Shredding the Bill of Rights

by Leveret

It has been remarked upon by some that the Government seems to be passing laws in discordance with the Bill of Rights Act 1990 (an inferior law compared to the Bill of Rights 1688).

The BORA, as it is known, requires that the Attorney-General scrutinises certain proposed legislation for rights compliance. He is then supposed to report any BORA issues to Parliament. Parliament commonly ignores the advice.

Christopher Finlayson, the Attorney-General has noticeably slapped the Government with the Bill of Rights quite frequently. Prisoner voting reform and the three-strikes law were high profile examples. It certainly seems that this government is getting more negative Attorney-General reports than the previous government.

What does this mean? That John Key is more of a tyrant than Helen Clark? No – that was the government that passed the intolerable Electoral Finance Act, after all. What it does show is that Christopher Findlayson is a more independent and honourable Attorney-General than was Margaret Wilson.

Stephen Price, who can be uncommonly fair for an unreconstructed lefty, concurs:

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.

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