5 Dec 2013

Review wants Bill of Rights Act strengthened

8:47 pm on 5 December 2013

A review of New Zealand's constitution has recommended that the Bill of Rights Act be strengthened to stop Parliament passing laws that breach it.

The review was set up as part of the Maori Party's confidence and supply agreement with National.

Chris Finlayson.

Chris Finlayson. Photo: RNZ

Overall, the review panel makes few specific recommendations, but says the national conversation about constitutional change should continue.

It says many people have expressed surprise and unease that Parliament can pass laws contrary to the Bill of Rights Act and the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Bill of Rights Act needs to be made more effective.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson says the proposal is worth considering and he is happy to take an honest and objective look at it because that's his job.

Mr Finlayson says he does not believe New Zealand needs a written constitution.

Confirming the Treaty as the country's founding document, the panel says there should be further discussion about its place in the constitution.

The report also recommends that the Government develop a strategy for education about civics, the Treaty and citizenship.

Labour's deputy leader David Parker says the proposed changes make sense.

"They're saying that we should give the judiciary powers to assess whether legislation is consistent with the Act but not go so far as to give the courts the right to strike down legislation.

"They also say that we need to update the Bill of Rights to give due recognition to economic, social, cultural, property and environmental rights and I think that's also worth of consideration."

Mr Parker says the review has found much of the country's constitutional arrangements are in good shape.