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Referendum More Worthwhile Than Ever

Referendum More Worthwhile Than Ever

ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today assured the public that, although Attorney-General Margaret Wilson managed to vandalise our constitution, they will still have a voice in Parliament over the Supreme Court Act.

"The campaign to get 310,000 signatures on Dennis Gates' petition for a citizens initiated referendum is no less important, just because Labour managed to ram the Supreme Court Bill into law," Mr Franks said.

"This campaign does not end until July 2, 2004, and the petition will close just as the new court opens its doors. Then, if it is successful, the referendum will be scheduled by the Clerk. While 310,000 signatures is a huge target, we have plenty of time to give the public an opportunity to have its say on whether this change is high-handed.

"If the referendum threshold is reached, this issue will be fresh in New Zealand's mind closer to the next election. All Parliamentarians will realise that voters do not necessarily have short memories. This referendum could well show that New Zealanders want a top court of local judges. If so, the court will have the mandate that Bill should have prescribed.

"If, however, it goes against the change, then ACT, National and New Zealand First are committed to re-activate the existing arrangements with the Privy Council.

"In the referendum debate New Zealanders will have a chance to make clear what worries them - for example, if it become plain that the court would have been supported if it had dealt with concerns about political interference over judging. ACT will take all this into account in legislation to reform the court.

"Last night's developments do not mean that this issue is over. Even if the petition looks set to close successfully the day after the new court opens for business, it will send a strong message to Labour not to take people for granted," Mr Franks said.

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