Monarchist League Against Supreme Court Law
The Attorney-General, Hon Margaret Wilson, MP, has announced that she will be introducing into Parliament her long-awaited Bill to abolish appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. We might well wonder why the Attorney-General has chosen the weeks before the Christmas recess to introduce the Supreme Court of New Zealand Bill into Parliament. Does she hope it will pass quietly and without notice to select committee? If so, she is bound to be disappointed.
Let us not underestimate the importance of this issue. This is no mere technical change, but in its longer-term effects a radical regig of our judicial system. And because of its constitutional importance many commentators have argued that it is a matter which ought to be put to the people in a referendum. In a system which has relatively few checks and balances, the removal of the right of appeal to the Queen in Council should not be made without due consideration and only after genuine agreement has been reached.
Abolition is motivated by nationalism, not a desire to improve the court system, or to improve access. Why does the Attorney-General object to the Law Lords - including New Zealanders - hearing cases from this country, when an increasing range of judicial and administrative decisions are being taken by overseas bodies with the blessing of the Minister? In practice the numbers of appeals to the proposed new Supreme Court are unlikely to be of sufficient number to justify the considerable investment in money and judicial personnel required.
Most lawyers are opposed to the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council, and doubtless will continue to do so until a more satisfactory justification is given for the abandonment of a tribunal which costs the New Zealand taxpayer nothing, and which gives us access to some of the finest legal minds in the common law world. Many Maori also see this proposal as a retrograde step, both by removing an impartial tribunal to which they have hitherto been able to appeal, and by cutting another link with the Crown.
Dr Noel Cox
The Monarchist League of New Zealand Inc.