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The New Zealand Legislative Machine

17 Victoria University of Wellington Law Review 285, 1987

Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper Series Palmer Paper No. 64/2015

23 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2012 Last revised: 25 Mar 2015

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 1987

Abstract

In this article, the former Professor Palmer fills one of the gaps in the available descriptions of our system of government by providing a detailed account of how laws are made. As Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice (and earlier Leader of the House) Geoffrey Palmer also indicates how the process has been altered in recent years, in part in the direction of making more deliberate what he referred to as the fastest law maker in the west. He evaluates that and indicates the next major step to be considered – the plain drafting of legislation.

The dance of legislation is intricate, requiring perseverance, stamina and a large degree of esoteric knowledge. The purpose of the process is not to provide an obstacle course for good ideas but to provide checks and balances and quality controls on the content of new legislation. This essay looks at the mechanics of the New Zealand legislative process and briefly considers what improvements could be made. In the single chamber Parliament of New Zealand, making law is no doubt simpler than in other countries. Nonetheless, it is extraordinarily complicated and consists of a complex interaction of each stage between a variety of institutions and personalities.

The paper discusses the legislative process and functions including the Cabinet Legislation Committee, the legislative programme, the Parliamentary Counsel Office, the Legislation Advisory Committee, Caucus, and the Bill in Parliament. It concludes by considering the increased opportunity to produce law which is properly scrutinised and likely to function effectively, arguing that the principle obstacle to the most thorough scrutiny of bills is the time and inclination of the members of Parliament. It also considers the drafting and form of publication of legislation, a matter yet to be comprehensively addressed in New Zealand. A great deal remains to be done in the areas of making the law as understandable and accessible as practical and making its expression and content as simple as practicable. This work would not only help the user of legislation to understand and act in accordance with the law, but would also ensure that those who propose and adopt the law are more likely to make a full informed decision about it.

Keywords: legislative programme, New Zealand legislation, Parliament, Legislation Advisory Committee, Parliamentary process

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Palmer QC, Sir Geoffrey, The New Zealand Legislative Machine (1987). 17 Victoria University of Wellington Law Review 285, 1987; Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper Series Palmer Paper No. 64/2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2190188

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

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