Liberty Watch - May 2011

Round-up of civil liberty news for May 2011.

Obituary: George Barton

George Barton recently died in Wellington. He was a long time member and supporter of the Council over many years.

The following obituary is as it appeared in the Dominion Post on 28 May 2011 and is used with permission from Peter Kitchin.

Why flag burning counts as freedom of speech

Lawyer Steven Price writes strongly in defence of freedom of speech in the Dominion Post (also on his blog). He was one of the laywers representing Valerie Morse in the Supreme Court when she successfully appealed her conviction for burning a New Zealand flag as a protest at an ANZAC Day dawn ceremony.

He points out that the protest at an ANZAC Day memorial was relevant:

Liberty Watch - April 2011

Round-up of civil liberty news for April 2011.

Prisoners and the Right to Vote

Prior to 16 December 2010 prisoners who had been sentenced to preventative detention or imprisoned for a term of 3 years of more were disqualified from voting, or enrolling to vote.  After this date the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 disqualified people sentenced to any term of imprisonment after the Act's commencement from enrolling or voting.  Prisoners on remand were still entitled to vote, as were those sentenced to home detention.

Liberty Watch - March 2011

Round-up of civil liberty news for March 2011 (final version updated on 3/4/2011).


Council Requirements for Mown Lawns

Gang Patches in Whanganui

Riff-Raff are people too

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties is alarmed and dismayed that a bunch of business people can think they have the right to determine whether and which people can be stopped from using a public right of way adjacent to their shops. They plan to buy or lease the land from the council so that they can issue trespass notices to any ‘riff-raff’ that might congregate there.

While the NZCCL has some sympathy with the retailers, other solutions need to be found that do not themselves circumvent the law and people’s rights.

SIS Amendment Bill extends powers?

The SIS Amendment Bill has been introduced along with its Regulatory Impact Statement

The authors of the Bill describe it as an update to support new technology and clarify existing provisions. The main changes the Bill makes are:

Round-up: Search & Surveillance Bill

A round-up of what people are saying about the latest version of the Search & Surveillance Bill.

The report of the Justice & Electoral Select Committee claims that major changes have been made to the Bill since the poorly received earlier versions:

Chairperson's Report for 2009-2010

Chairperson's Report To Members At The Annual General Meeting Of The New Zealand Council For Civil Liberties Inc Held On 10 November 2010

Another year has passed and it is time to report once again to members.  This has been a busy and generally productive year for the Council.  The Executive continues to meet on a monthly basis, and all 4 members have attended virtually every meeting.

Personal account of NZCCL AGM and BOR Talk

This is my personal account of the NZCCL AGM and the talk by Andrew Butler that followed. It is not intended to be official minutes.


Guest post: The Police Arms Race

Guest post by Michael Bott

Greg O’Connor wants all Police to be armed. The Prime Minster John Key thinks that some move towards the routine arming of police is inevitable and Police Minister Judith Collins isn’t interested in what woolly liberals think (i.e. anyone with an alternative view to herself). Ms Collins suggests as an interim measure most Police cars being fitted with “lock boxes” containing guns and has strongly hinted if the Police Commissioner Howard Broad wants all his officers armed then she wouldn’t oppose the call. Interestingly the Commissioner has expressed caution. I agree. Before we rush head long into a Wyatt Earp response to perceived violent crime in New Zealand we should pause and ask some questions.

Encouraging conversations about justified limitations on rights

Some thoughts on the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990 at its 20th Anniversary

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BoRA) is having its “ups and downs”.   After the hopeful start of being conceived as “superior law”, providing a yardstick against which the courts could strike down legislation that was inconsistent with our civil rights and freedoms, the BoRA was enacted as an ordinary law.   It is, of course, widely recognised as a “super statute”; a statute setting standards that Parliament ought take note of when passing legislation.  On the “down swing” again, it appears that this ideal is loosing ground as Parliament legislates further limitations on the rights in the BoRA, by way of subsequent legislation.

NZCCL Annual General Meeting - Nov 10th

The Annual General Meeting of the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties will be at 12:30pm on Wednesday the 10th of November.

It will be held in the upstairs seminar rooms at St Andrews on The Terrace, Wellington. Access is through the church office on the North side of the building.

All members are welcome. It is possible to join on the spot at the AGM.

Public Talk - The Not Quite Bill of Rights

Following the AGM (approximately 1pm) Andrew Butler will give a presentation - "The Not Quite Right Bill of Rights".

Changes to name suppression laws

The government has announced plans to implement the recommendations of the Law Commission to change the laws around name suppression. In summary:

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.