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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 84

Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 84


* Supreme Court Bill - an abuse of power This monumental constitutional change is being pushed through parliament despite opposition and lack of a public mandate.

* UN tells New Zealand what to do Has the UN become our moral policeman?

* Smoking guns - taxpayer funded lobby groups What's going on when the government gives money to lobby groups to do its bidding?

Supreme Court Bill - an abuse of power

In a rare front-page editorial, the New Zealand Herald today described the passage of the Supreme Court Bill as an 'act of breathtaking arrogance' and 'nothing short of an abuse of power'. Certainly there is no mandate for this outrageous constitutional change that could be law from next week.

A 63 to 57 vote in favour of the bill (a 52 percent parliamentary majority) is not a sufficient benchmark to pass a law of this importance. Earlier this week, United Future decided to oppose the bill claiming a lack of consultation and public support for the legislation. The Greens are supporting Labour because they share that party's desire to deconstruct the foundations of our Westminster system. In the private sector, the Companies Act requires a 75 percent majority of shareholders to change a company constitution - but no such checks exist in parliament.

Attorney-General Margaret Wilson claims New Zealand is the laughing stock of 'mature' nations, but we need a more robust basis for change than this lame and vague call to 'grow up'. We are witnessing an ideological steamroller in action to sever a 162 year-old right of appeal to an esteemed independent and international court.

There were 315 submissions to the select committee; 40 percent supported the new court and 54 percent wanted to retain the status quo. Among 38 submissions from Maori interests, only 4 supported a Supreme Court. 85 out of 86 local authorities opposed the move, as did 75% of the 103 oral submissions.

Margaret Wilson - a list MP - will control the appointment process. Direct political interference is likely, as is some compromise of the critical separation of the Executive and Judiciary. The court would also make us vulnerable to pressure from a human rights-driven agenda and international law, and will nudge us closer to becoming a republic - perhaps the real motive behind the bill.

Concerned New Zealanders should voice their opposition directly to MPs and in letters to the editor. Maxim's website www.maxim.org.nz has a letter wizard with links to the editor of every paper in the country as well as contact details for each MP. A Citizens' Initiated Referendum has been started which provides a final hope for the public to have a say - we encourage you to sign the petition which is available at: http://www.act.org.nz/action/campaigns/privycouncil/privycouncil_petition.pdf

You will need the free Acrobat reader programme to view the petition: you can download it from http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html

UN tells New Zealand what to do

This week the United Nations (UN) has told New Zealand what we must do to meet our obligations to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Prime Minster has used this to reissue calls to ban smacking.

But some basic questions need to be asked. Since when has the UN had the authority to override a nation's sovereign independence on this (or any) matter? Has it become our moral policeman? This is an example of how confused we are when it comes to the interface of international law with our own sovereignty. On one hand, Helen Clark and others talk of our independence and 'identity' - the Supreme Court is an obvious example - but on the other, she is quick to embrace the UN and international law. The difference is politics - whatever is expedient at the time.

To view an article by Bruce Logan on this issue click on www.maxim.org.nz/ri/unitednations.html

Smoking guns - taxpayer funded lobby groups

Questions from ACT's Rodney Hide to Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor have revealed that the government has funded anti-smoking groups to lobby MPs in support of its smoke-free legislation.

Contracts totalling $2.1 million have been let by the Ministry of Health with three anti-smoking groups. Mr Hide claims the Ministry had "orchestrated a political campaign on the media and through MPs to effect a law change." "Just as bad", he continued, "these supposedly independent interest groups aren't allowed to criticise the government without first discussing it with the government. Taxpayers' money has been paid in an attempt to silence these groups."

So what we're seeing is taxpayer money used by the government to sway other MPs and the public in favour of the bill. And this is not an isolated case. The government continues to fund the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective to the tune of $150,000 a month - a move initiated by Helen Clark as Minister of Health in 1990. The Collective undertook a massive campaign in support of the Prostitution Reform Bill while receiving government funding. Was this lobbying part of the Collective's contract and a 'key performance indicator'?

The real issue here however, is not only smoking or prostitution, but the flagrant abuse of money and power by the government to advance its own agenda.

Evidence spring edition out now

The spring edition of Maxim Institute's quarterly journal Evidence is now available in bookshops around the country and by becoming a Maxim Partner. The leading article by Director Bruce Logan looks at the 'doctrine of diversity' and what it is doing to freedom and marriage. He begins with a quote from Edmund Burke - which although it was written in the eighteenth century is highly relevant to New Zealand's present political climate:

Men qualify for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

To receive Evidence visit your local bookshop or our website to become a Maxim Partner: www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/act_page/act_support.html

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US President

It is error alone which needs the support of government - truth can stand by itself.

(Notes on the State of Virginia, 1782)

To subscribe send a blank email to: realissues@maxim.org.nz

Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from the Maxim Institute. The focus is current New Zealand events with an attempt to provide insight into critical issues beyond what is usually presented in the media. This service is provided free of charge, although a donation to Maxim is appreciated. Items may be used for other purposes, such as teaching, research or civic action. If items are published elsewhere, Maxim should be acknowledged.

Key principles - The Building Blocks of Civil Society http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/about_page/about_keyprinciples.html

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