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Judges To Escape Minister Wilson's Thumb?

Judges To Escape Minister Wilson's Thumb?

Wednesday 31 Mar 2004 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Governance & Constitution

No one should mourn if the Labour Government has lost majority support for the Judicial Matters Bill, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"This Bill has Attorney-General Margaret Wilson's imprint - constitutional arrogance. It removes Parliament's right to sack a judge on any Member's motion. This right has never been exercised in New Zealand, but the Bill replaces it with a veto for the Attorney-General," Mr Franks said.

"The Attorney-General gets to hold the whip hand, and can block the removal of a judge she favours - meanwhile, Parliament loses a vital power.

"This Bill also gives her the power to stack the courts with part-time judges, doing as little as half a day per week. She has refused to accept any practical limit on the numbers of such part-timers, so any chief judge intent on `panel packing' could get a large pool from which to select judges for a politically significant case.

"The Bill removes the current requirement for an Act of Parliament to increase the maximum number of judges. Instead, the Attorney-General increases the number by order in council, then gets a confirming vote in Parliament without a formal Bill submission process.

"Most sinister of all, the Bill will allow the new judicial conduct panel - appointed by the Attorney-General - to suppress reporting about a judge. The Bill allows the panel to subpoena anyone, and demand documents - for example a reporter's notes. If the conduct panel thinks the reporting would be against the public interest, it can then permanently suppress all publication.

"In view of NZ First's earlier opposition to constitutional changes by bare majority, I'm hopeful they won't rescue this Bill if the Greens allow it to sink. But I'm not holding my breath, following NZ First's recent Parliamentary toadying to Labour on Treaty issues," Mr Franks said.

ENDS


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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