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Smith: UF won't back Judicial Matters Bill

Media Statement For immediate release
Wednesday, 27 August, 2003

Smith: UF won't back Judicial Matters Bill

United Future won't back the first reading of the Judicial Matters Bill, the party's justice spokesman Murray Smith said today. "And that is not so much because of what's in the Bill, but more what's not in it," Mr Smith said.

The Bill, tabled in Parliament a week ago by the Government, followed a report commissioned by Attorney-General Margaret Wilson about the appointment and removal process for judges, and there had been a widespread expectation that the appointment process, in particular, would be addressed in the bill, Mr Smith said.

"The issue has been a hot topic in the Justice and Electoral Select Committee's consideration of the Supreme Court Bill, where the bill's opponents expressed serious concerns that the current process allows a government to 'stack' a court with judges that share its world view.

"This had been a particular concern when the Government would, if the Supreme Court Bill passed, select four out of the first five judges of the new court (the Chief Justice being there ex officio).

"However, the Judicial Matters Bill was completely silent on the issue of appointments," Mr Smith said.

United Future wants to see debate on the growing trend overseas towards judicial appointments commissions, Mr Smith said.

Such commissions occur at provincial level in Canada, are a feature of the new Caribbean Court of Justice appointments and are prevalent in an increasing number of African commonwealth countries.

The biggest benefit of a commission of ex officio representatives from key sector groups and stakeholders would be that judicial appointment could be removed from almost all political control, be more transparent and better reflect the breadth of society rather than simply the views of the political and judicial elite, Mr Smith said.


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