Human Rights Commission

Chief Human Rights Commissioner "really disappointed" with COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill

coronavirus 13/05/2020

The Human Rights Commission is deepily concerned about the lack of scrutiny and rushed process for the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill.

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill was introduced to Parliament on Tuesday and debate continued into Wednesday morning, because it sets the legal framework for alert level 2 which comes into effect on Thursday. 

The Government is no longer declaring a state of emergency as the nation shifts out of alert level 3, and Attorney-General David Parker said the time has come for a "bespoke piece of legislation" to guide the new rules. 

The legislation has sparked debate with Opposition MPs claiming it "puts far too much power" in the hands of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - for example, the new legislation will allow police to enter homes and other premises without a warrant.

Sean invites Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt to the programme to share his disappointment in this new bill.

Paul says he is "really disappointed about this bill". He says he thinks the government has done really well in general with covid and on the whole done a good job - until now.

Hunt says that they received a copy of this bill on Monday night, and was asked to comment on it by Tuesday morning (12 hours later). His team worked on it over night, and made constructive and critical comments to the Attorney General to the deadline given.

Hunt expresses his disappointment in how quickly and rushed the whole process has been.

The process is not good enough. It's been a failure of democratic process. Sweeping powers have been given to police without kiwis being given the opprtuntiy to comment or have their say. that's a great pity.

Sean asks, what are the powers being given most concerning?

Mainly police powers to enter homes, other premises, Marae without warrant. My understanding is these pwers were not deemed neccessary in Level 4 and 3. If that's the case, why are they necessary during level 2?

Listen to the full interview above.