The government has today confirmed that the Human Rights Commission (HRC) will be put out to tender later this year.
John Key made the announcement shortly after a report from the HRC raised serious concerns about the government’s attempts to expand the powers of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).
But Key denied that the tendering decision had anything to do with the latest HRC report.
“Actually, this is simply about making sure we have a commission that is business-focused and provides value for money,” said Key.
Key confirmed that a full tender process would commence in October, although the government had already decided to accept a bid from Sky City.
But he denied that Sky City was being given favourable treatment.
“I may have discussed my thoughts on the commission with Sky City from time to time over a number of dinner engagements, but look, I talk to people every day about all sorts of issues affecting ordinary casinos.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to finding the best way to provide public services for the lowest cost. All we’re doing is looking for a partner to share some of that cost.
“This will be a huge win for both the taxpayer and the business community.”
It is understood that Sky City’s bid provides for the casino to take over all of the functions of the HRC. In return for Sky City funding the day to day operations of the commission, the government would grant the casino the right to install gaming tables at all HRC offices.
Pokie machines would be allowed at any venue where HRC business is conducted, including at hearings and mediations, and media events.
The casino would also be granted an exemption from all human rights legislation and international conventions for 35 years. Sky City has long argued that it cannot sustain its operations long-term without having the right to commit numerous and widespread human rights abuses.
Dame Susan Devoy, whose role as Race Relations Commissioner makes her part of the HRC, said she had not received any complaints about the proposed tender.
“I will be keeping an eye on this, but on the face of it I don’t believe there is a racism issue here,” said Devoy. “Why are you even asking me? Is it because you don’t know the names of any of the other commissioners?”
A number of people have expressed concerns about the proposed tender process.
Family First director Bob McCoskrie said he was alarmed at news that Sky City looked set to win the HRC contract.
“We oppose any extension of Sky City’s powers,” said Mr McCoskrie. “Problem gambling destroys families and leads to trouble in the home.”
He said that Family First would itself submit a bid for the HRC.
“We think the commission should be much more family-focused, and we see it as being a good fit with what we do,” said Mr McCoskrie.
“We’ve been holding out for an opportunity like this. For the good of our children we need to have a presence inside every bedroom, so that we can make instant judgements on what people are doing in their own homes. But we’ve come to the conclusion that to achieve our goals we will need a little help from the state.
“Acquiring a government organisation with a moral mandate and statutory powers would be a good beginning.”
McCoskrie said his group was interested in other agency acquisitions. He said that Family First had missed out on acquiring the GCSB, after the United States government outbid them.
Labour Party leader David Shearer was unavailable to comment, after undergoing emergency surgery on his back to remove a number of knives. But Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove condemned the move to tender out the HRC.
“It’s a bloody outrage!” thundered the Labour MP. “I’m so disgusted that I’ve decided to go to the next Sky City board gathering and personally berate them.
“I happen to know that they will be meeting in a corporate box at Eden Park during the next All Black rugby test there. It says so on my invite.”