The lost luggage bill

Stuff reports:

The members’ bills process has come under scrutiny after the selection of a National backbencher’s bill that would see MPs debate the sale of lost luggage.

Labour and ACT have called for the “trivial” change lodged by Christchurch MP Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako to be added to a Statutes Amendment bill in a tidy-up of regulations, rather than waste politicians time and taxpayer money going through the parliamentary process.

But this is not the first time a seemingly menial bill has been entered into the ballot and literally plucked from a biscuit tin.

The member’s bills process is “fundamentally flawed”, concludes United Future leader Peter Dunne. 

He says there’s a better way to get the bills dealt with and it would involve setting time-frames for a more proportionate system.

“It would be better to, particularly from a smaller party’s point of view, have almost a quota system so that each party was guaranteed a minimum number of bills per session,” he said.

“Say there is a ballot procedure, but there’s also a backstop that says during the course of the year each party will be guaranteed some measure of proportionality. So if you get to the latter stage of the year, and their bills haven’t come up, [it] ensures every party gets a fair go.”

That’s not a bad idea.

It’s been a tactic for Governments to get their MPs to enter proposed bills to reduce the chance of Opposition bills being drawn. Opposition MPs use the ballot to highlight issues they know Government have no appetite for.

Yep opposition often put up bills they just want to embarrass the Govt on, and Govt sometimes puts up bills that are relatively minor. However important to note that many members’ bills do lead to significant reforms and are very worthwhile.

Seymour, also the regulatory reform under-secretary,  was happy to talk to any MP to help add minor issues to the Statutes Amendments bill. The changes in Korako’s Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill actually made a lot of sense to Seymour, but wasn’t worth a separate bill.

I tend to agree. A members’ bill doesn’t need to be a major issue, but it should have some significance to it and this particular bill doesn’t seem to make that threshold. In fact it is debatble if the bill is even needed. If all MPs are happy to add it to the Statutes Amendments Bill, then they should do so – possible by seeking leave of the House.

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