16 Jul 2010

New Zealand and Australia urged to watch Tonga judicial movements closely

7:08 pm on 16 July 2010

An Auckland academic says New Zealand and Australia will be keeping a close eye on Tonga's judicial movements following the abolition of the independent body that appoints judges.

Tonga's parliament has passed legislation removing the Judicial Services Commission and given its function to an appointee of the King.

Professor Bill Hodge of Auckland University says the move appears to be an effort to retain the trappings of feudal power and is very close to undermining the judicial system's integrity.

He says it's a system to which New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom had provided both people and financial support.

"Certainly from what I'm hearing from New Zealand and presumably from Canberra, although I haven't got any connections there, they will be looking very, very carefully at subsidising an office which is going to be under the thumb of the royals. So I think that'll just be watched very, very carefully by the people that subsidise and provide people to operate the senior judicial positions."

Professor Bill Hodge of Auckland University.