Greens launch bill to strengthen Bill of Rights

Green MP Keith Locke today launched a member’s bill to strengthen New Zealand’s Bill of Rights Act.

It will require all legislation to be checked for consistency with the Bill of Rights, and it will enable Courts to send a report to Parliament where legislation is inconsistent with the Act. The Government will be obliged to respond to such reports.

“The bill will help protect our rights, by making it harder for a government to ignore conflicts between its legislation and the Bill of Rights Act,” said Mr Locke, Green party human rights spokesperson.

Mr Locke’s New Zealand Bill of Rights Amendment bill is being launched two days before the important Reconstituting the Constitution conference in Wellington, where strengthening the Bill of Rights Act will be one of the topics for discussion.

“My bill requires vetting of legislation for consistency with the Bill of Rights at all stages of the parliamentary process.

“This bill will help New Zealand to meet international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Committee recently challenged New Zealand over the weak status of the Bill of Rights, and the passage of laws that clearly conflicted with it.

“At present all that is required is an optional report by the Attorney General, before the Bill is debated in the House,” said Mr Locke.

“There have been numerous Acts passed that unnecessarily violate the Bill of Rights. At least 21 different bills have been passed after the Attorney-General clearly identified them as being inconsistent with the Act.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg because looking at whether bills are consistent has been optional for the Government.

Recent examples of controversial bills passing despite an Attorney-General’s report of inconsistency include:

  • the three strikes bill, which the Attorney-General criticised for providing cruel, degrading and ‘disproportionately severe’ punishment;

  • the Whanganui gang insignia bill which the Attorney General held to unduly limit freedom of expression;

  • and the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Act 2009 requiring suspects not yet charged to provide DNA to the police, despite the Attorney-General considering that it violated the Bill of Rights’ protection against unnecessary search and seizure.

Mr Locke’s bill requires legislation that limits human rights to use the least restrictive means possible. The bill also entrenches the Bill of Rights Act, by requiring a 75% majority of the House to change it.

Further information

For a copy of the bill go to

For a list of bills that have passed despite an Attorney-General’s report of inconsistency with the Bill of Rights Act –

For a list of reports on the compatibility of legislation with NZBORA see –

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act is available at