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Keeping Lawyers Out Of Sport

Pushing privacy law further into sports would just entrench the need for lawyers at every administrator’s elbow, said ACT MP Stephen Franks.

Thursday’s passage of the Statutes Amendment Bill changed the New Zealand Sports Drug Testing Agency Act. The changes let New Zealand comply with an international convention against irrelevant technical grounds for drug testing appeals.

"But the Bill as introduced referred to undefined “privacy principles” and “natural justice”. The Select Committee decided to let them through. The Minister of Sport, Trevor Mallard, later agreed with ACT to toss out the undefined terms.

“ACT could not approve them. It would be dishonest to say New Zealand would comply with the international rule when the “privacy” and “natural justice” provisions went in the opposite direction. They had nothing to do with guilt or innocence. They didn’t advance the cause of sports, or common sense or even health and human life. They offended the clear law principles we stand for in Parliament.”

“Officials soothed the Select Committee with flannel advice. Though the Committee majority was prepared to go along with it I commend the Minister for seeing sense.

“Pushing privacy law further into sports would just entrench the need for lawyers at every administrator’s elbow. The cervical cancer inquiry has been held up by privacy restrictions. Women’s health is a victim of bad privacy law.

“These feel good laws would siphon to lawyers the proceeds of sausage sizzles and sponsors and raffles. Parents who want to see New Zealand sport kept clean, would have been frustrated by so-called human rights activists.

“Privacy and natural justice matter. But they could have been protected by making the sports drug agency pay compensation or a fine if it acts high-handedly or in breach of reasonable privacy and natural justice requirements. That would sort out the genuine complaints from the technical defences by dopers. Guilty athletes should not get off just because they can claim some harassed official has embarrassed them.

“This rebuff to the ‘human rights’ lobby is important outside the sports sphere, because decriminalisation of cannabis has been promoted by the Prime Minister.

“ACT has a clear position on that. Any reform must better protect children and other third parties from drug damage. False “civil liberties” objections to drug testing would make any drug law reform unworkable. People who volunteer for testing as a condition of participation in sport, must not be able to renege on their consent. ACT is therefore very concerned to ensure privacy notions do not trump common sense, more basic liberties to contract, and personal responsibility for keeping your side of the bargain.

“If reliable drug testing can be derailed by endless legal technical challenges any law will be discredited. People who want to minimise drug use within a decriminalised environment, will be frustrated.

“The Minister of Sport had a chance to uphold responsible authority when a Wainuiomata school had its voluntary drug testing programme challenged several months ago. He fudged on the issue then.

“ACT hopes his willingness to override officials now is a good sign that he will not fudge on this issue when it comes up in the future.

“ACT will stand up for common sense and principle in law. ACT is against the bogus rights industry. We will not support law that needlessly tangles schools, clubs and people trying to run businesses in endless legal challenges and second guessing by the courts,” said Stephen Franks.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.


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