Friday, January 13, 2006

Nice of them to notice

Peter Dunne has just issued a press release pointing out that the amendments to the Land Transport Act which have caused some bus and taxi drivers to lose their jobs over offences committed long ago violate the Bill of Rights Act, being a retrospective and post-hoc punishment of those already convicted. It's nice of him to notice. I pointed this out last year, back when the amendments were first mooted. Unfortunately Parliament decided to pass them unanimously. Now, everyone seems to be stumbling over themselves to say that they were a bad idea and they never agreed with them (from looking at Hansard and the select committee report [PDF] where they were introduced, only the Greens and to some extent NZFirst have a leg to stand on on this).

It's now looking like the law will be amended to allow these licenses to be reinstated, though exactly how is still up in the air. Though as a minimum, I'd hope that the retrospective aspect would be removed entirely in order to comply with our domestic and international human rights obligations. Heaping additional penalties on criminals after conviction is unjust, and invites abuse for political purposes - in this case, allowing both government and opposition to appear "tough on crime".

Hopefully our politicians will learn a lesson from this: that knee-jerk responses come back to bite you. But somehow I suspect they won't...