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Business & Maori want referendum on Privy Council

Media release 11 April 2003

Business and Maori want referendum on Privy Council

Business and Maori organisations have joined together to express their concern at moves to deny access to the Privy Council.

Business NZ, Federated Farmers of NZ Inc, the Federation of Maori Authorities, the Institute of Chartered Accountants and the NZ Business Roundtable say no attempt has been made to bring the constitutional issues involved to public attention and they fear constitutional change by stealth could result.

They are concerned that the process for setting up a supreme court has been initiated without first establishing any grounds for discarding the Privy Council.

They say the Privy Council is a powerful protection against inconsistent judicial decision-making in commercial cases (most New Zealand cases taken to the Privy Council are commercial ones), and also provides an objective consideration of Treaty issues for Maori.

The five organisations say New Zealand's stable legal system makes it attractive for foreign investment, and this would be endangered by replacing the Privy Council with a supreme court stacked with politically appointed judges lacking in commercial expertise.

They say fundamental constitutional change, as proposed by the Supreme Court Bill, should only be introduced following a three quarters majority vote in Parliament or a general referendum.


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