Electoral Finance Act in Court of Appeal today

The is hearing today an appeal in the case has brought against the Attorney-General over whether the is consistent with the Bill of Rights Act.

I blogged back in June the High Court decisions:

As I said earlier the protection of parliamentary privilege saw the challenge to the Electoral Finance Bill dismissed. The similar case against the Electoral Finance Act also was dismissed on the grounds it was asking the Court for an abstract ruling (ie just asking whether the EFA breached the Bill of Rights Act).

The hearing today is before Appeal Justices Glazebrook, O’Regan and Arnold. Originally it was to be heard by just one permament Court of Appeal Judge and two High Court Judges, but now all three Judges hearing it are permament members of the Court of Appeal – possibly an inidcation of the importance of the case?

A copy of the appellants submission is here: boscawen-submissions-ca.

What was sought:

In the High Court proceeding, the appellants sought declarations that provisions in the Electoral Finance Act 2007 (“EF Act”) were inconsistent with fundamental civil and political rights affirmed by the Bill of Rights Act. As the offending provisions in the EF Act germinated from the original (“EF Bill”), the appellants also claimed that the Attorney General should have drawn them to the attention of the House of Representatives during the legislative process. The appellants sought declarations that the Attorney breached his statutory duty under s.7 by failing to do so.

And what happened in the High Court:

Clifford J in the High Court granted the Crown’s application and struck out the ASOC in its entirety. Clifford J expressed reluctance to make declarations of inconsistency, particularly on an abstract basis, without clear jurisdictional guidance from this Court1. He also followed the 1994 High Court decision of Mangawaro Enterprises Limited v Attorney General (“Mangawaro”)2, and obiter dicta comments from McGrath J in Awatere Huata v Prebble (“Awatere Huata”)3 and found the Attorney General’s exercise of statutory power under s.7 to be non-justiciable.

Most of the argument will be around whether the Court can make a declaration of inconsistency regarding a law and the Bill of Rights Act. To date no court has done so, but Boscawen cites previous judgements that have alluded to the desirability of doing so. It will be an interesting outcome either way.

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