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Attorney-General's Muzzle Attempt Ironic

Attorney-General's Muzzle Attempt Ironic

I take Attorney-General Margaret Wilson's release today - reminding Members of Parliament of the convention about the relationship between the courts, the executive and the legislature - as a direct attempt to muzzle me, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"These conventions are, like other constitutional conventions, the property of all New Zealanders. To have Ms Wilson attempt a gag through convention is ironic," Mr Franks said.

"This Attorney-General has failed to uphold the long-standing conventions that her office is the guardian of Cabinet's legal conscience. She has abandoned the practice of ensuring that a range of important appointments is made by bi-partisan support.

"Most recently, she besmirched any notion of professional standards by supporting the retrospective legitimisation of Minister Harry Duynhoven's avoidance of a by-election - and, perhaps, others - by calling legal white, black.

"Today she failed to explain why she and Prime Minister Helen Clark were prepared to promise law to reverse the Court of Appeal's decision on seabed and foreshore - yet had not even considered an appeal based on the apparent involvement of a judge presiding over a case where she had passionately promoted one side for many years.

"Worst of all, she is putting the judiciary in the firing line to suit her own political objectives. She is dumping our top court - the Privy Council - and replacing it with her own appointees without any mechanism to prevent political stacking, or to get broad consensus among New Zealanders. She even rejects the idea of a referendum.

"I am doing my duty by blowing the whistle on a Government plans to send yet another political grenade to the courts - even though it knows these courts are likely to make decisions that would never get past the votes of elected representatives of the people.

"I respect the Court of Appeal's judges individually. I do not, however, respect the philosophy they applied in deciding to make law that Parliament should have dealt with instead of applying the long-standing law on foreshore and seabed," Mr Franks said.

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