Collaboration in the process of legislative lobbying: A study of a disabled peoples organisation lobbying for change in New Zealand 1989-1993
This thesis examines lobbying from the disabled people’s organisation Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) NZ from 1989 until 1993. It explores how the organisation conducted lobbying activities with respect to two pieces of New Zealand legislation with constitutional significance: The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993. This thesis places the plight of minority groups within the political process squarely under the research microscope and asks: what factors explain the different outcomes to the DPA’s lobbying efforts to the Bill of Rights in 1990 and the Human Rights Act in 1993? More specifically it examines the DPA’s decision to collaborate with the New Zealand Aids Foundation (AF) during the 1993 Human Rights Act campaign. Collaboration with the AF was a controversial decision that resulted in heated discussions within DPA. Some members were concerned about the political risks of aligning with the AF. DPA leadership however saw a possibility for broad human rights legislation, and took the decision to collaborate. They were convinced that collaboration would bring benefits in the form of greater resources, access to Parliament and better relationships with the media which would all lead to an enhanced capacity to make the case to the public. The thesis argues that by working with the AF, DPA was able to change its lobbying narrative from one solely focussed upon disability rights to one that broadened out to broader human rights protections. DPA was not positioning itself as a minority group arguing for narrow exceptions to existing legislation, a tactic it had pursued in previous campaigns. The campaign proved successful, gaining support from MP’s, as the Human Rights Act was perceived to have public support. The thesis also shows that to understand DPA’s successful strategy it needs to be seen in the context of a failed effort from a previous campaign. DPA’s campaign to lobby for the 1993 Human Rights Act began from the point of an unsuccessful fight to have disability rights included in the 1990 Bill of Rights. DPA was, in effect, ‘locked in’ to fighting the 1993 campaign from that point.