past. Take the attack to the neo Marxists, their fellow travellers, and a left wing United Nations organisation choking daily on its own bias.
This and by backing President Trump, is our last chance of any democratic survival.

The Realist said...

I heard this guy being interviewed by Kim Hill.
Do we want him in our system?
Definitely not.

Bud Jones QSM said...

On Saturday Morning show 27/4RNZ, kim Hill was talking to Human Rights Comissioner.

Kim, you were talking about hate speech today
You’ve heard much talk about hate speech as we all have recently.

I’ve noticed the purest form of happily tolerated hate speech every time my TV remote accidently stumbles on to a broadcast as recently occurred in Wellington of the kappa Hate Ya Festival,Te Matatini.These shout and scream gesture feasts are obscenely bloated with hate and kill gestures. You know the routine, as ,sadly we all do.
Half naked young guys and gals suitably and savagely face/body painted for war,stage an ensemble formation [ skirmish line line in military science]. Pounding spears,waving hatchets,thrusting fists up, in the, up you, kill you gesture, Faces are fully grimaced in hate with tongues wagging in full on aggressive challenge disrespect mode. Worryingly young Participants believe they are a race apart different and separate from the rest of us.Superiority is implied, while shouting unintelligible language but clearly hate /kill chants at whom it is not clear.
My question for the Comissioner to explore is. What steps is government making to stamp out this hate festival of violent hate speech/actions fomenting a challenge to battle?
Noting the rapid response to gun law and the state censor moving a ban on the manifesto maybe also a book seller chain came under a Big Brother’s heavy lean to remove books from sale.Also the promised warning of officials to investigate, hate speech wherever it might occur.

So, we have a unique Kiwi form of purest hate speech happily tolerated because it comes from a certain racial group, often, and certainly here, given a Free Pass to use hate speech and gestures of hate and threatening physical violence by young people who have been taught since they were babies that they are different and special/superior, and to manifest this hate of the other in an emotionally charged ritual festival. It is embarrassingly obvious why we tolerate this.PC goneblind populous phenomena.
Not to mention the blatant naked racism of all of it.

None of this has escaped our conscious notice,as it sadly permeates all of our awareness of life in NZ.
Best Regards,
Bud JonesQSM
51 Helston Road WellingtonPh 478 6641

Allan said...

Thank-you Karl for an excellent article. But a special THANKS to Bud Jones for an even better response. Apartheid is now so well entrenched in NZ society, with one rule for them & another for us. Imagine the response if the roles were reversed, with 'whites' dancing around pointing muskets, & shouting "come out & fight like men".