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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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The Bill of no-rights

6 May 2022

The problem with governments is that sometimes they read too much of their own publicity and believe that they have a right to trample the rights of citizens.

This sort of arrogance is often seen after a government has spent two or more terms in power. They seem to think that they no longer have an obligation to listen to voters, nor to acknowledge that they have been elected to office as public servants, not masters.

For this reason, most countries have some sort of inalienable protection from the over-zealous and over-reaching rule of government.

In the USA, this protection exists in the form of The Constitution. Here in New Zealand we have something called The Bill of Rights but, to be honest, it's something of a joke.

While the US Constitution does a fairly good job of retricting the tyranny of government, the NZ Bill of Rights is all but useless as a means of protection from such things.

Whilst the BOR may produce an illusion that we are protected, the reality is that it is written in such a way that the government of the day still has free reign to do whatever the hell it wants.

In effect, our politicians have have built exemptions into the very protection that is supposed to prevent unjust actions on the part of governments.

There was an interesting piece on Stuff today which gives some good insight into just how weak or BOR actually is and why we should be seeking something a little more effective.

Perhaps the best example cited in this article is the way that the supposed protection provided under the BOR that would medication or medical treatment can not be forced upon people if they are unwilling can be set-aside if/when the government decides that it is in the interests of public health to do so.

In theory, if the government wanted some unproven medical treatment administered to every man, woman and child in the country, all they need do is claim that it is in "the interests of public health" and we would have no option but to comply.

No BOR can be anything but a sham if the government of the day is able to set-aside its protections on a whim. Our BOR is little but a sop; something designed to create the false impression that we're safe from government tyranny but which, in reality, does no such thing.

Those who "trust" governments to do the right thing will inevitably be disappointed so we really do need some immutable protection -- such as that offered by the US Constitution.

Hands up all those who remember Saint Jacinda proudly proclaiming, in the early stages of the CV19 vaccine roll-out, that this would not create a two-tier society and vaccination status would not divide the nation.

Yes, as I said... we can not trust governments, even the most well-intentioned ones.

So, is it time to throw out the flacid and impotent NZ BOR and introduce something with a little more substance?

Do we really need protection from governments?

Or will our "she'll be right" attitude to such things see even worse abuse of government privilege in the years to come -- to the cost of good, honest, hard-working Kiwis?

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