In another controversial appointment to the Human Rights Commission, Dr Jackie Blue will take on the role of Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner this June. This follows the ambivalent reception of Dame Susan Devoy as Race Relations Commissioner.
Dr Blue, 56, who will replace Dr Judy McGregor, is well known for her work in breast cancer advocacy. She was a founding member of the St Marks Women’s Health Centre and a pioneer breast physician, before she entered the world of politics. She was first elected to parliament in 2005 as a National List MP and has since served on various select committees, including as deputy chair of the Health Committee.
“Dr Blue has shown great support for the work of the Commission for many years and I have great respect for her passion for ways to progress human rights and issues of equity, particularly those that affect equal employment opportunities,” David Rutherford, chief commissioner, said. Dr Blue has identified youth unemployment and underachievement in Maori and Pacific communities as particular areas of concern, according to a Human Rights Commission release.
Justice Minister Judith Collins said that Dr Blue had been chosen over three other candidates that were interviewed by the selection panel.
The Labour party and the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) have, however, criticised the appointment. Sue Moroney, Labour’s spokesperson for women’s affairs, was outspoken. “Hard on the heels of Dame Susan Devoy’s appointment as Race Relations Commissioner, the Government is fast turning the Human Rights Commission into a recruitment agency for its supporters,” she said.
CTU president, Helen Kelly, warned that it was a ‘direct political appointment’ that could erode the integrity of the role, and criticised Dr Blue’s link to National Party policy. “She has been a voting member of a Government that has set women’s issues back years with changes to pay equity initiatives, attacks on solo mothers, cuts to ECE services, and other changes,” she said.