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Premature Announcement Of Loss Of Privy Council

Sunday, October 7 2001

Headlines suggesting the certain loss of the Privy Council are at the very least, premature, ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"Labour's spin machine is trying to hide the fact that Professor Margaret Wilson is in retreat.

"The sceptical Cabinet haven't been persuaded by the Professor's arguments, and has ordered her to go out and consult more. Ms Wilson is refusing to publish any results of the formal consultation process, but obviously her colleagues have not been convinced by what she's shown them.

"The Prime Minister's talk of the inevitability of losing access to our highest court is the dutiful actions of an old friend, but doesn't commit to any prompt change of mind around the Cabinet table.

"None of the alternatives to the Privy Council deal with the concerns that business people, Maori or lawyers have regarding independence, risk of reef-fish participation in hot-house local passions, or of quality in a court drawing only from our inbred local pool.

"Business people want the certainty and vast experience of the world's foremost commercial court. The people who assume high cost forget that the Privy Council may take only hours to deal with issues that our less experienced local talent take many days over.

"Maori correctly fear that a local court will be stacked or overwhelmed by a political backlash to suppress Treaty property rights.

"And people with constitutional concerns worry about Margaret Wilson getting an opportunity to stack a new court with politically-correct representatives of favoured activist groups. She has a history of ignoring the 'patriarchal' system of making appointments based on merit: the recent unhappy appointments of Ms Bathgate and Ms Henry do not offer us any reassurance.

"If the Government does press ahead with scrapping our highest court - which is unlikely - it will feed the fears of those who see it as opting for symbolic acts rather than dealing with the real issues that worry productive New Zealanders: enforcement of the laws we already have, and reform of obstructive legal processes like the RMA," Mr Franks said.

ENDS




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