Budget 2002 - Standing up for rights

  • Margaret Wilson

Attorney-General Margaret Wilson today announced a range of budget initiatives aimed at promoting New Zealanders’ rights, both in their everyday lives and at times of vulnerability.

The package provides for mostly new spending across a number of government portfolios, for new services and the enhancement of existing ones.

The Human Rights Commission will be given $1.535 million over the next three years to develop a National Plan of Action, in consultation with the public and interest groups, that identifies priorities for human rights protections.

Margaret Wilson said this strategic plan would guide New Zealand towards being a world-leader when it came to placing human rights considerations at the heart of public and international policy development.

“The early consideration of human rights principles leads to good public policy, that will in turn reflect New Zealanders’ strong sense of fairness.”

It will build on the strengthening of human rights institutions that has occurred through the amendments to the Human Rights Act passed late last year.

The budget also provides for increased operational funding for the Human Rights Commission, as well as the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner within the HRC. The EEO Commissioner will provide advice and leadership on equal employment opportunities, including pay equity.

Ms Wilson said that history showed that if you took human rights for granted, you risked losing them.

“The same can be said of consumer and employment protections, which have also been given consideration in the budget.”

The budget provides:

·$2.464 million over four years for the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust so it can reach more workplaces and increase its research base. Of this, $1.164 million is reprioritised funding from within the existing budget and $1.3 million is new funding. This brings the total EEO trust funding to $1.061 million per year.

·$1.322 million over two years for the Electoral Enrolment Centre to improve voter enrolment and polling day procedures.

·$1.464 million over four years for the establishment and administrative support of a full-time Equal Opportunities Commissioner.

·$886,000 over four years for Human Rights Commission human resources, communications and policy development.

·$820,000 over four years for Commerce Commission enforcement of the new Consumer Information Standard for used motor vehicles. Of this, $412,000 is reprioritised funding from existing the budget and $408,000 is new funding.