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a Little coup - by Sharon Ritchie


In May Kim Leighton set out how the Employment Court has been supporting the MBIE-run Employment Relations Authority in challenging the authority of Parliament and the rule of law in New Zealand and in July he showed us how one of the beneficiaries of public sector legalised fraud persuaded the Minister of Justice to give the Employment Relations Authority Members extra power just as election season finally arrives


That power comes into force on Wednesday. It gives the Authority the powers of a court to have its orders and directions enforced and a power to suppress freedom of expression by ordering the “take down” of, say, blogs.

Will Kiwis stand for it? Will the courts stand for MBIE being able to overrule the Bill of Rights Act in ways the courts can’t? More potential dynamite and just before the election as well!


Hardly surprising that the Chief Judge of the Employment Court would be getting worried, then? If the Minister’s “Little coup” can’t be pulled off, and Kiwis are worried about the MBIE takeover of Parliament, it could seriously damage the government’s chances.


For the past decade the Employment Court has been supporting MBIE in trying to get the law of New Zealand changed so that employers can put anything – even illegalities and frauds - into an employment “agreement” and enforced through ... the Employment Court. 

There have been claims that the Employment Relations Authority is a Court equivalent to the District Court. Those have supported long-term plans to imply that the Employment Court, as the next step up, must be equivalent to the High Court. That would be a very nice career move for those judges. They could basically knock over any opposition to their way with those "agreements".


But maybe the “Little coup” has been rumbled. 


If the Employment Court was worried the coup might fail, it might try to reassert itself as though it was upholding the rule of law.


You might see a case report with a few unusual features. 


There might be “Counsel to assist the court”, which is for where the judge doesn’t know quite what to do.


There might be some odd costs orders, so that there were lawyers on both sides but it looked as though this wasn’t the usual adversarial battle.


It might look a little odd but actually say something ... sensible. It might be a u-turn.


It might look like this:

Dollar King v Jun (2020)

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