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Sport Sanction Bill doesn't infringe Kiwis' rights

20 July 2005

Sporting Sanction Bill does not infringe Kiwis' rights

The Green Party is today releasing written legal advice, which finds that, contrary to government claims, its Zimbabwe Sporting Sanction Bill doesn't infringe on Kiwis' human rights, as protected by our Bill of Rights Act.

The opinion, written by Russell McVeagh's James Palmer and Andrew Butler, finds that the Zimbabwe Sporting Sanction Bill is consistent with the Bill of Rights Act. A copy of the opinion is available on request.

The conclusion of the legal opinion reads: "Ultimately, in our view, the question of whether the limited prohibitions in the Bill should be enacted is a matter to be determined by the political process; it is not determined, one way or other, by the Bill of Rights Act. If Parliament enacted the Bill, it would not act inconsistently with the Bill of Rights Act."

Mr Butler is a respected Bill of Rights Act expert, who has many years' experience in vetting legislation for consistency with the Bill of Rights Act.

Green Co-Leader Rod Donald said the legal opinion refuted the accusations of other political parties that the Zimbabwe Sporting Sanction Bill was an affront to Kiwis' human rights.

"The Government has made some quite extravagant statements about my Bill, calling it 'Mugabe-style' and saying it deprives 'New Zealanders of the very rights that we are demanding Mugabe stop depriving his people of'," Mr Donald said.

"Phil Goff has also said legislation stopping the tour would infringe on 'freedom of association, freedom of travel, and freedom of independent organisations from government control'.

"Our legal opinion is explicit: those claims are untrue and the Government's concerns about the human rights implications of my Bill are unfounded.

"In light of this legal advice, I'm asking the Government and other political parties to reconsider their stance on legislation, or explain to Kiwis the real reasons why they're not prepared to show moral leadership on this issue.

"The human rights argument no longer holds any water. If the Government and other opponents of my Bill are unwilling to legislate, then they're going to have to come up with another excuse for ignoring the wishes of the majority of Kiwi voters."

Mr Donald said that, while it was rare for legislation to be passed under urgency without select committee scrutiny, he believed stopping a team representing New Zealand from touring Zimbabwe was an appropriate reason for doing so.

"The Greens have long stated that urgency should only be used where legislation is truly urgent. This is one such case, because the Black Caps' tour of Zimbabwe starts in just over a fortnight.

"This will not be a case of a government ramming an unpopular law through Parliament, against the wishes of the public or the organisations the new law affects. There is overwhelming public opposition to this tour, and the International Cricket Council, of which NZ Cricket is a member, has made clear that it recognises the right of governments to pass laws just like this one.

"Furthermore, this Government has been quite prepared in the past to pass legislation under urgency, without any public consultation or select committee scrutiny. When Labour MP Harry Duynhoven risked losing his seat in Parliament in 2003, the Government introduced and passed urgent legislation through all stages within two days, without select committee or public scrutiny.

"The law that saved Harry's bacon was only passed with Green support. We helped the Government out with that urgent law change because we believed it was the right thing to do - if it hadn't been passed so quickly, then Harry would have lost his seat because of an unfair and arcane law.

"Now we're asking the Government to help save the people of Zimbabwe from Robert Mugabe's reign of terror by passing this legislation under urgency. The Government should recognise that this is the right thing to do.

"If the Government is uncomfortable that this Bill is being passed without select committee scrutiny, then it could put a Christmas sunset clause on it and, in the interim, act on the proposal we made to them back in April, to develop a protocol for determining which countries New Zealand should not have sporting ties with.

"The Harry Duynhoven case illustrates that, when time-sensitive issues arise, this Government is prepared to pass legislation under urgency without select committee scrutiny or public consultation. I simply ask that it consider doing the same in relation to the Zimbabwe tour.

"On the scale of importance, I would have thought that delivering Robert Mugabe a slap in the face and preventing him from trading on New Zealand's good name would be a better reason for passing urgent legislation than fixing up our Electoral Act. If the Government's only reason for not passing this Bill is that it feels uneasy about urgent legislation in the face of Mugabe's atrocities, then it should reflect on its priorities.

"The presence of Judith Todd in New Zealand serves to remind us all about the desperate need for good governments to stand up in every way and any way they can to Robert Mugabe."


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