Monarchists "Regret" Passing Of Supreme Court Bill
The House of Representatives has passed the Supreme Court Bill, which abolishes appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and establishes a Supreme Court of New Zealand. It is to be regretted that Parliament chose to proceed with the Bill, despite significant opposition. Most Select Committee submissions were strongly opposed to the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council, and opinions polls suggest some 80% of people felt that this was a measure which ought to be put to the country in a referendum.
The Attorney-General had sought in vain for a consensus in favour of her Bill. However, with the support of the Green Party the Government had the numbers to pass the Bill - though narrowly. It is widely accepted that constitutional reforms of this nature ought not to be passed by a bare majority and in the face of significant opposition. Many independent commentators have observed that the way in which this controversial measure has been passed has serious implications for the standing of the new Supreme Court. It also has significant constitutional implications, as there will inevitably be suspicions that the judiciary will become politicised. This is not simply a party political matter, it is a constitutional question of great importance.
It must also be observed that the move was motivated in part by the republican agenda of certain political figures, as has been admitted by the Hon Margaret Wilson and Nandor Tanczos. Their main argument was that New Zealand needs to have it own 'identity', to be 'mature', or to be rid of any 'vestiges of colonialism'. Additional arguments based upon improving access to justice, and the cost of appeals to the Privy Council, were unconvincing, and were largely abandoned, leaving only the political arguments. That all of these arguments are inadequate was shown by the fact that the majority of Maori, business, local government, and legal submissions were opposed to the Bill.
It is also a matter of regret that the Prime Minister and Attorney-General have continued to repeat a number of misleading or incorrect claims in support of abolition of appeals to the Privy Council. Advocates of the Bill have falsely claimed, amongst other things, that only six other countries retain appeals, and that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is being abolished as part of constitutional reforms in Britain. It might also be noted that a number of the Caribbean countries which the Attorney-General counts as having abolished appeals have yet to do so, and although appeals may be ended in the near future, abolition is subject to approval by referendum. One might wonder why we have been denied a similar opportunity.
Constitutional reforms, whether of the higher reaches of the judiciary, or of the Crown itself, ought to be conduced with more restraint and respect for constitutional propriety.
Dr Noel Cox
Monarchist League of New Zealand Inc.