Greens fear ACT 'has moved to the extreme right' over call to abolish 'hard-left' Human Rights Commission

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman fears ACT leader David Seymour's call to abolish the "hard-left" Human Rights Commission "shows how far" the party has "moved to the extreme right".

Seymour has called for the Human Rights Commission to be abolished before, but doubled down on Thursday after the organisation unveiled its manifesto which includes priorities ACT says "advance a left-wing agenda". 

It calls for a new hate speech law, the minimum wage to be a living wage, fair pay agreements, two new Human Rights Commissioners for elderly and indigenous people, and to advance recommendations to increase benefit levels. 

"The Human Rights Commission has become a hard-left organisation masquerading as a Government department," Seymour said on Twitter. "It's time to abolish it."

Seymour added in a press release: "The Human Rights Commission is no longer interested in helping real people with actual human rights issues, but simply advancing a left-wing agenda."

The Human Rights Commission, which operates as a Crown entity independent from direction by Cabinet, declined to respond to Seymour's remarks. 

Seymour said as the electorate MP for Epsom he has been to the Human Rights Commission and asked for its help with constituents, but says the organisation has "run for the hills". 

National's justice spokesperson Simon Bridges told Newshub he agreed with ACT that the Human Rights Commission is too focused on issues "pushed by the left", but his party would not seek to abolish it. 

"While National won't disband the Human Rights Commission, we will reform it. Rather than being focused on what is woke or the latest fad pushed by the left, it should be resolutely focused on genuine human rights issues." 

ACT leader David Seymour.
ACT leader David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty

Ghahraman, the Green Party's human rights spokesperson, told Newshub the Human Rights Commission "plays an important role" advocating for the rights of the disabled, rainbow, and other minority communities.

She said it was hypocritical of ACT to champion freedom while also calling to abolish the Human Rights Commission which aims to protect freedoms.  

"It's bizarre for a political party that claims to be all about freedom to suddenly want to abolish the Human Rights Commission - an organisation entrusted with protecting people's rights and freedoms," Ghahraman said. 

"It just shows how far ACT has moved to the extreme right."   

Ghahraman added: "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.

"In Aotearoa, we have what it takes to make sure everyone has what they need to live with dignity, and the Green Party welcomes public discussion about how to achieve that."

The Green Party's human rights spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman.
The Green Party's human rights spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman. Photo credit: Getty

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern promised last month to beef up hate speech laws if she was re-elected, and now that Labour has won a mandate to govern alone, it's only a matter of time before the argument plays out in Parliament.  

The Bill of Rights Act ensures that everyone in New Zealand has the right to freedom of expression, including the "freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form".

But Kiwis are prohibited under the Human Rights Act from inciting racial disharmony, and Ardern wants to extend it to discrimination against religion in light of the Christchurch terror attacks, and even sexual orientation and disability. 

Seymour is concerned it will take away people's freedom of expression. 

"Hate speech laws are divisive and dangerous, turning debate into a popularity contest where the majority can silence unpopular views using the power of the state."