COMMISSION'S QUERY "INQUIRY NOT WARRANTED" P.A. WELLINGTON, this day. "I can find nothing anywhere in the commission which warrants inquiry into what might be called political issues, and in my opinion the disputed questions and matters are questions relating to political issues," stated the Chief Justice, Sir Michael Myers, in delivering the judgment of the Court of Appeal by the Licensing Commission, which asked the extent, if any, to which questions relating to political funds by persons or organisations connected with the licensed trade might be asked by it. The Appeal Court ruled that the commission'had no power to ask witnesses certain questions concerncontributions to party funds or political candidates by persons or companies connected with the licensed trade. Outlining the authority conferred by the warrant or instrument appointing the commission, the Chief Justice said that the very fact that the commission itself had stated a case indicated that its members considered that the case stated contained sufficient material to enable the Court to decide the questions. It came back to the interpretation of the commission's instrument. Scope of Inquiry
The subject of the inquiry was expressed to be "licensing matters." That enabled the commission to inquire into and report upon: (1) The working of the laws relating to the importation, manufacture, sale and supply of intoxicating liquors; (2) the social and economic aspects of. the question of the working of the laws and proposals that may be made for amending the laws in the public interest; and (3) to make such proposals as the commission itself thought fit for the amendment of the law. It had been contended that "social aspects" embraced the disputed question or matters. In his Honor's opinion that was not an admissible interpretation, nor could the further mandate of the "omnibus paragraph" of the instrument be interpreted to include inquiry into the matters in dispute. "The case stated by the commission says, in reference to contributions to the funds of political parties or candidates, that 'if such contributions are made the commission does not consider the giving or receiving of such contributions is in any. way illegal,' " said Sir Michael. "Incidentally, I would say that I am not at all sure that that opinion is a correct statement of law. A careful examination of the provisions of the Electoral Act, 1927, shows, I think, that the making of such payments might possibly amount to illegal practice or, in some circumstances, perhaps to corrupt practice." Question of Principle The question for the Court of Appeal was one of principle, not of degree, and, in the Chief Justice's opinion, on a true construction of the instrument the disputed questions and matters were not within the ambit of the commission. Were it otherwise there would be no limit to the inquiry. If once the disputed questions or matters were introduced, he could not see how the commission could logically impose any limit to such questions in respect of either time or persons, and many classes of people might become examinable on contributions made during the last 20 or 30 years to any political party or parties or in support of the candidature of any particular candidate, and possibly on the disbursement of such contributions. Such a broad inquiry would involve "proposals" to alter the Electoral Act, or perhaps the.Legislature Act, not the laws relating to the licensed trade.
"It follows that in my judgment none of the disputed questions or matters may be asked or inquired into," concluded his Honor. The commission's inquiry as to whether it should hear evidence offered by persons who had received such contributions or who volunteered to give evidence on the subject need not be specifically answered. The commission was not likely to consider or receive information, although tendered voluntarily, on matters which the Court, on a case submitted by the commission itself, had held did not come within the ambit of the inquiry.
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POLITICAL ISSUES, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 191, 14 August 1945
POLITICAL ISSUES Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 191, 14 August 1945
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