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Obscure Greens policy targets Bill of Rights

Nov 24th, 2011 | By | Category: Latest News, News

AN obscure line in the Green Party’s manifesto wants to tamper with the Bill of Rights – something the man who wrote it is not happy about.

The Greens want to put a privacy protection clause in the Bill of Rights Act.

But Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who wrote the act in 1985, says privacy was left out from the start because the concept is too difficult to pin down.

The Greens’ privacy clause – found in both its justice and technology policies –   refers to the sharing of information, being watched and general privacy law, says Green MP Kennedy Graham (right).

The right to privacy was left out of the Bill for a reason, says Sir Geoffrey Palmer (left), who tabled the original 1985 White Paper.

“[It] was explicitly left out because it’s too vague, there are many different meanings and many different contexts,” say Sir Geoffrey.

He says a including such a right would lead to a lot of litigation over it, similar to the US, where such a right is in their Constitution.

Any such right would have to be carefully worded if added to a law that other statutes need to adhere to and be looked at for conflicts.

“It’s important to be clear.”

The Greens also state they will “adopt the New Zealand Privacy Charter”, but no such document is presented on their website or to be found online, and Sir Geoffrey says there is “no such thing”.

Sir Geoffrey is in favour of entrenching the Bill of Rights Act, which is one of Labour’s justice policies.

Entrenching the Bill would mean it can only be amended or changed by a 75% majority of MPs, or by public referendum, similar to electoral law.

Wellington Central Labour candidate Grant Robertson (right) says Labour would be against adding the right to privacy, calling it one of the few things the party would disagree with the Greens on.

However, he later referred the matter to Labour justice spokesperson Charles Chauvel.

Mr Chauvel says the party would look at making such an amendment before entrenching it.

“We would have to have a think about whether it’s a good idea or not. The Greens are right to highlight it.”

He says the current version of the Bill may not be the final version that receives such protection.

If the issue were to come up in any discussions between the two parties, “it would be sure to be an issue that would be progressed”.

The 1985 White Paper originally proposed the Bill of Rights be entrenched as supreme law, but this was countered by select committee recommendation that it be introduced as an ordinary statute.

The Law Commission completed and published its review of privacy law in August this year, but this only concerns the Privacy Act 1993 and its key recommendations are only for change to that Act.

These key recommendations include increased powers for the Privacy Commissioner, improving the complaints process and better protection for data sent overseas or published online.

“In principal, Labour are sympathetic to better data protection,” says Mr Chauvel (left).

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