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April 30, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Partisan Hacks – Justice

Salient asked: “Considering legislation with retrospective effect has been passed by the last two governments, is it ever acceptable for government to pass such legislation?” The Hacks respond…

NZ First – Curwen Rolinson

Retroactive legislation can be dangerous to the rule of law in a democratic society. It is unfair
to criminalise in the future actions which have already been carried out. However, if you’re removing a sanction or creating a right, then there are numerous situations in which it would be unfair NOT to allow retrospective legislation. The best examples for these are pardons, removing a category of offence (e.g conscientious objectors) and the eventual extension of state benefits to gay marriages.

Vic Labour – Reed Fleming

“In law, context is everything.” – Lord Steyn

In general retroactive law is to be avoided. It is important that the law is clear and prospective so citizens can organise their affairs in line with the law. Labour as a social democratic party is committed to complying with the Rule of Law. However, in rare cases in order to avoid unintended consequences of the law, retroactivity is a necessary evil. Indeed, context is everything.

Greens@Vic – Harriet Farquhar

Retrospective legislation, which undermines the rule of law, is only permissible in exceptional circumstances. The frequency however, of the passing of such legislation, is disturbing. A recent example was the Search and Surveillance Bill, rammed through by National last year. It retrospectively gave police the right to collect covert video surveillance—a severe breach of civil rights. With the exception of the most extraordinary of circumstances, retrospective legislation represents the State acting beyond its democratically-gifted power.

Vic Nats – Christian Hermansen

Retrospective legislation is not something that should ever be enacted lightly. However, if the circumstance demands such legislation in order to protect people, then yes, but only as a last resort.

Act On campus

Unfortunately, Act on Campus did not respond to Salient’s quite reasonable query this week. 

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Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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