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Law Reform Committee report highlights rule of law concerns

MEDIA RELEASE – For immediate use, 2 February 2012

Law Reform Committee report highlights rule of law concerns

The New Zealand Law Society expressed its concern on a number of occasions in 2011 to parliamentary select committees and the Attorney-General about potential infringements of the rule of law, New Zealand Bill of Rights Act or human rights.

The Law Society’s Law Reform Committee has released a report on its active contribution to New Zealand law reform work in 2011. The report states that the Law Society wrote to the Attorney-General on four occasions during the year in relation to rule of law, human rights and other matters.

In addition, the Law Society made 23 submissions on parliamentary Bills, eight select committee appearances, seven submissions on New Zealand Law Commission papers and 34 submissions on government discussion papers.
The Law Society is required to assist and promote the reform of law in New Zealand. It is supported in its work by its Law Reform Committee, 16 specialist committees and Family Law and Property Law Sections.

The report says a recurring concern was the limited time frame allowed for consultation on legislative proposals and, in some cases, the absence of consultation with important stakeholders.

“Recourse to urgency sometimes made consultation difficult,” the report says.

“In relation to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill and the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill, however, the Law Society was able to have meaningful and effective input even though the time frames were very tight. On a positive note, greater use of the practice of making exposure drafts of Bills available before their introduction into the House was a welcome development.”

The report says during 2011 legislation relating to the Canterbury region, particularly the emergency response to the Canterbury earthquakes, raised some significant rule of law issues.

“The Law Society has a statutory responsibility to promote the rule of law in New Zealand and one of its specialist committees is the Rule of Law Committee. That committee monitors legislative proposals that raise rule of law issues, but its role also extends more widely to all matters that affect the rule of law in New Zealand and elsewhere.”

As well as the earthquake legislation, the Law Society wrote to the Attorney-General about bill of rights issues relating to proposed amendment of the Tax Administration Act 1994 and the parliamentary process for the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill.

A copy of the Law Reform Annual Report (PDF File) Available Here

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