Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Slandering judges

Does anybdy else feel disquiet about the government's new tactic of openly slandering judges in Parliament?

That's what Michael Cullen did yesterday, when he claimed in response to a Parliamentary question that information on Whakatohea's claim for customary rights over the Bay of Plenty foreshore had been leaked to the media by Chief Maori Land Court Judge Joe Williams. Unfortunately, it's simply not true - the information was not confidential and had been obtained openly from the Registrar of the Court.

So we have an Attorney-General, who has openly stated that part of his job is to defend the judiciary against political attacks - engaging in a political attack on a judge for the simple reason that they have decided to hear a claim before ruling it out. It's more than a little unseemly.

What's also disturbing is the government's schizophrenic attitude towards the Foreshore and Seabed Act. When they passed it, they claimed that it would help protect and recognise Maori customary rights. Now that it's law, they're embarassed (and indeed, "furious") that Maori would take that claim at face value and seek to use its provisions. What did they expect? That Maori would not pursue their claims through every avenue at their disposal? That they would treat the law as a joke?

Neither answer makes the government look very good, and both are likely to drive Maori voters even further towards the Maori Party.


Parliament is and must remain sovereign and unfettered. Parliament is the highest court. If judges wish to begin a campaign to raise their status ahead of or part of the wider debate about becoming a republic that I predict will occur when Labour (I reckon Labour may use Republicanism as a issue to re-vitalise its electoral appeal for 2008) is returned to power in September then they should be prepared for parliament to hit back.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/31/2005 09:57:00 AM

You may have noticed that Cullen has since apologised after realising the document was in the public demain. Yet his criticism of the Maori court will go on as it apears any decision the court makes relating to the F&S Act will go against, and will be subsequently appealed by the crown.

Posted by Swimming : 3/31/2005 08:39:00 PM