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: 3 Feb 2017

See all articles by Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law

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: Human Rights, Bill of Rights, New Zealand, Parliamentary Sovereignty, Legislation

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K30, K40

Suggested Citation

Palmer QC, 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=2909230

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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