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Franks torn over shelving of bill

Franks torn over shelving of bill

Thursday 31 Mar 2005
Stephen Franks
Press Releases -- Crime & Justice

News that the lawyers and Conveyancers Bill has been shelved has left ACT MP Stephen Franks torn between congratulating Dr Cullen's decisiveness and scoffing at the Hon Phil Goff's incompetence.

"It was supposed to be deregulation and it has ended up as the wish list of the most reactionary faction of the Law Society, longer than the already prescriptive Act it would replace," Mr Franks said.

"The Bill grew out of a Bill introduced by Mr Goff in opposition in 1998, as part of his election campaign for the position of Minister of Justice. He pretended to be concerned about vulnerable consumers and vowed to end the lawyers' monopoly on conveyancing. Two years later, as Minister of Justice he was in a perfect position to push his Bill through to show his claimed passion for urgent reform was not just political hot air. Nothing happened for years.

"While he did nothing his modest reform Bill was cunningly reworked by the New Zealand Law Society to become monstrous. These lobbyists and his Justice officials took control. So Mr Goff stalled, thinking that he could insist on taking the Bill back to his original intentions. He was too ineffectual. When the supposedly deregulatory document got to the Justice and electoral select committee most members were appalled, and the Labour members were embarrassed. We considered tossing it out and replacing it with a straightforward bill 1/10 of the length, along the lines of the law governing accountants.

Mr Franks said Mr Goff dithered for months but eventually did not have the strength to face down the lawyer lobbyists, and the version reported back in August last year was, if anything, worse than the Bill that went to the select committee.

"It then languished for seven months low on the order paper, giving me time to draft some of the amendments that the committee should have had the confidence to insist on," Mr Franks said.

"I am proud that Dr Cullen attributes responsibility for this development to me. Now there is a chance for this government or a new government to go back and draw a principled Bill to reform regulation of the legal profession. I identified the key elements in my dissenting report is a member of the select committee.


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