Checks, balances protect the rule of law

University of Otago law graduate and New Zealand Solicitor-general Una Jagose at the Otago Law School yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
University of Otago law graduate and New Zealand Solicitor-general Una Jagose at the Otago Law School yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Solicitor-general Una Jagose is urging greater community awareness of the overall system of checks and balances which maintains the rule of law in New Zealand.

Ms Jagose QC last night discussed the role of the solicitor-general, in the annual F.W. Guest Memorial Lecture on the University of Otago campus, and earlier reflected, in an interview, on her job and its challenges.

She is chief executive of the Crown Law Office and its 180 staff, and also the ‘‘professional head’’ of more than 800 lawyers employed by the government’s various departments, ministries and agencies.

She has previously pointed out that, as Solicitor-general, she is both the Government’s main adviser over any legal disputes involving the Crown, and the senior advocate for the Government.

Part of her role was to ensure that successive governments continued to recognise the law, and to work in accordance with it.

‘‘It’s a pretty exciting and challenging job.’’

Ms Jagose emphasised that New Zealand was clearly governed by the rule of law and, by international standards, enjoyed a low rate of corruption.

‘‘It’s something very important for New Zealand.

‘‘We’ve got something really special here.’’

But she would also like more community awareness and education about the checks and balances, including her own independent role, that helped maintain the rule of law.

‘‘Lots of people don’t really know what that means.’’

Asked if we risked becoming complacent about our rule of law performance, she said New Zealand should remain alert to maintain its record.

If that performance should ever diminish, she believed it would not be because anyone wished to deliberately damage the system, but problems could still creep in, partly by accident.

‘‘These things are so critical.

‘‘We can’t be complacent,’’ she said.

As she had flown back to Dunedin yesterday, she had been reminded of her fondness for the city’s nearby landscapes and Otago Harbour.

As an Otago law student, she had had little detailed idea of the role of the solicitor-general, but had learned a good deal about herself during her first degree.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

Add a Comment