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Referendum on Supreme Court called for

Referendum on Supreme Court called for. Need for Court questioned.

Government's Supreme Court Bill introduced late last year raises serious constitutional and business concerns, the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) says.

The EMA says a referendum is needed on the issue, once a comprehensive public debate and discussion has been carried out.

"A big change to our constitutional framework such as this should not be made by a bare majority vote in Parliament," said Peter Tritt, EMA's Manager of Employment Relations.

"The Judiciary is the third arm of Government, along with Parliament and the executive, and we wouldn't change the structure of either of those without a referendum.

"We changed to MMP only after a referendum and we shouldn't be breaking links to the Privy Council and establishing a New Zealand Supreme Court without the fullest consultation with the public at large and after their vote on it.

"As well as the constitutional issues, other matters in the Supreme Court Bill are of serious business concern," Mr Tritt said.

"If Government is determined to abandon legal redress through the Privy Council our view is we should not establish a Supreme Court but make our Court of Appeal the final place to decide legal issues.

"Both Canada and Australia did this. New Zealand should follow suit.

"Canada discontinued access to the UK's Privy Council in the 1930's, federal Australia in 1967 with the Australian states severing their links in the 1980's, and Singapore in 1994.

"None of them created another court locally as the Government proposes in the Supreme Court Bill.

"However Canada and Australia have federal systems of political and legal administration unlike ours. Only Singapore has a unitary legal system similar to New Zealand's and it provides a three tiered legal system. This appears entirely adequate.

"If our judiciary can't get it right once a case has been heard three times, a fourth hearing locally wouldn't improve the odds.

"If our judiciary didn't get it right once a case has been through a subordinate Court, the High Court and the Court of Appeal there's no reason to expect the local judges of the new Supreme Court would do any better.

"New Zealand's proposed Supreme Court is also to be given authority over employment issues which are not currently allowed in respect of the Privy Council.

"For employment cases this effectively means there would be five layers of mediation and judiciary. It's bureaucracy gone mad.

"Litigation costs for employers would balloon on top of the extra $3-5million that the new Court has been estimated to cost to administer.

"We have to question Government's wisdom in seeking to establish this extra layer of cost on our economy which our trade competitors don't have to support."

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