In the campaign against the Electoral Finance Bill, the Human Rights Commission has gained respectability on the Right for the strength of its submission against the bill.
The commission described it as a "dramatic assault" on freedom of expression and the right to participate in an election and concluded emphatically that it breached the Bill of Rights Act 1990.
The same cannot be said for the Crown Law Office, the agency charged with deciding whether bills emanating from the Ministry of Justice are compatible with the Bill of Rights Act. It gave the Electoral Finance Bill the green light.
The Human Rights Commission was not the only body to disagree.
So too did the Law Society, individual lawyers who sent submissions on the bill and law lecturers Andrew Geddis from Otago University and Claudia Geiringer from Victoria University.
The Right has for many years looked on the Bill of Rights and the Human Rights Commission with deep scepticism, regarding them as toothless and irrelevant.
Now both are being hailed by former critics as champions in the process of protecting freedom of expression.
The commission said the bill should be dumped but agreed to an invitation to advise the select committee in its consideration of it. Act leader Rodney Hide said that was a "mark of the respect that the Human Rights Commission has earned".
The bill had increased respect for the commission, he said.
"I think they have been seen by many people as a creature of the Left, and coming out so hard against a bill that both Labour and the Greens are so fervently in favour of has strengthened their hand [and shown] that they stick to the principles rather than the politics."
Mr Hide said the Crown Law Office report to the Attorney-General on the bill was "a shocker".
"If this isn't a breach [of the Bill of Rights Act] then nothing is."
Mr Hide is party to a legal claim in the High Court at Wellington seeking a declaratory judgment against the failure of the Attorney-General to tell Parliament that the Electoral Finance Bill was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.
That bid has very little chance of succeeding because courts don't entertain cases about legislation before the House.
But it is raising awareness of the Bill of Rights Act, the legacy of former Labour Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, a constitutional law specialist.
It was derided by National in Parliament at the time as "a Clayton's bill". Sir Douglas Graham, MP for Remuera at the time, pointed out that Ugandan dictator Idi Amin had had a Bill of Rights too.
National's shadow Attorney-General, Chris Finlayson, a former barrister, admits to having changed his mind about the importance of the Bill of Rights.
"Prior to coming in here I was what you would call a black-letter civil and commercial lawyer and I always had a rather cynical view of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act as charter of selfishness.
"I have changed my mind about it. I think - particularly looking at broader public law and criminal law issues as a member of the justice and electoral committee - that it has taken 17 years to bed itself in ...
"But it is increasingly important in the legal landscape and one can understand the necessity for it."
Mr Finlayson said he had also had doubts about the value of the Human Rights Commission and "some of their work product".
But the way commission members conducted themselves before the committee "changed my view of their value".
Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan and commissioner Judy McGregor appeared before the committee.
WHAT COMMISSION SAID ON THE BILL OF RIGHTS
"Section 14 of the Bill of Rights states that 'everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form'. As the [Electoral Finance Bill] seeks to limit election advertising and electoral activity it clearly infringes section 14.
"The Bill of Rights Act permits a right to be limited in certain circumstances. The test ... involves considering whether the limit of restriction pursues a sufficiently important goal to warrant overriding the right and then whether the means chosen to achieve this is proportional.
" ... an informed electorate is in the public interest and the inroads on freedom of expression which will result from the bill are disproportionate and, in the commission's opinion, do not amount to a reasonable justification under section 5 of the Bill of Rights Act."