Monday, November 12, 2018

"Not a priority"

On Friday, the Supreme Court upheld the right of the courts to formally declare laws to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act. This does not overturn or invalidate them, but it sends a clear message to Parliament that it needs to fix the situation. But the government's response to this situation is that it is "not a priority":

Prisoners look unlikely to get the vote any time soon even after a Supreme Court ruling in their favour.


Justice Minister Andrew Little told reporters he personally disagreed with the ban, but the government as a whole had yet to take a position.

"It's not that much of a priority," he said.

"We haven't even had a discussion about that and it would be wrong for me to express any view on behalf of the government about it."

Ministers were unlikely to consider the issue for at least a year, he said.

This is simply not acceptable. When the Supreme Court makes a ruling like this, it should automatically become a priority for Parliament, and should be formally drawn to its attention for a response. The government has already signalled that that is what it wants to do in future, so why won't it do it in this case? And there's a pressing need: we're having an election in 2020, and it would simply be unacceptable given the ruling for prisoners to be unable to vote in it.

The government needs to make this a priority. And the longer it refuses to do so, the stronger the argument is for simply taking it out of their hands. If politicians will not protect our human rights, lets remove them from the equation: repeal s4 of the Bill of Rights, and the courts fix the law directly when the politicians abuse it.