New Zealand Law Society - GCSB bill a highlight

GCSB bill a highlight

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The "biggest event and highlight" of Dr Rodney Harrison QC's term as convenor of the Public and Administrative Law Committee was working on the Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB) Amendment Bill in 2013.

An inaugural member of the committee when it was established in 2009, and the committee's first convenor, Dr Harrison stepped down from the leadership in August.

The proposed GCSB legislation "turned into a huge public issue," Dr Harrison says.

photo of Rodney Harrison
Dr Rodney Harrison QC

"It took off with public and media appearances which I hadn't bargained on, it being my preference to stay out of the limelight if possible.

"The focus of the Law Society's stance in standing up to the government in terms of what it was trying to ram through and then standing up to some quite unfair and over-the-top criticism … was quite influential in terms of how the public saw things.

"I think that the GCSB Bill issues demonstrate one of the committee's recurring themes – that of the incremental and inevitable expansions of executive and departmental powers that we are constantly confronted with these days.

"It is a sad fact that no department of state ever proposes a decrease in the scope of its powers and authority.

"The Public and Administrative Law Committee saw that with the various bits of legislation empowering security agencies and also the Immigration Amendment Bill, which we submitted on in 2014," Dr Harrison says.

"The other interesting and challenging area for the committee has been the work we have done on responding to various Law Commission issue papers and reports. That's a slightly different exercise from preparing submissions and appearing before a select committee.

Very interesting issues

"During my time as convenor, we have looked at some very interesting issues for public lawyers.

"Two in particular are the Law Commission's work on a new Criminal Proceedings Act, addressing some fundamental issues concerning the principles on which the Crown is sued and held liable, and the Commission's review of the Judicature Act, where our committee looked closely at the law and procedure relating to judicial review and contempt of court," he says.

Being convenor of the Public and Administrative Law Committee has been something "I have certainly found very rewarding and worthwhile.

"And it's also a great way to keep up with developments in one's specialist field of practice. That's a handy by product of doing this work.

"Looking back it has certainly been great working with such a high-powered and hard-working bunch of people over the last six years or so.

"I have been really impressed by some of the younger members who are practising in the public law area, and how bright and talented they are.

"It has certainly been a great experience," he says. "What we as a committee have ended up doing has been very interesting and very worthwhile."

It has also been great working with the Law Society Law Reform staff, Dr Harrison adds.

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