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ACT Opposes The Politicisation Of New Zealand Cour

ACT Opposes The Politicisation Of New Zealand Courts

Monday 13 Oct 2003 Richard Prebble Speeches -- Governance & Constitution

Joint press conference on the Supreme Court Bill, Monday, October 13, 2003, Parliament

The Labour minority government should not proceed with the Supreme Court Bill that abolishes New Zealanders right to appeal to the Privy Council.

New Zealand has no written constitution.

In the words of Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the Government has unbridled power.

An unprincipled Government can, with a bare Parliamentary majority, destroy our Westminster style parliamentary democracy.

The Attorney General Margaret Wilson is the most dangerous politician in the country. Wilson's agenda is the SRA, the Socialist Republic of Aotearoa.

Removing appeals to the Privy Council, setting up her own court with her personal choice of activist judges will let labour influence the courts for generations.

The Privy Council is part of our constitution.

We have had over the last 150 years a non-political judiciary, partly because the Privy Council is free of any New Zealand politics.

Over the years the constitutional convention is that no part of the constitution should be changed except by an overwhelming majority in Parliament or, by what is now part of the New Zealand convention for a constitutional change, by a referendum.

ACT has facilitated the petition of Dennis J Gates, a North Auckland lawyer, for a citizens initiated referendum.

The Clerk of Parliament has approved the wording

A referendum would be easy to hold. All the work has been done by ACT MP Stephen Franks.

A Labour government that thought the country was in favour of abolishing the Privy Council would hold a referendum.

Instead, Labour has contempt for voters and believes that by rushing the Bill into law, voters pre-occupied with World Cup Rugby will not notice.

I believe New Zealanders do realise how fragile our democracy is.

Governments that play fast and lose with the constitution always pay an electoral price.

ACT is joining with National and New Zealand First to promote the citizens referendum.

Let me make it clear, that this historic first-ever joint press statement between Bill English, Winston Peters and myself is not a grand coalition. Winston Peters and myself are lawyers. We realise how important the constitutional implications are and that is why we have agreed to make a joint statement with Bill English. Speaking for myself, at the moment, I have no plans for any further joint statements.

Given our implacable opposition to the new Supreme Court the constitutionally correct course for the Government is not to proceed with the Bill. To go ahead with the Bill may put this country into a serious constitutional crisis. Labour is establishing an appalling precedent. The Government is saying that it is legitimate to change our courts with a bare parliamentary majority.

We have given notice that ACT reserves the right to try to reactivate the right of appeal to the Privy Council. ACT will certainly support changes to prevent the stacking of the courts with politically activist judges.

The centre right has no more right to change the courts by a bare Parliamentary majority than the left has. Labour by its actions is inviting political parties to make rearranging the courts a party political issue as it is in some other countries. No sensible person is in favour of this.

There is a New Zealand solution. Referendums are part of our constitution and this issue should go to the people to be decided.


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

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