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Bill of Yeah Rights

By Steven | November 11, 2010

Since the Bill of Rights was enacted, the government has, on average, ignored one section 7 report a year, according to the Minister of Justice. (A section 7 report is a legal opinion given by the Attorney General to Parliament that the proposed legislation breaches fundamental rights in an unjustified way.) Simon Power was addressing a symposium today on the NZ Bill of Rights Act, 20 years after its enactment. Here’s what he said:

You might be surprised to know that there have been 57 section 7 reports since 1990.   Of those, six bills are currently before the House. Of the remaining 51: 

  • 21 have been withdrawn or defeated outright.
  • 10 have been amended to address the inconsistency.  
  • 20 have been enacted unchanged. 

Of the 20 that have been enacted unchanged, only one was a non-Government bill. 

I haven’t done the maths, but I suspect that that rate of nose-thumbing at section 7 reports has increased under Power’s watch.

We should recall, however, that the absence of a section 7 report doesn’t mean that the proposed law is necessarily squeaky clean. Recall that the original version of Labour’s Electoral Finance Bill astonishingly did not attract a section 7 report; and it seems that Margaret Wilson overrode officials’ advice that the Foreshore and Seabed Bill should have been slapped with a section 7 report.

My sense is that current Attorney-General Chris Finlayson has presided over a pretty robust approach to scrutinising his party’s legislation under the BORA. Section 7 reports this year have included government bills on misuse of drugs, social assistance, tax and liquor, for example.

Incidentally, this record compares very unfavourably with the UK. I’m not sure any law has been passed there after an adverse report from its joint committee on human rights.

Topics: NZ Bill of Rights Act | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Bill of Yeah Rights”

  1. IdiotSavant Says:
    November 11th, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Incidentally, this record compares very unfavourably with the UK. I’m not sure any law has been passed there after an adverse report from its joint committee on human rights.

    There’s an obvious reason for that: because such an adverse report effectively says “this violates the ECHR”, which raises the prospect of the European Court of Human Rights making a binding ruling which forces the UK tooverturn its laws (c.f. prisoner disenfranchisement).

    Our BORA has no teeth, and that is why our politicians feel happy violating it: because they can get away with it.

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