Human rights appointee criticised as anti-gay

By Claire Trevett

Brian Neeson. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Brian Neeson. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

A Labour MP is questioning the suitability of Brian Neeson's appointment to the Human Rights Review Tribunal because of his voting record against rights and protection for homosexuals while a National MP.

His was among nine new appointments by Justice Minister Simon Power. The others include former National Party candidate the Rev Ravi Musuku and former Act MP Ken Shirley.

Labour's state services spokesman, Grant Robertson, said he had "deep concerns" about Mr Neeson in particular, after blogger No Right Turn highlighted his voting record on conscience issues while he was an MP between 1990 and 2002.

Mr Robertson, who is gay, said Mr Neeson voted against provisions aimed at protecting homosexuals and Aids sufferers in the Human Rights Act as well as the Property Relationships Amendment Act which extended the same property rights to de facto and same-sex couples as married couples.

"That's not the sort of stuff you'd expect from someone on the Human Rights Review Tribunal."

No Right Turn also produced a Hansard report of Mr Neeson describing a family unit as "a mother, or a woman, and a father - which equals a man - taking responsibility for their actions together".

Mr Robertson said he did not know enough about Mr Musuku to judge his suitability but he had "deep concerns" about Mr Neeson.

He questioned whether the two National appointments were pity appointments - Mr Neeson lost his hold on the safe Helensville seat in 2002 when National instead selected John Key.

Mr Musuku was rejected in favour of Melissa Lee to stand in the Mt Albert byelection this year, despite opposing Helen Clark in two general elections before that.

"These are all appointments which are clearly not on the grounds of their experience, so you have to look for some justification," Mr Robertson said. "Whether it's a pity appointment or just a reward, who knows?"

While it was not necessarily automatically wrong for a Government to appoint people it had links with, they usually had experience in the fields they were appointed to.

Mr Neeson could not be contacted yesterday.

Mr Power would not discuss the individual appointments, but said he believed it was important to appoint "a variety of people with a variety of backgrounds" to the tribunal.

In his announcement, Mr Power cited Mr Neeson's experience as an MP and a member of the Massey Community Board and Mr Musuku's background in working with "diverse communities" as pastor at the Hillsborough Baptist Church.

Others appointed to the tribunal are Gavin Cook, JP, who had previously served as a panel member of the tribunal, Wendy Gilchrist, who has a nursing, research and business background, Dr Susan Hickey, a lawyer and human rights consultant in the disability sector, Mike Keefe, JP, Selma Scott, a Samoan lawyer, and Moana Sinclair, a part-time lawyer with an interest in international human rights law.

The tribunal deals with cases of domestic human rights law, including discrimination and sexual and racial harassment, as well as privacy principles and medical patients' rights.

Mr Neeson and Mr Musuku are the latest in a growing list of appointments since National came into power and began to remove many of those clearly aligned with Labour in favour of its own.

It has also appointed former National minister Roger Sowry, former National Party president Judy Kirk, former National Party leader Jim McLay and former Deputy Prime Minister Wyatt Creech to various positions.

- NZ Herald

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