Race-based policies valid, says Noonan
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.