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Widen Supreme Court inquiry; look at int court

Widen Supreme Court inquiry; look at international court, says Smith

United Future justice spokesman Murray Smith today called for a further select committee inquiry into the Supreme Court Bill, to look at a South Pacific and Commonwealth appeal court if the link to the Privy Council is abolished.

He said United Future would ask the Justice and Electoral Select Committee, of which he is a member, to widen its consideration of the Bill to allow submissions on broader issues surrounding any move away from the Privy Council.

Mr Smith said United Future was "extremely concerned" that such a substantial constitutional move was being embarked upon without adequate public debate and in the face of "significant legal, business and Maori community concerns".

Mr Smith is proposing that the select committee embark upon an inquiry (to run at the same time as the Bill is being considered), addressing the following questions:

* Should the right of appeal to the Privy Council be abolished, maintained or extended? * If the right of appeal to the Privy Council is abolished, should New Zealand consider forming an international appeal court available not only for New Zealand, but for other South Pacific and Commonwealth nations?

* If established, what shape should the court take, and how and to what extent could the proposed Supreme Court be adapted to meet that role?

* What factors have given rise to the recent tendency of the Privy Council to reverse Court of Appeal decisions and how could the proposed Supreme Court best address those factors? The Government does not have the numbers to pass the legislation at present, Mr Smith said.

National, ACT and New Zealand First oppose the Bill, while the Greens supported the first reading but have not committed themselves beyond that because they are looking for trade-offs on this or other legislation, Mr Smith said.

He noted that the Bill is likely to return to the House at about the same time as the GE moratorium is lifted.

United Future opposed the Bill at its first reading because of the lack of public consultation, but was otherwise open-minded about it, Mr Smith said.

He said that if the select committee agreed to the inquiry and if there was broad support for the Bill from submitters then, subject to Select Committee modifications or changes United Future felt needed to be considered, the party would probably support the Bill.

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