The Herald reports:
The Green Party says Labour has broken the law by not consulting its co-leaders about a spot on the powerful intelligence and security committee.
The party pointed to the Intelligence and Security Committee Act, which said the Leader of the Opposition could nominate an MP “following consultation with the leader of each party that is not in Government or in coalition with a Government party”.
There is no doubt the Greens are correct and Little has broken the law. He failed to not only consult other parties over his nominations, but failed to even notify them – they found out by way of media release.
His nomination of David Shearer is illegal, and a judicial review would I am sure be successful. However a law suit would only force him to restart the process, not to ultimately make a different choice.
But his failure to consult, despite a statutory requirement to do so, should be alarming. He aspires to be Prime Minister, a role which has numerous positions he effectively appoints, some of which require consultation with opposition parties such as Governor-General, human rights commissioners, officers of Parliament, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security etc. Will a Prime Minister Little be as unconcerned about breaking the law on consultation, as Opposition Leader Little is?
Little said he would “consult” with the Greens about the committee’s deliberations. That would fulfil his legal obligations.
No it doesn’t. The obligation is around the nomination of members. He is meant to be a lawyer, yet seems unable to read the statute.
His failure to follow the law also raises issue around his office. His staff should have been aware of the legal requirements, and advised appropriately.
He earlier said he chose Shearer because Norman was standing down as co-leader in May.
He had rejected appointing co-leader Metiria Turei because he wanted someone with “skills, understanding and experience.”
While he has clearly broken the law in not consulting, his actual decision in not appointing a Green MP is the right one. The Greens are effectively opposed to the very existence of the intelligence agencies. Hence appointing them to an oversight committee means that their interest is just to find ways to discredit the agencies, not to play a constructive role in oversight.
However I do think it is regrettable that Labour kept both spots for itself. While I am not his biggest fan, I think it would have been quite suitable to appoint Winston Peters on the basis he is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
UPDATE: It appears from what Peter Dunne said on Twitter that he was not consulted by the Prime Minister of the Government’s nominees. If correct, this is also a breach of the Act and equally bad behaviour. It is also a bad way for a Government to treat a coalition partner.
There is no question that Dunne himself could not be appointed to the committee, after his leaking of the Kitteridge report to Andrea Vance (denied but not believed). But even though he could not be appointed himself, that doesn’t mean the Government is released from its obligations to consult him (and ACT and the Maori Party).