Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lowering the age of majority

While skimming the member's bills this morning I came across an interesting one: Colin King's Age of Majority (Attainment at 18 Years) Amendment Bill [PDF]. The bill does exactly what it says on the label: lowers the legal default age of majority to 18 years, reflecting what has become standard practice in all new bills. However, its a bit of a hatchet-job, in that while it lowers the default, it does nothing to correct discriminatory legislation passed since the original Age of Majority Act 1970. The list of these is long - the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985, Care of Children Act 2004 and Employment Relations Act 2000 are just three that popped up on a search. But if we're going to do this, and reduce legal age discrimination, then we should do it properly.

Obviously, I'd like the bill amended to actually cover those newer discriminatory Acts. But because there's so many of them, its inevitable that some will slip through the net. While correcting those omissions when they are discovered is what Statutes Amendment Bills are designed for, it would be useful to have a safeguard. And on that front, the Ministry of Youth Development has already helpfully done the policy work: back in 2010 they wrote an Adult Rights and Responsibilities (Age of Majority) Bill for the 2010 Youth Parliament, which included a statutory review by MYD and Ministry of Justice of age limits in legislation, with an eye towards aligning them. Stealing that clause and adding it to the bill would significantly improve it.