Summary of the Issues Paper re the Official Information Act

The Law Commission is working on a review of the Official Information Act. They have just released the first Issues Paper, representing their initial thinking on the matter.

In general they believe that the Official Information Act and Local Govt Official Information and Meetings Act are working well and do not need any major revisions. They suggest:

Constitutional lawyers reject the special powers Earthquake Act

A group of constitutional lawyers and law professors have expressed their concerns about the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act in an open letter to NZ and Parliament.

Over and over again history demonstrates that unconstrained power is subject to misuse, and that even well-intentioned measures can result in unintended consequences if there are not clear, formal measures of oversight applied to them.

Select Committee make a mistake, recommends giving all current prisoners the vote

Andrew Geddis at Pundit has pointed out a serious flaw in the amendments proposed by the Law and Order to the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill.

Disappointment as select committee recommends taking vote from prisoners

The Law and Order Select Committee has recommended (PDF) that the bill to strip the vote from all prisoners should be passed. The Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill, a private member's bill submitted by National's Paul Quinn, takes the vote away from prisoners sentenced to less than 3 years in jail (prisoners sentenced to over 3 years have already lost the vote). 

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties made a submission against the Bill, reiterating the importance of the right to vote:

Blogger convicted for online breach of suppression order

Blogger Cameron Slater has been convicted in the District Court for 9 breaches of name suppression orders. He has been fined $750 on each charge plus $130 court costs. Read the full decision.

Concerns over quake emergency powers law

Parliament has passed the wide-ranging Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act. This allows the government to override a number of laws as it desires, without public or parliamentary oversight. It will stay in force until April 2012.

Reaction to the constitutional overreach in the Bill has been strong:

Customs Gathering Intelligence at the Border

Why did Customs copy the address book from a mobile phone owned by the wife of Michael Quinlan, owner of the Switched on Gardener chain? (Tony Wall - Sunday Star Times).

The incident has sparked concerns police are circumventing warrants by using Customs' sweeping powers to detain, search and take information from international travellers.

Moana Jackson - A further primer on the foreshore and seabed

Moana Jackson has written A Further Primer on the Foreshore and Seabed.

It's an interesting summary of the original 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act and the minimal changes to it in the proposed replacement, the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill.

Tech Liberty submission on Search & Surveillance Bill

Tech Liberty has posted their submission about the Search and Surveillance Bill. Click the link to read the full details, but the recommendations are:

Strengthening the Bill of Rights Act

Blogger No Right Turn has two useful articles about strengthening the Bill of Rights Act.

Official Information Act Performance

The Official Information Act is an important facet of New Zealand's democracy. By making all government information available on request, unless there is a reason for it to be withheld, it allows citizens to hold their government to account. However, to be effective, it requires the ministers and government departments to honour their roles in releasing information willingly and in a timely manner.  

A Brief Report - Celebrating 20 Years of the Bill of Rights

A brief account of the public lectures from Sir Kenneth Keith and Rayhan Langdana on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the passing of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Celebrating 20 years of the Bill of Rights Act

The 20th anniversary of New Zealand’s Bill of Rights is being celebrated at Victoria University’s Centre for Public Law on August 26.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former Prime Minister and architect of the Bill of Rights, is giving a public lecture about his aspirations for the legislation at its inception.

It's back - the Search & Surveillance Bill returns

Guest editorial by Val Morse

An interim report on the Search and Surveillance Bill was issued by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee last week. The report is an admission that the bill will confer enormous new powers onto 70+ government agencies. 

The report confirms that police will get a load of new powers: video surveillance where police trespass on private property will be legal; the circumstances in which audio bugging will be legal will dramatically increased from what it is at present. The threshold for warrantless searches is being lowered, as are the circumstances for setting up roadblocks.

Making a submission to a Select Committee

What's involved with making a submission to a Select Committee?

Thomas Beagle accompanied Kevin McCormack to support him in making the Council's submission about the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill.

Read about it.

Is the Internet a human right?

A report on a talk from Jonathan Penney, Cyberlaw Fellow at Victoria University, about the connection between internet access and s14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

DomPost misinterprets school search guidelines

The article from the DomPost (also in Stuff) starts with:

Schools have been told they can now search pupils for weapons and drugs without fearing legal action.

New edition of classic NZ Civil Rights Handbook released

The latest edition of Tim McBride's classic New Zealand Civil Rights Handbook has just been released.

WCC backs down on city-wide liquor ban

The Wellington City Council has dropped plans to impose a city-wide liquor ban after strong public opposition. The current ban on consuming or carrying liquor has been extended from the inner city to Newtown and Mt Cook.

The NZCCL made a submission on the issue as did 603 others, with 76% of submissions opposing the ban.

Tech Liberty on Copyright/Filesharing

Tech Liberty has made a submission on the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill.

This is the replacement for the earlier s92A of the Copyright Bill. The original version was flawed on a number of grounds and highly offensive to civil liberties with its lack of due process ("guilt upon accusation") and intrusions into privacy.

The new bill is significantly better but Tech Liberty remains concerned that internet disconnection continues as a possible punishment.

How technology changes privacy online

How much do you publish about yourself online?  What can people find out about you by looking at your photos?

Tech Liberty writes an article about how improving technology can mean that data that was safe to share in the past can now reveal more than you expect.

ACTA: Bad for Civil Liberties

Tech Liberty has written an article about the ACTA treaty's implications for civil liberties in New Zealand.

It lists five areas for concern:

Free Speech for Corporations in US

The US Supreme Court declared on 21 January 2010 in a landmark decision that corporations have all the rights of free speech that citizens have enjoyed since 1791.

Search & Surveillance Bill to be Redrafted

The Government has announced that the over-reaching Search and Surveillance Bill is being redrafted.

This is at least a partial victory for the large number of people and groups who opposed the original bill as being an unwarranted expansion of government power.

The new version should be available in July/August.

Sunday TV program article about the Search & Surveillance Bill

The Sunday program does a Big Brother episode about government spying and the Search and Surveillance Bill.

Is it protection or prying? SUNDAY investigates legislation which will dramatically increase the state's authority to peep into your private lives. Just who is reading your emails, listening to your phone conversations and where does it stop? Should we be afraid? One legal heavyweight says it's "creepy" and warns it is open to abuse.

Surveillance: current law

Tech Liberty surveys the ways that the government can eavesdrop on people.

A follow-up article will cover search laws.

Ninety one thousand dollars for a year in prison

$91,000 it takes to keep a man in prison.  I wonder what else could be done with that money.

UN examines NZ government's performance on civil and political rights

On 15 and 16 March 2010, the government's performance in implementing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was considered by the UN Human Rights Committee during its 98th session, which was held in New York. The 


Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2006

On 21 October 2009 the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act came into force. This law enables the government to confiscate property and compel people to provide documents and other evidence even where there are no criminal prosecutions. This is done through the sleight of hand of pursuing the forfeitures as ‘civil’ proceedings.

Tribute to Hugh Price

Hugh Price, who died on 28 December 2009, is best known and recognised for his contributions to writing, publishing and education over more than fifty years.  For these accomplishments Hugh received the NZ Order of Merit and a D.Litt (honoris causa) from Victoria University.

That was the public face of this unassuming and quietly spoken man. What is less well-known is his lifelong commitment to human rights and civil liberties.  He played active roles in campaigns against the death penalty, as well as in promotion of the rights of women, gays, the elderly, and other minority groups, both in New Zealand and internationally.  He abhorred secrecy in all its forms, whether it related to selective reporting by the press or the workings of government.  His clear and unequivocal principles were expressed through every facet of his life.