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What the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act Aimed to Do, Why It Did Not Succeed and How It Can Be Repaired

(2016) 14 NZJPIL

40 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2017  

Sir Geoffrey Palmer

Chen Palmer & Partners Public Law Specialists - Barristers & Solicitors

Date Written: 2016

Abstract

This article, by the person who was the Minister responsible for the introduction and passage of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, reviews 25 years of experience New Zealand has had with the legislation. The NZ Bill of Rights Act does not constitute higher law or occupy any preferred position over any other statute. As the article discusses, the status of the NZ Bill of Rights Act has meant that while the Bill of Rights has had positive achievements, it has not resulted in the transformational change that propelled the initial proposal for an entrenched, supreme law bill of rights in the 1980s. In the context of an evolving New Zealand society that is becoming ever more diverse, more reliable anchors are needed to ensure that human rights are protected, the article argues. The article discusses the occasions upon which the NZ Bill of Rights has been overridden and the recent case where for the first time a declaration of inconsistency was made by the High Court in relation to a prisoner’s voting rights. In particular, a softening of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, as it applies in the particular conditions of New Zealand’s small unicameral legislature, is called for. There is no adequate justification for maintaining the unrealistic legal fiction that no limits can be placed on the manner in which the New Zealand Parliament exercises its legislative power. Under the current arrangements, where the executive continues to dominate the House of Representatives, the legal status of the NZ Bill of Rights Act.

Keywords: Bill of Rights, Legislation, Parliamentary Supremacy, Unicameral Legislature, New Zealand

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K30, K40

Suggested Citation

Palmer, Sir Geoffrey, What the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act Aimed to Do, Why It Did Not Succeed and How It Can Be Repaired (2016). (2016) 14 NZJPIL . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2901124

Geoffrey Palmer (Contact Author)

Chen Palmer & Partners Public Law Specialists - Barristers & Solicitors ( email )

Level 6, 22 Terrace
PO Box 2160
DXSP26503 Wellington
New Zealand

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