'Ain't human rights': Simon Bridges lashes out at Human Rights Commission's call for fair pay, benefits that cover the 'necessities of life'

Labour MP David Parker says ACT's anger over the Human Rights Commission's call for fair pay is "strange, considering they're the party of free speech". 

While National's Simon Bridges has questioned whether things the commission wants - like fair pay - are even human rights at all.

ACT leader David Seymour this week called for the commission to be disbanded because it's become "a hard-left organisation masquerading as a Government department" and is "no longer interested in helping real people with actual human rights issues".

His attack came after the commission called on the newly elected Government to take human rights seriously.

"For many years, our Governments have signed up to human rights and promised to deliver. Now we need them to honour human rights and Te Tiriti o Waitangi," said Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt.

"With a new Government being formed, it is important politicians are asked how they will keep decades-old promises."

Among the rights highlighted in the commission's October report are warm and dry homes, fair pay and good working conditions (including freedom from slavery). The commission also urges the Government to implement the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, which include a raise to benefit levels to ensure struggling people can afford "the necessities of life". 

Parker, who served as Attorney-General in the previous term, told The AM Show the commission should "expect some political pushback from some political parties" when it "goes into areas like this which are somewhat political".

"I think ACT go too far calling for its abolition, which seems strange considering they're the party of free speech."

Bridges, appearing on The AM Show with Parker, said Seymour "has a point".

"While I don't think we should disband it I do think it needs reform. I think a body that's talking about fair pay and raising benefits and all of these other things - these are not what New Zealanders think of as human rights. They are legitimate arguments - but they ain't human rights."

Bridges and Parker.
Bridges and Parker. Photo credit: The AM Show

The Human Rights Commission,  a Crown entity which operates independently of the Government, has declined to comment on the outcry. The Greens said Seymour's call "shows how far ACT has moved to the extreme right".

"We live in a diverse democracy and it's outrageous for politicians to be saying independent expert commissions should be shut down when they don't agree with them," said Golriz Ghahraman, the Green Party's human rights spokesperson.