Thursday, April 25, 2024

Point of Order: Buzz from the Beehive - 25/4/24

Maori Party (with “disgust”) draws attention to Chhour’s race after the High Court rules on Waitangi Tribunal’s summons

A statement from Children’s Minister Karen Chhour – yet to be posted on the Government’s official website – arrived in Point of Order’s email in-tray last night.

It welcomes the High Court ruling on whether the Waitangi Tribunal can demand she appear before it.

It does not spell out what the court decided – that she does not have to appear before the tribunal.

It does say:

Statement of behalf of Hon. Karen Chhour

Minister Chhour acknowledges today’s decision from the High Court regarding the Waitangi Tribunal’s summons for her to appear.

The parties have rights of appeal. The Minister is therefore limited in what further comment she can make at this time.

The Minister believes the Crown has been very open in providing a considerable amount of evidence to the Tribunal, within its urgent timeframes, about the Cabinet decision to repeal Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, to prioritise the safety of children.

The decision of a tribunal or court to summons a Minister is extremely rare.

The Minister welcomes this important decision, not for her own sake, but for the constitutional clarity it provides for New Zealand.

RNZ has provided an account of the judgement without giving details of the judge’s rationale.

The High Court has overturned a summons by the Waitangi Tribunal to Minister for Children Karen Chhour.

The minister was due to give evidence at the tribunal on Friday regarding the government’s plans to repeal section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act – but that will no longer go ahead.

In his decision Justice Andru Isac said the mana of the tribunal or the importance of its work was not diminished by the decision.

That’s as much as we learn about the judge’s reasoning.

The No Right Turn blog, however, provides a link which enables us to see for ourselves what the judge said:

Reading the judgement, its a very odd decision. The court finds that the minister could provide relevant evidence which would assist the Tribunal’s inquiries. It found that she should have provided it voluntarily, and that she was a dick not to. It found that the Tribunal has a statutory power to summons witnesses, which applies to ministers, so they could make her provide it. But not in this case, because of “comity” – that is, deference between the three branches of government.

Returning to the RNZ report, it gives us an idea of what the judge had to consider.

Crown Law said Chhour planned to introduce the repeal bill to Parliament in mid-May, at which point the tribunal would no longer have jurisdiction to consider the Bill.

Section 7AA legally binds Oranga Tamariki to improve outcomes for tamariki Māori and demonstrate adherence to Treaty principles.

Crown lawyers filed papers with the High Court late last week in a bid to block the order and the hearing kicked off on Monday at 10am.

The Crown claimed the Tribunal had acted in an unlawful and coercive manner, despite having the authority to summons the minister.

It also described the summons as “unorthodox and unprecedented”, and Oranga Tamariki officials had already provided enough evidence to the Tribunal.

Obviously there was another side to the story:

Lawyers representing Tribunal claimants told the court the minister had consistently refused to provide evidence in person or via affidavit.

They also pointed out that no public consultation on the planned repeal had been conducted and the reasoning behind the planned repeal was based on anecdotal information.

Evidence submitted to the Tribunal included a draft Cabinet paper and advice provided to the minister by Oranga Tamariki.

The minister was advised the repeal would draw strong reaction from Māori and there was no robust evidence to prove section 7AA had directly caused the safety and wellbeing of tamariki in state care to be compromised.

But don’t imagine the legal battle is done and dusted.

A report for Te Ao News says Treaty lawyer Annette Sykes has confirmed the legal fight to summons the children’s minister will continue – she will be appealing the High Court’s Wednesday night ruling.

This report says

Chhour plans to remove Treaty obligations in the Oranga Tamariki Act.

Choour can do nothing of the sort. She has ministerial powers but not law-changing ones – Parliament must remove the Treaty obligations from the legislation.

Reaction to the ruling included a media statement from the Māori Party with the emotive headline Another ‘Stolen Generation’ Enabled By Court Ruling On Waitangi Tribunal Summons

This comes from the party’s spokesperson for Children , Mariameno Kapa-Kingi.

We imagine that as the spokesperson for Children, Mariameno Kapa-Kingi has been showing a great deal of interest in the tragic case of “Baby Ru”.

The toddler, who was initially named Ruthless-Empire Souljah Reign Rhind Shephard Wall by his parents, suffered blunt forced trauma on the morning of October 22 when he was taken in an unresponsive state to Hutt Hospital, just days before his second birthday.

Six months after the baby’s death, Lower Hutt police are still investigating the case.

Point of Order could find no media report in which Mariameno Kapa-King has recorded her concerns about the case.

Her press statement on the court ruling on Waitangi Tribunal powers does makes plain her disdain for Karen Chhour:

“To do away with Section 7AA is to continue the Crown’s rotten agenda that harms our vulnerable Māori babies. It disgusts me that a Seymour-proclaimed mana wahine is proud of her actions to oppress our children.

“This decision socks it to the nation and Māori babies, with the governments idiopathic agenda to steal the right tamariki Māori have to be with whakapapa and the organisations duty to uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

This is a puzzling description of the government’s agenda.

“Idiopathic” denotes

“… a disease or condition the cause of which is not known or that arises spontaneously.”

The press statement proceeds:

This government is hellbent on overriding, creating laws and overturning evidence based and informed policy. The Minister has no evidence to back up the repeal of 7AA.

But the government has a mandate to repeal it. The removal of Section 7AA was promised in the election campaign – and we all know which way the votes were cast.

Enough said.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Treaty lawyer Annette Sykes has confirmed the legal fight to summons the children’s minister will continue – she will be appealing the High Court’s Wednesday night ruling.

Well of course they will when it's the taxpayer paying. Be rude not to eh.