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Supreme Court a Supreme Blunder

Supreme Court a Supreme Blunder

Monday 9 Dec 2002 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Governance & Constitution

The Government's plan to sever more than a century of association with the Privy Council, as our top court, is a supreme blunder says ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks.

"By severing our links with the Privy Council we lose a unique advantage for a small remote country - free access as of right to neutral international umpires. We will be replacing a court which is free to us, with a court costing $10 million to set up and up to $5 million per year to service. Most barristers with actual experience of being challenged before those top-flight London judges are against this loss. Once it is gone we could never persuade top lawyers to support reinstating it. They wouldn't want the competition. This new indigenous court could become infested with political cronies, conflicts of interest and judges on a social engineering mission," Mr Franks said.

"We already have a small pool of good lawyers willing to become judges. Our pool will be topped up from a shrinking pool of talent, as New Zealand falls behind in its ability to retain professionals who can double or triple their incomes overseas. It will be as hard to keep good lawyers, as it is to keep good radiographers.

"The proposed new court, which can overrule Court of Appeal judges, will be vulnerable to stacking by Attorney General Margaret Wilson with politically correct representatives of activist groups and judges on social engineering missions.

"Ms Wilson's claim that severing links with the Privy Council is a sign of our nation's "maturity" is evidence of her own preoccupation with rejecting our inherited institutions, forms and status. This obsession is its own form of cringe. From a Government hell bent on giving away sovereignty under international documents like the Kyoto Protocols and UN Conventions, where New Zealanders will be judged by unelected representatives of nations which share few of our values, this maturity argument is hypocrisy.

"The access to justice argument is also hogwash. If the fee gouging in the proposed Supreme Court is anything like that in the High Court it will still be cheaper to go to London than Wellington. Airfares to London are no more than a day's QC fees. The Privy Council is crisper; it takes fewer days to hear a case Wellington will be no cheaper. There is no indication whether we've asked the Privy Council to come and sit in New Zealand if travel costs were the real worry in any event.

"Any major constitutional change should require approval by a two thirds majority at a referendum.

This will rebound on some who think they will benefit. Maori causes are currently fashionable. But Maori should reflect on the need minorities have for impartial courts. The elite in a country with a population no greater than that of a medium sized city can have "reef fish" savings in sentiment. Along with the rest of use who prize impartial justice, Maori should call taihoa," Stephen Franks said.


For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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