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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 3. 1965.

The Silly Season

page 2

The Silly Season

As always, speculation is rife as to what the new Parliamentary session will bring, but of one thing New Zealanders may be sure: this session, which starts unusually early in the year, will bring with it a veritable flood of legislation. This follows the trend which has, in the last decade, become more and more prominent in this country.

The party in power seems to measure the success of the parliamentary session by the volume of legislation passed in that period.

Towards the end of last year, Mr. Holyoake remarked with considerable pride that the Government had passed a particularly large volume of legislation. This statement, it was interesting to note, did not bring forth the customary tirade from the opposition; it seemed agreed by both parties that the more Acts passed per session, the more successful that session had been.

It is unfortunate that this has become the attitude of New Zealand politicians. They know that legislation is the supreme law of the land, for it can overrule the common law and can repeal previous legislation, and for this reason it has come to be regarded as a general cure-all. If New Zealand has a problem, the Government can be relied upon to fix it with some speedy legislation.

This thinking, this deep-rooted belief in the omnipotence of legislation is evident throughout the country. Last year, to give a local example, a provocative talk on the psychological motives of criminals was given at the University. The talk showed that, before he committed a crime, the potential criminal often gave many indications of his criminal tendencies. Further, these signs could be recognised, in advance, by the trained psychologist.

The audience was asked, in the light of this talk, what we in New Zealand could do to detect such criminal traits in people before they commit a crime. One student shot up his hand and said "We could legislate."

"But what would the legislation provide?" he was asked. "I don't know" came the hesitant reply.

Coming to a more immediate issue there has been talk that the Government will legislate to increase our territorial limits, in an effort to curb Japanese poaching on New Zealand fishing grounds. The aim may be worthy, but the result will doubtless be a little subdued Oriental laughter, and just as many fish poached as ever.

Legislation, it must be understood, should never be an end in itself. At best it is only a means to an end. And it is a successful means only when it puts into operation an inherently workable proposition.