'Unfair and unkind' to demand my sacking - Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt

The Chief Human Rights Commissioner says calls for his job - and entire department - to be abolished are "unfair and unkind".

Paul Hunt appeared on Newshub Nation on Saturday, defending the Human Rights Commission's recent donation of $200 to the Mongrel Mob which triggered calls for his sacking. 

The koha was made at a gang pad in Waikato on May 1. He previously described it as "culturally appropriate" and a part of his job, but Parliament's right-wing parties were outraged. 

"ACT’s long-held view is that the commission is a hard-left organisation masquerading as a government department and must be abolished," said ACT leader David Seymour, renewing his party's regular calls for its removal. "It has been undermining free speech, cuddling criminals, pushing for more redistribution, and peddling countless woke issues. Time to shut it down."

National leader Judith Collins said the koha called the commission's judgement into question, saying Hunt had to resign or be sacked. 

"I think it's a little bit unfair and unkind," Hunt told Newshub Nation, wearing a jersey featuring the words 'relationships, responsibilities and rights' in bold lettering.

Hunt said it was important for the commission to "reach beyond the Beehive and Lambton Quay to different communities to show how human rights can help deal with difficult issues".

"Human rights isn't just about entitlements. It's also about building good relationships across communities, between communities with whānau and so forth and so on. It's about relationships. It's also about responsibilities. Everyone has not only human rights, but human responsibilities. That's what we're arguing. And also there are rights. 

"So what I call the three Rs are really, really important. Now, those three hours talking about relationships, responsibilities and rights, those were the things that led me to attend the hui on the first of May."

Green MP Marama Davidson was also at the hui, but didn't give a koha because it wasn't taking place on a marae. 

Newshub Nation host Tova O'Brien and Paul Hunt.
Newshub Nation host Tova O'Brien and Paul Hunt. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

"I took advice and I was advised that the appropriate thing to do is to be respectful of tikanga, of Māori protocol," Hunt said. 

"To be absolutely clear, in case there's any misunderstanding anywhere, I abhor violent criminal drug-peddling gangs, wherever they come from, wherever they come from. The question is, how do we deal with that issue now? 

"One deal, one way of dealing with it is by looking at a very narrow lens of criminality. And has that worked? No, it hasn't. There's another way of looking at this challenge that you're referring to." 

At the hui, he said he "heard about poverty. I heard about discrimination. I heard about dislocation. I heard about a sense of powerlessness. Look, I'm not naive. I understand how these gangs, the history that these gangs have. I understand that. 

"But one has to engage. I favour social inclusion, not exclusion. I don't favor demonisation. I don't favor dissing people's culture. And I think we should be respectful."

Nothing Hunt said placated Seymour, who watched the interview and called it "extraordinary".

"Hunt either refused or was unable to answer any of the questions to put to him... Time to shut it down. And Paul Hunt demonstrated exactly why this morning."

As for the shirt, Hunt said it wasn't paid for by the taxpayers - it came out of his own pocket. 

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