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Appointment Process Already Contaminated

Appointment Process Already Contaminated

Thursday 16 Oct 2003 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Governance & Constitution

Attorney-General Margaret Wilson's advertisements for new judges fit with her rejection of any mechanism to ensure they are appointed without political bias, ACT New Zealand Justice spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"On September 15 2003, the Attorney General's Judicial Appointments Unit advertised `the Attorney General wishes to hear from suitably qualified persons who would like to be considered as a High Court Judge'. The advertised criteria included `awareness and sensitivity to the diversity of New Zealand society; and knowledge of cultural and gender issues'," Mr Franks said.

"My written Parliamentary Questions asked her what kind of `knowledge of cultural and gender issues' she was looking for. I asked how she would test claims of the required sensitivity and knowledge. Who would decide on the criteria? Could someone who might otherwise qualify, but who believed that gender, culture, or race attributes should be irrelevant - because everyone must be treated as equal before the law - still be considered suitable to be a High Court judge?

"Ms Wilson would not answer and, instead, sent me her standard booklet, full of vague pieties and generalities that answered none of the questions. Her booklet does not even refer to `knowledge of cultural and gender issues' - this is a new Wilson qualification.

"Yesterday in Parliament I asked her whether her advertised requirement for `knowledge of cultural and gender issues', means ambitious candidates must be cunning enough to at least pretend to share her PC agenda. I asked how New Zealanders could be assured that a failure to show the right kind of knowledge of gender issues will not disqualify applicants who think equality before the law - without regard to race, religion, gender, or status - is more than an outmoded shackle of our colonial past?

"Ms Wilson denied it was her advertisement, and tried to deflect responsibility to the Solicitor-General. Again she ducked the real issue: whether judges are being vetted to get only those who will entrench the Clark/Wilson brand of feminist racism in our law.

Labour denied me leave to table the advertisement, to prove false her attempt to slough responsibility to the Solicitor-General. The advertisement and her evasive answers speak for themselves. The panel of the Solicitor-General, Sir Paul Reeves, and Dame Sian Elias nominating candidates for the Attorney-General's consideration should reassure no-one.

"This Attorney General is supposed to be the defender of our courts, ensuring politicians do not threaten impartial, independent justice in courts, which apply law known in advance. Instead, she is the chief agent destroying public confidence in our courts," Mr Franks said.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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