Devoy should investigate complaints not pretend they don’t exist

This is my complaint to the Human Rights Commissioner. I emailed it to the HRC at 12.26pm and received an acknowledgement at 2.26pm. I’m not sure what information the HR Commissioner was using when she said her office had received no complaints by 1pm, especially as the Mana Party had also complained and received acknowledgement of it before that time. I’m also unclear as to how she can make a determination that the complaints are without substance without first reading them, giving consideration to the content of the complaints and considering the applicable law.

Bloody dismal, frankly

Dame Susan Devoy
Human Rights Commission
P O Box 6751
Wellesley Street
Auckland 1141

30 May 2013

Tēnā koe, Dame Susan

We respectfully request the Human Rights Office to address the publication of two cartoons appearing in both the Marlborough Express and The Christchurch Press today.

The cartoons concern the Government’s recently announced Food in Schools programme.

Specifically the cartoons depict a Polynesian family using the breakfast in schools programme as a method to save money for cigarettes, alcohol and gambling. I believe this cartoon may infringe the Human Rights Act, specifically section 61 which makes it unlawful to publish material which is threatening, abusive or insulting and likely to incite hostility against a group of people on the grounds of their colour, race or ethnicity.

I strongly believe in a free and independent press, whose critique of government policy is crucial to our democracy but that freedom comes with a responsibility not to incite hatred against people, let alone breach the law.

I believe that this public attack on families in need will incite hostility against New Zealand children, growing up in poverty and who will benefit from the Breakfast at School programme. It encourages the public to view them and their families, particularly Maori and Pasifika families, in a derogatory frame. This is harmful, irresponsible and unlawful.

We understand that under the Bill of Rights, offensiveness of a race related comment is not sufficient on its own to constitute an offence. Our understanding is that the comment must also be a probable cause of ethnic hostility or contempt. We believe this to be the case in this instance.

In March this year the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination welcomed the government’s recognition that structural discrimination is partly responsible for the persistent poor outcomes that the members of the Maori and Pasifika communities experience in the fields of employment, health and the administration of criminal justice.

The Committee recommended that the government intensify its efforts to improve the outcomes of the Maori and Pasifika in the fields of employment, health and in the administration of criminal justice by, among other things, addressing the existing structural discrimination.

This type of publication encourages the underlying racial prejudice that can drive structural discrimination.

Given the public interest in this matter we would appreciate a response at your earliest convenience
Yours sincerely

Metiria Tūrei
Green Party Co-leader

46 Comments Posted

  1. …and infer there is behavioural/cultural problem amongst those not Pakeha?

    Those of us with a passing familiarity with fuzzy logic would say that it is an example of inductive reasoning, which many people do, but don’t know its what they are doing. After all, one presumably has to discount genetics (ie race) as an underlying cause of the statistically observed behaviour.

  2. Given that on any of the “sale” days one can get Pizza enough to feed people at a net cost of around $3 per person per meal, it isn’t unreasonable.

    CHEAP bad food is good for us economically… ?

    Why MUST a liter of milk, or a block of cheese, go at the price set by the export market? … are there alternatives to this arrangement?


    SPC – of COURSE there is a “behavioural/cultural problem amongst those not…” wealthy in our paradise of Free-Market Fundamentalist Friedmanite fundament-heads.



  3. photonz, so in a post one day you say if only the poor “parents prioritised feeding their children over booze, drugs, cigarettes, pokies etc” and then a day later you say they do spend a lot of money on expensive takeaway food for their children – and this is why they are obese.

    Is it always one or the other – given it cannot be both? Do none of those people live up to the “righteous middle class” Pakeha role model?

    The pertinent question is why so many slip from one critical stereotype to another to explain child poverty in this country and infer there is behavioural/cultural problem amongst those not Pakeha?

  4. SPC says “It is also obvious that more two income (middle class) families are eating takeaway meals – pizzas and the like, high in fat.”

    It’s a well known business fact if you want to set up a takeaway you do it in a poor suburb – there is far more spent on takeaways there than in middle and upper income suburbs.

    ” the first national survey of the distribution of fast food outlets suggests the higher rate of obesity among poor people may be at least partly due to fast food being within easier reach. ”


  5. One indicator of food poverty is increased reliance on food banks.

    Some of the foods that cause obesity are cheap, and while providing fat/sugar/carbs do not provide sufficient nutrition for good health. Thus obesity from these foods can coincide with a lack of breakfast before school.

    It is also obvious that more two income (middle class) families are eating takeaway meals – pizzas and the like, high in fat. This only demonstrates the growing divide in our society, not that an increase in obesity cannot coincide with am increase in child poverty.

  6. SPC said “Your presumption is that poor parenting is endemic or the norm amongst those on benefits and or low wages – and there is no evidence of this.”

    Is there in fact any evidence that child hunger is endemic or the norm amongst those on benefits and or low wages?

    Moreover, how would you rationalise said child hunger with an ongoing increase in child obesity?

  7. The deprivation of the kids next door relative to their peers depending on their parent’s circumstances, is wrong.

    Expecting parents to be perfect and perfectly self-sacrificing, is wrong.

    Demanding that parents break lifelong addictions to the most addictive substances known to man before you will help their children, is wrong.

    Friedman and his fanatical followers of free-market fundamentalism have mired this country in a dismal swamp of dismal outcomes based on a dismal understanding of the dismal science that isn’t.

    …and we all hope I won’t make another sentence like that for at least a day


  8. Your presumption is that poor parenting is endemic or the norm amongst those on benefits and or low wages – and there is no evidence of this.

    The largest group raising children in poverty are on the DPB – the failure of a marriage leading to a divorce and moving onto the DPB for a few years does not change the parent’s behaviour – just the amount of discretionary spending money (if any) they then have. These people may just need some help with the cost of rent and power, but the problem is the low level of income.

    The next largest would be sickness beneficiary parents and those who went onto the DPB from the UB or school when they became solo mothers. The problem here is lack of capability to compete for jobs and thus the impact of long term periods on low incomes on the parents. How to intervene to help the children should be the focus, not how to raise the issue of blame to prevent help from being offered.

  9. SPC – you completely ignore one of the major reasons for child poverty from your list.

    If parents prioritised feeding their children over booze, drugs, cigarettes, pokies etc – you could massively reduce the numbers of hungry children by tomorrow.

    However I agree with your about rental WOF (which is about to be trialed).

    And also about housing prices. A number of policies have been already been implemented with more proposed to address this. i.e. tightening up on LAQCs and claiming depreciation, opening up more land, faster consents, fewer restrictions etc on new housing, trying to get people investing in the share market instead of rentals etc.

  10. Tolerance for child poverty in this country is premised on identifying the poor as undeserving to be parents.

    This allows inaction on the basis that parents should be/need to be accountable for their poverty – rather than be given more assistance. Effectively judging parents for being poor or for failing to use what resources they have well enough to prevent their poverty impacting on their children.

    The conflation with the poor unfit to be parents with Maori and Polynesian parents allows Pakeha to associate being unfit parents with cultural inferiority.

    We have high levels of child poverty because

    1. we have low wages, high housing cost and energy inefficient rental accommodation.
    2. We impose GST on food costs (many OECD nations exempt food from consumption tax) and power.
    3. we provide child tax credits for working families not available for those without work or capability of work (when the way to incentivise work is via a higher minimum wage).

    The most efficient way to reduce child poverty is a WOF for rental accommodation (this investment reduces future health costs and lower demand also reduces power cost – so even Treasury likes it). This means both healthy homes (enabling the child health required for future success in school etc) and the family budget coping with rent and winter power cost sufficiently for there to be money left over for food.

    Possibly there still needs to be advocacy for a higher benefit payment through the winter months.

    The other issue is the cost of accommodation in some markets – if beneficiaries (and those who find unskilled low wage jobs) have to live where the jobs are then they need to be able to afford to live there. This is where a higher accommodation supplement support may be required.

  11. Thank you Metiria for showing the way on how to complain about racist cartoons, and note that for the record I agree with you here.

    Here is a list of just a few racist cartoons against Jews that have been published in the last couple of years in New Zealand Newspapers.

    I’m sure you will also also be sure to cite these as examples where the boundary has been overstepped

    Please join the support in the complaints here against Hodgson, Evans and Tom Scott.

  12. BJ,

    Nice strawman argument. Whatever.

    Bet if a leader from another party (except Labour or Mana) had done the spitting in parliament, the Greens uproar would have been off the scale.

    It is that old hypocrisy issue again.

    Greens are now a beltway party, out of touch with what happens in the real world.

    Enourmously proud of the Maori party opening an electoral office in Manurewa. Joining National and Labour with local representation. Pita Sharples doing the walking and talking yesterday on the Great South Road.

    Greens are nowhere in sight, how would they know what people are thinking or concerned about without discussing local issues with local people.

    Sure it is easy to get upset about a cartoon. Talk to the local people here and they will see a response idiom of a wry smile and a nod of the head. Not very far from the truth that cartoon will be the sentiment expression.

  13. but I understand that as long as the cause is just, ANY action to show disgust is OK by you.

    There are public health laws Gerrit, and laws about the destruction of property and those still apply.

    What part of this are you incapable of reading and comprehending Gerrit?

    I cannot put it any more clearly.

  14. Having just read quite a few comments, I had to add this:
    The Simpsons are bright yellow.. not white (I think they represent a family that could be any colour ?) they are deliberatley cast as the ‘most disfunctional family’ (pure satire)

    The cartoon I saw, was specifically pointing to one racial group & apparently saying that they are rorting the social welfare services..
    I’m sure that smoking, drinking & gambling happens in all racial groups & levels of society ! The cartoon seems blatantly racist & denegrating to a sector of the socio-economic landscape.. how more clear can it be ?


  15. I only saw one cartoon on TV news(‘more money for smoking, drinking & gambling’) BUT methinks it does depict the red-neck attitudes of a fairly uninformed sector of society.
    If S DeVoy has all but dismissed the issue, you have to wonder whether she is truly independant or are there strings attached to her appointment ?


  16. Disappointing that Metiria starts a blog thread that poses a really interesting, thought-provoking, relevant, and, frankly, important question (Does our country really hate us?) and then prohibits discussion.

    Maybe it was a posting accident, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some MPs are just getting frustrated with the amount of trolling which this blog has begun to attract during the past year or two, from a small number of people who seem to show up repeatedly in a high number of threads with little or no intent of acting constructive.

    People can, and do, comment on statements and policies of Green MPs, or any MPs, anywhere. The Greens’ allowing of that discussion to take place on their website is something I appreciate, but something which some other political parties also wouldn’t ever consider making possible in their own cases.

  17. BJ,

    No fixation here, but I understand that as long as the cause is just, ANY action to show disgust is OK by you.

    Shows more about your standards (hopefully not the Greens) then anything else.

    Still if that is your standard, at least we know. Mine are way higher then accepting that spitting (under any circumstance and location) is OK

  18. In other words Gerrit, we don’t have to “come out against” spitting in parliament or defecating in the halls. There is, I have no doubt at all, already a law against it, which was not enforced at the time. Probably a fine for a misdemeanor. A “why bother” sort of thing and how often has Hone repeated that particular expression of disgust? Yet I would not castigate Hone for his expression of disgust. The disgust is real AND IMHO justified.

    You have a fixation with this guy, don’t you.

  19. “not a word regarding the desecration of the peoples parliament by the racist MP representing the Mana party.”

    What’s all this ‘people’s’ stuff? Has this country gone Maoist and I hadn’t noticed? And what makes Hone racist? I often hear this claim and have never seen anyone actually justify it.

  20. So you saying spitting in the peoples parliament is acceptable as a show of displeasure?

    There are public health laws Gerrit, and laws about the destruction of property and those still apply.

    What part of that did you NOT understand?

  21. “The Simpsons has been stereotyping everything bad and stupid about white middle class males for years and years.”

    Does the Simpsons empasize Homer’s race? Is he depicted with exaggerrated racial characteristics, brilliant white skin, for example? Does it repeat common slurs against white people? Not that I’ve ever noticed.

    Same goes for Sione’s Wedding – I don’t recall any suggestion that these people were inferior or stupid or whatever due to their race.

    On the other hand, these cartoons do perpetuate a racist myth. They do exaggerate racial features in order to make it clear that a particular group of people is the target of the attack.

  22. nzmr2guy…”I wouldn’t view it as racist, more like an insightful window into the truth, and what (deep down) we all are thinking and know to be truth.”

    With respect, no we’re not and no we don”t! It may partly reflect a degree of truth for a few people (white AND otherwise!) but this divisive stereotyping is unjust and mischievous. Just because 77% of people (the unthinking majority?) want to believe it’s the reality (Campbell Live) does NOT mean that it is. No doubt they immediately rejected the comments of typical school principals stating that this stereotyped representation is ABSOLUTELY NOT the reality in their districts and schools.
    Politicians and people are all involved in what society becomes. I think there’s a need to grow up, investigste rather than falsely judge; co-operate in trying to solve problems; and stop indulging in the putting-down and misjudging of others in order to feel “superior” (whatever colour, race, faith, or species is in question..)

  23. Pokies attack lower income earners. Doesn’t matter if skin black, red, purple or green. Lower income. Period.

    That may be your opinion. You may even be correct. However, that isn’t the point; I quoted what Denise said, and she is the party’s “horses mouth” on the subject of pokies.

  24. BJ,

    So you saying spitting in the peoples parliament is acceptable as a show of displeasure?

    What next? Defecation? Will that be except-able as a show of disrespect for the government elected by the people?

  25. Hey, don’t forget that today is “Hug a Ginga” day! Sheesh, that’s got to offend a few people surely!!

    Keep this up and pretty soon we will be laughing at almost everybody on the planet. Oh dear, oh dear, wouldn’t that be an awful kind of world to live in!

  26. I don’t think you take my meaning properly Gerrit.

    The point is that the parliamentarians through their actions DO disrespect the voters. Already.

    Hone simply expresses his displeasure at the disrespect they provide?

    There are public health laws Gerrit, and laws about the destruction of property and those still apply.

    The boundaries are pretty clear to me… why must you imagine that they don’t apply? You are building a straw man.

    We already have dishonesty in Parliament, the Prime Minister being the Prime Example of it.

    The voters? They don’t count at all to that lot, except as malleable dupes.

    Respect for the VOTERS means that significant disrespect for many of the sitting MPs MUST be expressed.

  27. BJ,

    If you (do the Greens feel the same way?) recognize Parliament as a place that anyone can desecrate, you have no objection to anyone dishonouring and disrespecting the voters in there.

    Next Hone will be pissing and defecating in the corner, also except-able after all it is about your interpretation that the government has not earned your respect, no?

    So if your expectation is that low, you will get dishonesty and nothing will rise from the cesspit, including any Greens notion of righteousness.

    Strange notion you have in getting parliamentarians (including Green party members?) to show disrespect in an institution that the People have elected them to.

    Might as well spit into the face of the voters as onto the floor of parliament.

    Can we trust and respect the Greens not to shite on the voters from a great height? Surely not if the peoples parliament is the cesspool you are willing to accept.

  28. Gerrit – I am pretty neutral on this. I don’t think that we as a party need to make a great deal of it. There IS a legal issue, we point it out, and that is pretty much all there is to say about it… I recognize that there is a mix here, a truth AND a stereotype, and that how much of each exists is not clear. Coming down on one side or the other is not indicated. The party needs to not claim anything about the true vs stereotype issue.

    The law about inciting stuff is pretty clear though. Perfectly valid to make complaint about that.

    Not that I object to Hone either… the bloody idiots in Parliament would make ME spit were I there. Respect is earned. If it isn’t, feel free to express your distaste. Hone is honest about things and I don’t recognize parliament as a place that can be “desecrated” in that manner. Parliament is an organization that can through its actions dishonour itself and the country. The place? It is just another building to meet in.

  29. Come on Metiria – have you never seen Brotown or Sione’s Wedding?? Maybe you should castigate Oscar Keightley and his fellow comedians before you rip into Dame Susan over a cartoon.

    In any case – if we give too much weight to peoples sensitivities it won’t be long till the Taleban force us to get womens faces and ankles off the TV.

    Chill out!

  30. BJ,

    Not missing the separation at all, just the narrowness of focus by the Greens on one aspect only of the cartoon.

    Perhaps we could relate to the Greens complaint with more credit if the Greens were to come out against spitting in parliament as a method to show displeasure.

    Again selective racism on show.

    All up in arms about a generalisation of “brown” folks (but not of the “white”) in a cartoon BUT not a word regarding the desecration of the peoples parliament by the racist MP representing the Mana party.

    Speaks volumes about the Greens.

  31. There are TWO aspects to this.

    First: Does this actually breach the law in terms of being

    “…likely to incite hostility against a group of people on the grounds of their colour, race or ethnicity.”

    Doesn’t matter if it is “true” in any degree. Does it DO that.

    Second: IS it true in any degree? How much of that perception is stereotyping and propaganda from the right and how much is really happening. Note that this is ENTIRELY separate from the grounds for complaint and that “bludging” is almost certain to be present to SOME degree for any program that provides monetary support.

    Those who argue that the complaint is invalid because there is some truth to the cartoon are missing that separation.

  32. Pokies attack lower income earners. Doesn’t matter if skin black, red, purple or green. Lower income. Period.

    Variable Ratio Reinforcement is the most addictive hardest to kick habits available in human psychology. For a fair percentage of the population it is impossible to resist… and gambling addictions are very VERY real.

    So introducing an easy way to indulge in it and get hooked on it is a good idea? Having more pokie machines in the poorer neighborhoods is fair?

    Maybe on planet Key. Not here.

  33. The funny thing is that in the next thread down on the blog, Denise’s Good Charities Dirty Money, she notes that

    On the KidsCan website they list the many organisations that have funded them. I counted at least six trusts that distribute money from pokie machines and when I looked at just one of those pokie trusts I saw that their machines were located in some of the poorest areas in New Zealand including Manurewa, Tokoroa and Wairoa.

    It the slightly less recent thread SkyCity: Dirty deals done dirt cheap she says:

    All the research shows that if you are poor, female and Maori you are more likely to have a problem with pokies than anyone else.

    So heres the thing. Are the stereotypes correct? Do the stats bear out the supposed stereotype? it comes across strongly that Denise thinks so, and believes that is what the numbers say.

  34. I, for one, abhor stereotyping – whether males, females, white or any other colour, beliefs, races, species, (incl.Pit-Bulls!) and so on. It just shows a great laziness and unwillingness to learn about and begin to understand people and things different from oneself. I’m very uncomfortable with that divisiveness in a world where it’s urgently necessary that we find ways of co-operating and working together to sort out the problems and threats facing mankind as a result, mainly, of past habits etc.

  35. The Simpsons has been stereotyping everything bad and stupid about white middle class males for years and years.
    Your complaint was filed …..when???

  36. What’s a thousand times more offensive is useless parents spending money on cigarettes and booze but not having enough to feed their children.

    But the Green politicians, Mana etc, are way to cowardly to even mention that happens, let alone debate the problem and solutions.

    Actually you can pretty much add National to that as well.

    Are there ANY politicians from any party with the guts to even talk about the elephant in the room?

  37. Funny that the two other adults in the cartoon are skinny white folks. Did no one notice them?

    I did. They’re not shown as obese, nor smoking, nor drinking, and they’re not drawing attention of the reader by being given lines of dialogue. At most they’re token filler adults in the background of one of the cartoons, with few notable characteristics except their old age.

    I’m undecided if these cartoons really warrant a complaint, as I really hate censorship of views, but to me it seems a reasonable claim that they’re stereotyping Maori and Polynesian families as an entire group, and that’s the gist of what Metiria Turei’s complaint is about. How does the stereotyping compare with actual child poverty statistics?

  38. I wouldnt view it as racist, more like a insightful window into the truth and what (deep down) we all are thinking and know to be truth.

    Those calling it racist are to concerned about their own self image.

  39. I look forward to your complaint the next time a white person is depicted in a cartoon. Or a male. Or a female.
    Political cartoons always were,and always should, be edgy.
    It’s a fact that some families make an art form of making the system for everything possible. Some of them are cheeky darkies, some whitemuthafukkas. They are scum.

  40. Susan Devoy, instead of saying the CARTOON IS NOT RACIST BECAUSE IT DOES NOT REACH THE ALLOWED THRESHHOLD, would have spoken truly, in my opinion, had she said that it is racist, therefore the threshhold should be lowered immediately.
    The cartoon is grist to the mill of those New Zealanders and others who still have a fear of anything or anyone different from themselves – and who take every opportunity to decry and try to degrade other races. (And which race was it which introduced and popularised “booze, gambling and cigarettes”??!! I’ve even seen a documentary revealing that the early Maori, for example, didn’t hit their children (they felt it insulted ancestors also), until the missionaries “demonstrated” it as THEIR method of discipline!!)
    The cartoons could just as well have depicted white people, but they didn’t. The artist, and those supporting such cartoons, etc., are among those responsible for picking-away-at, and delaying, the great potential for racial ubderstanding and harmony in New Zealand.

  41. Funny that the two other adults in the cartoon are skinny white folks. Did no one notice them?

    Or are we having a selective racist moment here?

    Did not hear the uproar from the Greens when a certain “MOFO” utterance was deemed not rascist.

    I guess rules for some, other rules for the rest.

    Cartoon is as not racism and as such the Race Conciliator is right to say it is not racism, though offense against ALL adults.

    Jeez grow up Greens,

  42. That’s what happens when ministers shoulder taps their ‘mates’ for important positions. Susan Devoy clearly does not meet the criteria for this role. Her appointment is an insult to the position.

Comments are closed.