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What's So Hard - Is It Other Ministers?

What's So Hard - Is It Other Ministers?

Tuesday 21 Sep 2004

Stephen Franks - Press Releases - Crime & Justice

ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today asked what was so complex about the law needed to stop the prisoner payment lawsuits, that it has taken five months and still not even a date for introduction of a Bill.

"Surely it can't be the argument that criminals must have all normal human rights - even the Greens have to admit they've lost the basic one: the right to liberty," Mr Franks said.

"Does Associate Justice Minister Rick Barker need a few precedents? I served as a Territorial in the NZ Army. When I signed up, and later held a commission, I did not object to the loss of my rights to sue - under Section 9 of the Crown Proceedings Act 1950. The Crown can pay a disability pension, and no judge can then say I must get extra damages.

"Hardship and accidents go with the territory. Lawyers don't. Why should criminals not learn that the same goes for those who volunteer for prison, by committing crime. The trial is the lawyers' time - it should be too late after the prison doors close.

"Is there a deadlock in Cabinet? Has Mr Barker run into the usual Left-wing support for the poor criminals, victims of the repressive State who've had the misfortune to end up in prison. Why the delay? Working on my own, I produced a workable Bill in one week.

Admittedly, I've had plenty of drafting experience but, presumably, Ministers haven't tied up all their drafters on their current priorities of archives reorganisation, gay marriage and compulsory unionism.

"When Harry Duynhoven MP applied for Dutch citizenship last year, and risked a by-election, Labour had a burst of speed. The Electoral Vacancies Amendment Bill was introduced, had its first reading, went through its entire committee stages and had its third reading all on August 6 2003. The Governor-General's signature was secured the next day.

"And why have we heard nothing from Corrections Minister Paul Swain, when the scandal is in his portfolio? He used weeks of Parliamentary time on this year's Corrections Act, to hand our only privately managed prison back to prison officer union control. At the same time, he gave the UN Rules on prisons the force of law in New Zealand. Now he can tell voters it doesn't matter what they say in referendums, he's made it illegal to introduce hard labour.

"Those rules also prohibit making prisons any more unpleasant than they have to be. One of New Zealand's top law firms warned that the new Act would be a bonanza for lawyers - Mr Swain ignored them.

"Is the Minister the obstacle to getting a Bill to fix this scandal? New Zealanders deserve to know what his view is. Is Mr Swain so wedded to his daft new Act - passed only three months ago - that he has Cabinet deadlocked? Why is a prohibition good enough for our service people, but not good enough for criminals?


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