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Strange Timing for Maori Change On Privy Council

Strange Timing for Maori Council Change on Privy Council

Monday, October 8 2001 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Justice, Law & Order

The New Zealand Maori Council's change of mind to support loss of appeal rights to the Privy Council may be exactly the wrong move for Maori, ACT Justice Spokesman MP Stephen Franks said today.

"After two decades of activist courts keen to develop the role of the Treaty and the discretion that has come with it, the pendulum for New Zealand judges may be starting to swing back.

"Maori have traditionally supported access to the Privy Council for what may have been its perceived close connections with the Monarch - their Treaty counter-party. Some may also have recognised that an independent umpire could be very helpful in protecting a minority against the influence on judges of local majority backlash or prejudice.

"The courts have been in advance of public - and often political - opinion over the past twenty years in creating what I believe to be legally unjustified minority privileges.

"Politicians have started openly debating the proper boundaries of Treaty piety - an example is the extended Parliamentary debate over the reserved Maori Local Authority seats in the Bay of Plenty.

"I believe the courts too are now more conscious of the serious problems being created by allowing Treaty worship to override traditional respect for certainty and equality before the law. This may come to swing too far and Maori could regret their support for loss of appeal rights to people away from the hothouse of New Zealand opinion. The detached perspective may produce judges more prepared to uphold a strict view of law that protects Maori interests, however inconvenient New Zealand public opinion and politicians may find it.

"I fear that the Maori Council has come to the party after it is over. They do not see that local judges will not always favour the overriding role that has been given to the Treaty recently," Mr Franks said.


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