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Referendum on Supreme Court backed

Referendum on Supreme Court backed

Government's Supreme Court Bill raises serious concerns for business, the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) says.

EMA's policy forum representing a cross section of business overwhelmingly supported retaining access to the Privy Council which the Bill proposes to abolish.

If it is abolished, business' second preference was for the existing Court of Appeal to become our top judicial authority.

The major concern with the proposed new Supreme Court was with the appointment process for its judges.

"The Supreme Court Bill represents major constitutional change which is being undertaken without full public participation," said Alasdair Thompson, EMA's chief executive.

"We believe the Supreme Court Bill should only proceed if 75 per cent of the votes in Parliament support it, or if 51 per cent of all eligible voters support it in a referendum. Business supports a referendum.

"The Judiciary is the third arm of Government, along with Parliament and the executive; 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 break our links to the Privy Council and establish a Supreme Court without the fullest public consultation.

"When Canada, Australia and Singapore discontinued access to the UK's Privy Council they didn't create another court. Each adopted an existing Court as their last point of legal redress. We should do likewise with our Court of Appeal if access to the Privy Council is to go.

"There's no reason to believe local judges on a new Supreme Court would set a better record than our existing Court of Appeal, especially on cases involving questions of commercial law. In a small jurisdiction the Privy Council provides an excellent final appeal court. The new Supreme Court as proposed, does not.

"The new Supreme Court would also be given authority over employment issues which are not currently allowed in respect of the Privy Council.

"This means there would be five layers of mediation and judiciary available for employment cases. This is excessive. Legal costs could blow out, on top of the estimated extra $3-5 million that the new Court will cost to administer.

"Business is reluctant to have to support this extra and unnecessary layer of cost in our small economy."

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