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NZ Lose Access to Neutral Legal Umpires

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks says the move by the Government for New Zealand to sever links with the Privy Council means we will lose a unique competitive advantage for a small remote country - access to neutral international referees to uphold impartial justice.

"Margaret Wilson has claimed it would be a sign of this country's 'maturity' to abolish the right of appeal to the Privy Council. But the maturity argument seems the preoccupation of people worried about post-colonialism and sovereignty. Most of us would rather look at the quality, independence, and low cost of access to the world's best umpires. Worries about colonial cringe are for those who still feel subordinate.

"The real risks to independence and sovereignty stem from Ms Wilson's continuation of recent politically correct policies to subject New Zealand law, New Zealand courts, and ordinary New Zealanders, to the jurisdiction and politically-calculated decisions of unelected United Nations committees, often comprising people who don't have any respect for our rule of law tradition.

"People with constitutional concerns will now worry about Margaret Wilson getting an opportunity to stack a new court with politically-correct representatives of favoured activist groups. The unhappy appointments of Ms Bathgate and Ms Henry do not offer us any reassurance.

"This Government move can be seen as a symbolic act rather than dealing with the type of real issue that worries productive New Zealanders: enforcement of the laws we already have, and reform of obstructive legal processes like the RMA.

"This need not be a foregone conclusion. I doubt Cabinet would stand fully behind Ms Wilson if it became clear the country said: `Don't do it'. I consulted widely with ACT members and interested parties both in person and through the ACT website. Most of the people I have contacted are opposed to us cutting off our access to Privy Council standards of judging and independence.

"We should judge courts on the quality of their judgements and their impartiality. The arguments for the Privy Council are like the arguments for having international sports referees as umpires. They do not end all arguments about bias, or lack of local knowledge, but they do make it easier to get that most vital thing - justice that is impartial," Stephen Franks said.

Ends

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