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Franks For Wellington Central

Franks For Wellington Central

Stephen Franks selected for Wellington Central; Museum Hotel, 7.30 pm, Wednesday 15th October 2003

As a former Member of Parliament for Wellington Central I feel a great affection for this electorate. The Wellington Central electorate is the country's most intelligent.

It is, therefore, fitting that ACT is selecting as its candidate for this electorate one of Parliament's most intelligent MPs, Stephen Franks.

Stephen Franks is Parliament's leading lawyer. As one of Parliament's key tasks is to pass law, it is important that the House of Representatives has amongst its members competent lawyers. When I was first elected, Parliament counted amongst its members Queens Counsel and very senior lawyers. It is regrettable that part of the general dumbing down of Parliament has been the decline in the number of MPs who are legally qualified, and a dramatic drop in the experience of the MPs who are lawyers.

No one could say that about Stephen Franks. Before coming to Parliament, he was recognised as one of this country's leading commercial lawyers. Commercial law is, by its very nature, vital to commerce and frequently fiendishly complex.

Stephen Franks has one of those minds that enables him to comprehend what is frequently incomprehensible to 90 percent of MPs.

While the Government MPs will never admit it, it is well known around Parliament that Stephen Franks is hugely respected, and is a giant in the Justice Select Committee. Not all law is party political, and in non-party controversial legislation Stephen's advice is often taken. Indeed, in terms of direct legislation, he would have more influence than the bottom 20 percent of Cabinet. In fairness, it's hard to think of anything that the bottom 20 percent of Cabinet actually does. Its one of those unanswerable questions on `Mastermind' - what does the Hon Judith Tizard actually do?

I don't want to overstate Stephen Frank's influence because to do so would be to imply he is responsible for the constitutional outrages that he has led the Parliamentary opposition to. It's no exaggeration to say that Stephen Franks has alerted Parliament, and the country, to the dangers in Margaret Wilson's agenda.

And you all know my view - Margaret Wilson is the most dangerous politician in my time in Parliament. Her agenda is nothing less than the socialist republic of Aotearoa. The abolition of the Privy Council is an important step to achieving her vision.

What Stephen Franks has pointed out is the advantages to a small country of having access to a neutral high calibre internationally respected Court for our final appeals.

I have no doubt that if the vote this week had been a free vote Parliament would not have made this change. Labour, of course, cynically believes that the average New Zealander doesn't care about our Westminster democracy, and has rammed the Bill through on a bare Parliamentary majority believing the voters are pre-occupied with the World Cup.

They are mistaken. Stephen Franks assisted Auckland lawyer Dennis Gates to promote a Citizens Initiated Referendum, he is busy gathering the 310,000 signatures required for a vote. Knowing his determination, I wouldn't bet against him.

I also do not dismiss his chances in this electorate. Stephen is a real Wellingtonian. Well educated, cultured and interested in the contest of ideas. He is one of Parliament's gentlemen - in the tradition of Sir John Marshall, who represented part of what is now Wellington Central for over 20 years. If you were to ask `is Stephen Franks, or the present MP, a true representative of this remarkable electorate?' the answer would be obvious. That is why I'm not betting against his chances of winning the seat again for ACT.

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