Quasi-constitutional constraints are great, but they have a hard time being effective in a Parliamentary system if the majority party doesn't particularly wish to be constrained and if voters aren't particularly constitutionally minded.The Attorney General argues Paula Bennett's proposed welfare reforms are incompatible with the Bill of Rights because of unwarranted discrimination: recipients of the Domestic Purposes Benefit will be subject to work requirements while women receiving the Widow's Benefit or the Women Alone benefit will not.
And so I'm worried when Paula Bennett's response to the Attorney General's concerns about compatibility of her proposed welfare reforms with the Bill of Rights isn't that they'll seek out further advice, possibly asking the Supreme Court for an opinion, or that they'll move to apply equal treatment across the three types of beneficiary groups putting in some general rule that anyone under the retirement age will be subject to work requirements; rather, here's what she has to say:
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett admits that part of her welfare reforms breach the Bill of Rights Act but says it would not bother most people.She's right. Most folks will see it as being fair and reasonable. Heck, it seems fair and reasonable to me too. But that isn't the point: if it runs counter to the Bill of Rights, we ought to amend it to make it compatible. There are all kinds of things that will seem fair and reasonable to most New Zealanders, but the point of constitutional constraints is to stop us from doing things that the majority feels are fair and reasonable but impose large costs on minorities. But there's little constitutional spirit in New Zealand.
"I think that is a discrimination that most New Zealanders will see as being fair and reasonable."
HT: Big News.