18 February 2011

The (r)evolution of collective responsibility

Collective responsibility is dead! Long live collective responsibility!

I've been wittering on about for this time (see, for example, here). But I think this week's Question Time confirms (finally) that the conventions around collective responsibility have evolved again.

We have new operating arrangements governing the expression of dissent by Ministers of the Crown. Under MMP we have seen the incremental loosening on the unanimity element of the convention of collective responsibility. But, responding to questions about public remarks from Ministers Hide and Sharples about the independent Māori statutory board for the Auckland Council, Prime Minister indicated – whether consciously or not – that the present government is operating under even looser arrangements than before. The Prime Minister condoned deviations from the existing "rules" about collective responsibility recorded in the Cabinet Manual. That probably means that the underlying convention has evolved and that the Cabinet Manual rules will need to be re-written to reflect the new operating arrangements.

11 February 2011

Republic can be a simple matter

[This OpEd appeared in the DominionPost on 2 February 2011]

New Zealand could and should easily become a republic, says Dean Knight.

MOVING to a republic involves changing our head of state from a hereditary monarch based abroad to a local, chosen by us. The easiest path is to simply promote the governor-general from being our de facto head of state to a real head of state.

Same powers, same functions, same duties, some Treaty obligations, same House - even the same name if we wish.

9 February 2011

Despatches from a new HQ

Oh.  I should mention that, for a while, blog posts will be despatched from new headquarters - from London.

I'm presently on sabbatical from Vic and have commenced working on a PhD at the London School of Economics and Political Science (http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/law/

They have elephants here too, including one in the main street of the university (see photo).

For my PhD I'm thinking about (and writing 100,000 words on!) the different ways the courts calibrate - or should calibrate - how closely they scrutinise the decisions of public bodies and officials when determining applications for judicial review.  More on that later, once I get some words on paper...

Anyways, blog posts will continue sporadically on whatever I deem interesting - whether from here or there...

Constructing and deconstructing the EPA?

I was interested to hear of the government's proposal to merge and reconfigure the government departments to reduce the size of the public service.

The announcement prompted me to recall a tender advert from the new Environmental Protection Agency I noticed in newspapers just before Christmas.  I'll get to that in second.

Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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