Race-based poli­cies valid, says Noo­nan

The Dominion Post - - News -

RACE-BASED poli­cies re­main a pow­er­ful tool for rais­ing the stand­ing of dis­ad­van­taged groups, the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion says.

The com­mis­sion has is­sued a leaflet, Guide­lines on Mea­sures to En­sure Equal­ity, which sets out how or­gan­i­sa­tions and pol­i­cy­mak­ers should put in place mea­sures to help dis­ad­van­taged eth­nic groups.

Such poli­cies have been tagged ‘‘af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion’’ by their sup­port­ers, but ‘‘race-based’’ by op­po­nents, who say they dis­crim­i­nate against the ma­jor­ity.

For­mer Na­tional leader Don Brash al­most took his party to vic­tory at the last elec­tion with op­po­si­tion to race-based poli­cies.

He said such poli­cies dis­crim­i­nated against ‘‘main­stream New Zealan­ders’’ and amounted to ‘‘spe­cial priv­i­lege’’.

In re­sponse the Gov­ern­ment re­viewed its pro­grammes and altered schemes deemed to be based on race than needs.

But the Chief Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sioner, Ross­lyn Noo­nan, said yes­ter­day that such poli­cies re­mained a valid way of en­sur­ing equal­ity.

‘‘Spe­cial mea­sures re­main an im­por­tant pol­icy tool. Prop­erly used, such pro­grammes can make a ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to re­duc­ing the ef­fects of dis­crim­i­na­tion.’’

She said the Hu­man Rights Act specif­i­cally up­held pos­i­tive dis­crim­i­na­tion when it ap­plied to ‘‘those per­sons or groups that need, or may rea­son­ably be sup­posed to need as­sis­tance or ad­vance­ment in or­der to achieve an equal place with other mem­bers of the com­mu­nity’’.

Ms Noo­nan said gov­ern­ments also needed to tar­get in­equal­ity

rather through uni­ver­sal mea­sures. She was speak­ing at the re­lease of a book, Spe­cial Mea­sures to Re­duce Eth­nic Dis­ad­van­tage in New Zealand, writ­ten by Vic­to­ria Univer­sity se­nior re­search fel­low Paul Cal­lis­ter.

This month the com­mis­sion is­sued a re­port show­ing that work­place com­plaints made up 20 per cent of race-re­lated com­plaints in 2006, up from 16 per cent in 2005.

Al­most a third of com­plaints to the com­mis­sion last year were work­place-re­lated. The re­port showed that the num­ber of com­plaints about racial ha­rass­ment con­tin­ued to grow.

It showed that in 2006, 24 per cent of race-re­lated com­plaints were about ha­rass­ment, com­pared with 19 per cent in 2005 and 15 per cent in 2004.

Ross­lyn Noo­nan: Tar­gets in­equal­ity.

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