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ACT Questions Privy Council Arguments

Tuesday 19th Dec 2000

“Claims that abolishing our right of appeal to the Privy Council is a sign of “maturity” are strange coming from the people who have put more and more of our law under the control of overseas institutions by signing up to international treaties” says Stephen Franks, ACT Justice spokesman.

The three options in the paper released do not deal with the main risk – that Labour will appoint judges to get courts that will change our constitution and our law to make rules that the people would never vote for. ACT must insist we take a close look at the arguments. ACT will survey party members for their opinion

“Labour and National have signed us up to treaties which put New Zealanders and New Zealand disputes at the mercy of foreign committees and courts. Many of the people on them come from cultures with no respect for freedom and the rule of law. Some of them are from hostile countries contemptuous of our cultural values.

“What matters is that New Zealand law is applied in New Zealand and that is what the Privy Council has to do. Unelected international bodies can impose whatever rules their majority wants. People who share the commitments of New Zealand and Britain to freedom and the rule of law are the minority, not the majority in this world.

“We should judge Courts on the quality of their judgements and their impartiality. The arguments for having the Privy Council are like the arguments for having international sports referees as umpires. It does not end all arguments about bias, or lack of local knowledge, but it does make it easier to see that justice is impartial. And the Privy Council is way cheaper. We don’t have to pay the wages of those top judges in London, the world centre most favoured by people exercising a choice of law.

“Last year’s 10 appeals to the Privy Council may not be of major importance at the moment because of the quality of the current leadership of the Court of Appeal. But appointments in the hands of Labour politicians who have shown their disrespect for the rule of law, like the West Coast Forest Accord breach, could easily give us a Court stacked with philosophical cronies. The Attorney-General supports gender and race “representative” appointments rather than pure merit.

“Maori have correctly sensed the risk facing minorities in a small country if there is nothing to reverse judges dancing to the whims of government. At the moment those whims are politically correct – but that will not always be the case.

“The Privy Council has been our insurance against stacked Courts in New Zealand. Australian concerns about political appointments show how quickly that could change. New Zealanders are complacent because our Courts have been largely apolitical. But it has not been worth trying to stack the New Zealand Courts when the independent Privy Council is at the top.”


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