Hehir on the Supreme Court and the voting age

Liam Hehir writes:

Age is not an immutable characteristic. Treating children differently to adults is not the same as treating people differently based on race or sex. And 18 years is the generally agreed-upon age at which a child becomes an adult.

For most New Zealanders, the idea of 16 and 17-year-olds voting defies common sense. Large majorities of people surveyed reject the idea. Letting kids vote is less popular than letting prisoners vote.

Liam is right. Three separate polls have found NZers massively opposed – Colmar Brunton had just 13% in favour and 85% against.

Of course, there is increasingly little room for common sense in New Zealand’s appellate courts. Not, at least, when the opportunity for the promotion of liberal opinion is concerned. Our justices are no longer so shy of broad political questions that touch upon subjects not usually reducible to legal reasoning.

In the case of the Three Strikes Law, the Supreme Court decided it can over-ride the statute, despite there being no legislative authority for them to do so.

Liam proposes four reforms:

  • Repealing the recent amendment to the law requiring the elected branch of the government to respond a judicial finding of legislation being inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.
  • Add a new section to the Bill of Rights specifically stating that the courts have no jurisdiction to make decisions involving inherently political questions, particularly those where voters and representatives can be reasonably expected to resolve those matters.
  • Add a new section to the Interpretation Act 1999 providing that no international treaty, agreement or other instrument will have any bearing on the interpretation of New Zealand except to the extent it is incorporated into legislation.
  • Add a further provision that that legislation should be interpreted based on the understanding of their meaning at the time they were enacted.
  • Perhaps most controversially, amend the Constitution Act 1986 so that a judge’s flagrant unwilingness to carry out the will of Parliament provides grounds for removal from office.

I disagree on his first point, but like the other four points, especially the last one.

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