Court of Appeal Hearing Date Set: 28-29 May 2013
A number of CPAG executive members will be attending the Court of Appeal hearing and we strongly urge all our Wellington based supporters to come along as well. Packing the court out on both days will send a very strong message.
Please join us as a mark of solidarity at the Court of Appeal, 54 Molesworth Street, Thorndon, Wellington.
Learn more about the case:
In addition to our extensive research, education and advocacy work, CPAG has been challenging successive governments in court over legislation which unfairly discriminates against 230,000 of New Zealand’s poorest children, many of whom live in severe and persistent hardship.
Removing this discriminatory policy would be one practical and just way to address the appalling level of child poverty in our country.
The Working for Families package has been widely criticised for the speed at which it was passed into law and the lack of transparency around its development – there was no public consultation – no green paper, no white paper, no select committee process and it was passed into law in one day. No account was taken of the 230,000 children who would miss out, despite New Zealand’s human rights commitments to protect all children.
Of specific concern is a child related family assistance payment that is given only to children of those who are in paid work of required hours and not on a benefit. This means that many low income children – through no fault of their own – do not receive the same financial support as others. The extra $60+ per week these children miss out on would make a huge difference to their well-being. A child’s needs don’t change just because the work status of their parent does. Children of those reliant on a benefit have the right to the same support as other low-income children. The payment in question is misleadingly named the ‘In Work Tax Credit’ (IWTC). We argue that it discriminates against children on the basis of their parents’ work status, which is prohibited under the Human Rights Act.
The Human Rights Review Tribunal found that the IWTC does constitute real and substantive discrimination. The High Court ruled it was discriminatory in part. Both however did not issue a declaration of inconsistency with human rights legislation. Rather they showed deference to government, ruling that this policy was justified in a free and democratic society.
A recent Court of Appeal case, Ministry of Health vs. Atkinson, indicates a different outcome is possible given the haste and lack of transparency surrounding the development of Working for Families. It held that while deference is appropriate when policy decisions require expert knowledge, the less well considered a policy, the less weight be given to deference.
What kind of scrutiny should there be of policy and legislation that has human rights implications? How do we as citizens, ensure the accountability of our elected officials? CPAG’s case can play an important part in strengthening human rights litigation, not only in our country but internationally.
We have been granted leave to appeal the High Court decision and will take our case to the Court of Appeal in 2013 to fight for the rights of these 230,000 children.
Until now, the Office of Human Rights Proceedings at the Human Rights Commission provided CPAG’s top legal team. The Office can continue providing only our junior counsel, not senior counsel or court fees and other related expenses. Our committed counsel has offered to do some pro bono work as well.
CPAG’s case is of considerable domestic and international interest. It has created an important human rights legal precedent: the right of non-government organisations to challenge policy on human rights grounds, without the organisations themselves having to be directly affected by any discrimination.
Thank you for giving this urgent matter your attention and for your support of our work and the principles we stand for.
It is vital that we continue to fight for the rights of these children. Please support CPAG to ensure that all low income kiwi children obtain the same amount of assistance from the Government no matter what their circumstances or background.
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