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Replacing Privy Council Lacks Support – National

14 April 2002

"National is opposed to the abolition of the right of appeal to the Privy Council because a fundamental reform of this nature must have the confidence of all sectors of the community," says National's Justice spokesman Wayne Mapp.

"The Government simply cannot demonstrate this."

Dr Mapp says Attorney-General Margaret Wilson has not been able to gain support for her idea of a new top tier for the country's judicial system from the business community, many eminent lawyers and other professional groups.

"Leading business organisations - including Business New Zealand, the big five accounting firms, the Business Roundtable, as well as chief executives and chairmen from the country's most important companies – do not support the Government abolishing our links to the Privy Council. In fact they all support retaining it.

"Many of New Zealand's leading barristers are also generally opposed to New Zealand severing our ties with the Privy Council."

Dr Mapp believes the Law Society's engagement of the Government's proposal for a new Supreme Court was because it felt it had been dragooned into the decision making process and at least some influence was better than none.

"One can only hope that the Law Society's proposal to invite leading overseas judges to sit on the Supreme Court will be accepted.

"There are real concerns in business and legal circles about New Zealand detaching itself from one of the leading law courts in the world - especially with the Privy Council's particular expertise in commercial law, with many of its judges having practised in the City of London and its immense international and trade connections."

Dr Mapp says New Zealand has produced a number of exceptional judges over the years.

"However, it's a case of pure mathematics that the Privy Council can draw on the best legal talent from the UK's population of 60 million, while any new Supreme Court will be limited to New Zealand's population of four million."

Dr Mapp says Maori are also concerned about the loss of the Privy Council, as many believe it will further sever their connection with the Crown.

"The Government's move to abolish the Privy Council has little support in Maori, business and legal circles and appears to be driven by the Prime Minister's determination to march New Zealand towards republicanism," Dr Mapp concluded.

Ends

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