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Supreme Court Bill Must Be Amended

Supreme Court Bill Must Be Amended

Attorney-General Margaret Wilson's Supreme Court Bill sets a dangerous precedent, one which could be used by future ruling parties to stack the courts with its mates, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"Ms Wilson's Bill effectively sacks all the judges of our highest court and replaces them with appointees more acceptable to the ruling clique," Mr Franks said.

"The status and appointments for any country's final court of appeal are fundamental constitutional issues. We have no protective written constitution. We must uphold a convention that such matters require greater support than just a simple majority of a single-chamber parliament.

"My amendment to Clause 2 of the Supreme Court Bill is designed to respect the ownership of the constitution by the people, not the politicians. Constitutional changes must be first supported by voter referendum with more than just a bare majority.

"The amendment would set in stone the principle that constitutional matters are not for a temporary cabal of politicians to decide. All New Zealanders wanting limits on political power should support this change - even those who support the Bill would welcome a right to have a say.

"The other main amendment is designed to ensure judges stay in their constitutional place, applying and interpreting the law, not making it. In the past, these principles were, of course, so fundamental as to go unsaid. At the last minute, however, Select Committee chose to reject them in favour of the anodyne Clause 3(2).

"The proposed principles section adopts the recommendations of Ms Wilson's Advisory Committee member Jack Hodder, made to Select Committee. Mr Hodder's submission was in favour of the new court - but conditional on the Bill containing measures to ensure that judges did not take the Act as license to become activist," Mr Franks said.

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