Articles

The Beehive: Preparing a section 7 report with Hon Chris Finlayson

October 2, 2019


Well I’m off to the privileges committee now. This is a very important committee of Parliament that deals with allegations of breach of privilege and also questions of privileges, so we’re looking at the consequences of a decision of the Supreme Court in a case called Attorney-General v Erin Leigh, and also a question of agreement of service of documents in the precincts of Parliament. I hold a number of
responsibilities within government. One of the most interesting is as
Attorney-General. That is a very, very old office – I think
was first established in England in about the thirteenth century. Ah, the Attorney-General has a number of
very important functions he or she is a politician, a member – normally a member – of the
Cabinet, uh… but I’m also the Law Officer of the Crown. I have very serious responsibilities to
ensure that the business of government is conducted in accordance with the
rule of law. I’m responsible for the Parliamentary
Counsel Office which drafts the statutes but i also have an important
responsibility under section 7 off the Bill of Rights Act. The Bill of Rights was introduced in New
Zealand in 1990, and under section 7 of that legislation I have a responsibility to vet all
Bills that are introduced to the Parliament to ensure that they comply with the Bill of Rights. So what happens is that uh… legislation is drafted and I receive copies of the bill. I’ll also receive advice, either from the Crown Law Office in relation to Ministry of Justice bills or the Ministry of Justice in relation
to all other legislation and they’ll give me an indication about whether they think the bill complies with the Bill of
Rights, and if it doesn’t, in what respects it doesn’t. Then I draw up my own conclusions, and write a report. Now some people may think that I simply
tick off what’s given to me by the officials and they’d be completely and
utterly wrong, because I take a keen interest in these matters and if
necessary either draft my own report or substantially redraft what I have been given. I’ve provided section 7 reports on a number of public bills, and also on a couple of Member’s bills that are shockers like
Holly Walker’s ridiculous lobbying legislation which seems to breach almost every provision of the Bill of Rights. But
the important thing is that the Attorney General has, not only to stand up to his
enemies – or her enemies – but also stand up to his or her friends on occasion. I regret to say that over the years it
hasn’t always been observed. How the disgraceful Foreshore and Seabed legislation avoided a section 7 report simply beats me uh… and the Electoral Finance Bill, which
was frankly a Stalinist piece of legislation introduced by uh… Helen Clark in her third term to pay the National Party back for doing so well at the 2005 election breached numerous provisions of the Bill of Rights and yet it never received a section 7 report. Sometimes, however, an early Bill of Rights uh… report which
circulated among colleagues can cause the legislation itself to be amended. There were a number of occasions last
year when I said to one of my colleagues,
well look, I think this bill is going to attract a section 7 report, and they’ve said let’s work together to see if we can make it Bill of Rights compliant. Yeah, this is the nineteenth floor of Bowen House so as you can see I uh… look down on all of my colleagues. in the Beehive. Don’t put that in the film…

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