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NZ Looking At Australia Stance On Controversial Declaration

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key
John Key

Wellington, March 31 NZPA - New Zealand is looking with interest to see if Australia signs up to a controversial United Nation's declaration, and may follow its lead, Prime Minister John Key said today.

Australia's new federal government is preparing to endorse a UN declaration on indigenous rights that it voted against last year.

New Zealand also voted against the declaration. AAP reported the move from Canberra today in what it called another symbolic gesture sure to please Australian Aborigines.

In Parliament today, answering questions on behalf of Foreign Minister Murray McCully, Mr Key said Australia was due to announce its stance on Friday.

"We will look at the way the Australian Government interprets the declaration and see whether its interpretation may be applicable in New Zealand."

Green and Maori Party MPs called on National to reverse the stance of the previous government and sign up to the declaration.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty said Mr Key seemed only interested in symbolism. He disagreed, saying his Government was working with the Maori Party and working to settle Waitangi Treaty claims.

Mr Key said the declaration was aspirational and not legally binding.

He agreed with a suggestion from Labour MP Michael Cullen that the Government would only sign up to the declaration if it was interpreted to have no significant meaning.

It would be interesting to see what caveats Australia put around any support it gave for the declaration.

"It is an aspirational, non-binding declaration. From this Government's point of view we take the rights of indigenous people seriously and we are working hard to advance those," Mr Key said.

Australia and New Zealand were two of just four countries which last year voted against the non-binding declaration of the UN General Assembly that sets out the rights of the world's estimated 370 million indigenous people.

The non-binding General Assembly vote in September was 143 in favour, four against and 11 abstentions.

The other negative votes were cast by Canada and the United States.

After voting "no", the New Zealand government was heavily criticised by the Maori Party, the Greens and the Human Rights Commission.

But the then Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia said there were articles in the declaration giving indigenous people a right of veto others did not have.

He also said New Zealand was far ahead of other countries in terms of promoting the rights of indigenous people and the Waitangi Tribunal already provided an appropriate system of redress.

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