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Waitangi Tribunal Should Advise on Privy Council

Waitangi Tribunal Should Advise on Privy Council Abolition

ACT New Zealand has proposed a Parliamentary resolution to ask the Waitangi Tribunal to report on whether Labour's Bill to end the right of appeal to the Privy Council is contrary to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

"Since 1975, advising on Bills has been part of the Tribunal's job description (section 8). There is a prohibition on the Tribunal doing it without invitation (section 6 (6) but, in 27 years, Parliament has never asked," ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"There has never been a more suitable Bill for Tribunal comment. Maori submitters to Select Committee are overwhelmingly opposed to the Supreme Court Bill. Many of their concerns echo those of the RSA, Local Government New Zealand, and the law societies. But some concerns are complex, and rooted in the Treaty - Maori passionately believe that recourse to the Privy Council is a Treaty right.

"I would welcome the Waitangi Tribunal's advice. The views of Maori, and the Tribunal, will not be binding. It should be up to all New Zealanders to decide by referendum what happens, but all should have the advantage of the Tribunal's opinion.

"In that referendum Parliament could get a reading on the predominant Maori view. It could be conducted using the electoral rolls, which distinguish between the Maori and general rolls.

"The submissions show, beyond doubt, that Maori consider right of appeal to be a deeply constitutional issue. They feel our top court should not be sacked by the same politicians who will appoint the replacements, when that court presently has judges whose appointment is out of reach of local politicians. The independence and political neutrality of a top court could be important to them as a minority facing a pakeha-dominated government - notwithstanding the affectations of Treaty worship by current Ministers and some judges.

"Parliament can make the law, and reverse any decision of the Privy Council. But no minority government should be allowed to cobble together a bare majority to dump our neutral international referees.

"I look forward to the support of all Members for this resolution. The Waitangi Tribunal's report need not supersede the current select committee enquiry. It will be an extra." Mr Franks said.

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