Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Finlayson launches attack on Law Society

Chris Finlayson. Photo / NZ Herald
Chris Finlayson. Photo / NZ Herald

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson has launched a strong attack on the Law Society for claiming that Government's use of urgency was a breach of human rights.

The Law Society said on Tuesday that its concerns about Parliament's law-making were left out of a Government report to the United Nations.

The society criticised law-makers for passing five acts which were inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.

Law Society spokesperson Austin Forbes QC also argued that the National-led Government's use of urgency, when Parliament sat for extended hours to pass legislation, was a breach of human rights.

The society presented its concerns in a submission on the Universal Periodic Review in June 2013, but they were not included in the final report.

Mr Finlayson said this afternoon [FRI] that the Law Society was wilfully misrepresenting New Zealand's human rights record.

"The Law Society has an important role to play in contributing to the creation of quality legislation," he said in a statement.

"But it diminishes its standing by continually crying wolf over non-existent human rights issues that really just reflect the personal taste of some of its members."

The Attorney-General said that Government's use of urgency was not a human rights issue.

He said that the Law Society had ignored the work that all parties had done to reduce the use of urgency, and that the rate that it had been used was the lowest in years.

Mr Finlayson said that Section 7 notices, which are attached to legislation if they breach the Bill of Rights, did not prevent the passage of the law.

"Some of the Society's members may want an entrenched bill of rights allowing the courts to strike down laws made by a democratically elected Parliament. However, that is not the law of New Zealand under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act."

He added: "It is bizarre for the Law Society to accuse the government of undermining the rule of law on the grounds that it observes the law as it is, not as the Law Society would want it to be."

Mr Forbes said the society was particularly concerned about the passing of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Act last year.

The legislation passed into law in a single day in May, despite a notice from the Attorney-General that not extending payments to all family carers could breach the Bill of Rights Act.

- NZ Herald

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