.....while Kiri Allan extends the Human Rights Act to combat religious bigots in NZ
Two ministers are overseas, combating climate change (in the case of James Shaw) and Russian invaders (in the case of Defence Minister Peeni Henare).
Another minister is bound for Paris, to combat mental ill-health among other things, according to his press statement.
And back home, Justice Minister Kiri Allan is combating religious discrimination.
Climate Change Minister James Shaw marked the end of COP27 negotiations in Egypt by saying it is crunch time for counties to step up and take urgent action at home.
“Global progress is slow, but right now we still have a choice about the future we want to build. Every tenth of a degree of global warming prevented matters; every tonne of pollution we cut makes a difference; every decision we take counts.”
Defence Minister Peeni Henare has visited Ukraine and Poland, holding talks with his Ministerial counterparts and reaffirming New Zealand’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian defence against Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion.
He described the visit as a further demonstration of New Zealand’s ongoing support to the people of Ukraine and acknowledgment of the brave Ukrainian self-defence efforts more than 267 days since Russia’s unjustified and illegal invasion.
Henare noted that since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in late February New Zealand has sanctioned over 1200 Russian individuals and entities and provided over $60 million in military, diplomatic, legal and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
He will head to Cambodia to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADM
Small Business Minister Stuart Nash is headed for Paris to attend small business meetings with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
How mental health becomes part of his brief is not immediately apparent, but he explained:
“The OECD’s Digital for SMEs Global Initiative is a great opportunity to engage with my OECD counterparts and private sector partners on how we transition to a post-COVID future, and advance the importance of mental health, wellbeing and inclusivity to SME digitalisation.”
OECD engagements will also advance Government priorities in areas of Small Business, Economic Development, Tourism and Forestry.
As chair, at the D4SME meetings he will moderate discussion of digital transformation by SMEs at a time when they are facing a range of economic challenges from supply chain disruptions to price increases, all while recovering from the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy.
Nash will also deliver a keynote address at the Green Growth and Sustainable Development (GGSD) Forum, focusing on the role of SMEs in green innovation.
He will be travelling from 20-26 November 2022.
Justice Minister Kiri Allan announced the Government will amend the law “to make sure religious communities feel safe and welcome in New Zealand.”
We already have lots of laws to make people feel safe, but whether we have enough police to enforce them is open to question.
But Allan is acting in response to “extensive consultation” with more than 19,000 submissions on six proposals, and she says the Government will make one change to address incitement towards religious communities while asking for further work to be done alongside a wider range of groups going forward.
This change will be undertaken in as part of Government’s response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain in 2019.
Under the Human Rights Act 1993, it is already illegal to publish or distribute threatening, abusive, or insulting words likely to ‘excite hostility against’ or ‘bring into contempt’ any group on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins.
Those grounds will now be extended, in both the civil (section 61) and criminal (section 131) provisions, to cover religious belief.
The Government has also asked the Law Commission to undertake an independent and thorough first-principles review of legal responses to hate-motivated offending, and of speech that expresses hostility towards, or contempt for, people who share a common characteristic. This will include whether further protections should be afforded to specific groups, including the Rainbow and disabled communities.
A Bill will be introduced and is intended to be passed in the current Parliamentary term to make the specific changes to the Act regarding religious belief. It will be subject to a full select committee process (in much the same way as the government dealt with Three Waters, presumably, and – shazam- turned them into Five Waters).
Until the Law Commission has done its work, there will be no changes to the definition of groups protected from discrimination, or any changes to how the existing legal regime against incitement operates in terms of thresholds, offences or penalties, as originally proposed.”
Allan’s position was abundantly clear in her lamenting:
“Some of the debate on this topic over the last year been disappointing, and at times deliberately divisive and misleading, particularly in regard to the proposals that were out for consultation. This is not, and never has been, about the Government wanting to restrict free speech.”
So, what is it doing?
It is making “a targeted change aimed at tackling an immediate gap identified by the Royal Commission.”
So, relax dear reader. When the Ardern government targets something, the collateral damage is…
We’ll leave you to complete the sentence.
Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton