Three silly bills

March 19th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Some members bills are very good. But none of them got drawn from the ballot today.

No Right Turn reports:

A ballot for three Members bills was held today and the following bills were drawn:


These are all rather silly backwards looking bills.

The first one complains that the Environment Protection Authority is not required to protect the environment. This flies in the face of the reality that the EPA has declined almost all the major off shore projects before it on environmental grounds. This is a bill to fix a problem that does not exist.

NZ First want to have a second vote on a law that has already been passed. Considering that we have avoided any injection of taxpayer funds into the convention centre, their timing is pretty bad for them.

And the third bill is the most stupid. It would, if retrospective, force NZ to withdraw from basically every international trade agreement we have ever signed, pull out of the WTO, and never take part in any future trade deals. And NZ First claims to be pro-exporters!

I predict all three bills will fail to get past first reading.


Stopping the double dippers

March 4th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

MP Maggie Barry is labelling a Shore politician’s claims she is trying to remove him from office as “ridiculous”.

But Devonport-Takapuna Local Board member Grant Gillon says it’s no conspiracy theory.

Ms Barry, National MP for North Shore, had her bill to stop people serving on two or more Auckland local boards drawn from the member’s bill ballot.

Very sensible. You can’t be the MP for Wellington Central and say the MP for Mana. Your job is to represent one locality.

Among the few politicians this would affect is Mr Gillon who serves on both Devonport-Takapuna and Kaipatiki local boards.

Mr Gillon believes it’s motivated by his support for stopping housing at Bayswater Marina and opposition to closing Takapuna Beach Holiday Park to make way for a national sailing centre.

“There can be no other reason why the local MP considers removing me from office as the most important issue for the North Shore in an election year.”

He says the bill is poorly drafted and will force at least six costly by-elections across Auckland.

There is an SOP with the bill to clarify it is not retrospective. There will be no by-elections. The issue is whether politicians such as Gillon should be allowed to serve on two or more local boards concurrently.

Ms Barry says double dipping opens up the “real potential for conflicts of interest”.

“This has allowed local board power to be concentrated in the hands of a few people, many of whom don’t even live in the area they represent.”

The idea of local boards is that they are, well local.

Tags: , , , ,

Parental responsibility

January 13th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The parents or guardians of young people before the courts could have bail conditions imposed on them as well as their children, such as not drinking alcohol and having to reside at a particular address, under a private members’ bill in the name of Northland MP Mike Sabin.

I’d be cautious about this.

In many cases of a wayward youth, the parents are a contributing factor. But equally, there are some kids who go off the tracks despite the best parenting and family support possible. Having parents share some liability for what their kids do could set a dangerous precedent.

The Children, Young Persons and Their Families (Parent’s and Guardian’s Responsibility) Amendment Bill would allow the Youth Court to set bail conditions for parents and guardians in a bid to prevent re-offending.

Mr Sabin believed at least half of the responsibility for youth offending was down to adults making sure their children were being properly supervised.

Mr Sabin’s bills have been approved by the National Party caucus for support at first reading should any be drawn from the ballot.

I think it is a worthy debate to have, and if it goes to select committee, would be a good forum for hearing that debate. But the possible precedent does concern me.

Tags: , ,

Goldsmith bill on personal grievances

November 15th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

Executives who are fired from their companies would be less likely to get excessive golden handshakes under a private member’s bill being promoted by National list MP Paul Goldsmith.

And employers would be less willing to put up with high-paid staff not doing their jobs properly.

But it appears that Mr Goldsmith would have more chance of his bill being passed under a Labour-led Government than the National-led one.

Mr Goldsmith is proposing that employees with salary packages worth more than $150,000 not have the automatic right to a personal grievance, which they have under present employment law.

This is a very commendable bill. It doesn’t mean that employees over $150,000 will not have access to employment law. It means that they can contract out of it. And it is hard to argue that someone earning $150,000 is a vulnerable worker who needs protection.

They will still have access to general contract law, and can sue for breach of contract.

Under the current law, even if an employee is paid out under the terms of his or her contract, they can still take a personal grievance case to try to get a higher payout.

Mr Goldsmith says that means that employers are more likely to put up with someone who is not doing the job well or “make a more generous golden handshake to make the problem go away”.

He said he had been approached by business, and small business in particular, who saw it as a problem.

His bill did not go as far as Australian law which automatically exempts a high-paid employee (earning over A$129,000) from being able to take a personal grievance.

The Goldsmith bill just allows a high earning employee and an employer to sign a contract that limits personal grievances. So it might just say that in the event of an inability to work together, the employee will get paid x weeks salary.

The bill has been put into the private member’s ballot. Labour Minister Simon Bridges said while National supported the proposed bill, the Government would prefer to get officials’ advice.

But Labour’s labour spokesman, Andrew Little, said last night that it was the sort of thing a Labour-led Government would be keen to look at, especially for chief executives.

He had a concern with the $150,000 threshold because it could include highly skilled engineers, for example, working for companies such as Fonterra, who were well down the chain of command and control over the company.

Subject to a discussion about the threshold, he agreed with the bill in principle and thought Labour would support it to select committee.

The threshold seems right to me. It isn’t about the job title. Andrew seems concerned that it might impact some EPMU members, but if an engineer is earning over $150,000 they seem pretty capable of negotiating a good contract.

Tags: , ,

Labour says no need for consensus on electoral reform

November 15th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:


A bill that would lower the threshold for minor parties to enter Parliament and “put an end to tea party-style stitch-ups” has been drawn from the ballot.


Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway said the bill lowered the party-vote threshold from 5 per cent to 4 per cent and removed the coat-tail provision that allowed major parties to do deals with minor ones to help them into Parliament.


The Palmerston North MP’s Electoral (Adjustment of Thresholds) Amendment Bill was pulled from Parliament’s ballot today and seeks to implement the recommendations of the Electoral Commission review held after the MMP referendum.

Personally I support changing the thresholds, and my submission said so. But these sort of significant changes should only occur if there is consensus between the more significant political parties. The Electoral Act should not be some sort of grand prize which winning parties use to screw over losing parties, to try and stay in power longer – which is what Labour did last time. National has deliberately refrained from making significant changes to electoral law, if Labour doesn’t agree with them. The idea is to maintain that consensus, but it looks like Labour are ditching the need for consensus:

Lees-Galloway acknowledged he would probably struggle to get support for the bill.

“There’s no need for consensus here. Political parties just need to vote according to what they think is right,” he said

So who knows what changes to electoral law we’ll see if Labour wins.

It is worth noting that this bill does not implement the recommendations of the Electoral Commission in full. It cherry picks the recommendations they agree with, but doesn’t implement the recommendation to get rid of overhang seats or setting a ratio of electorate to list seats.

By not getting rid of over-hangs, Labour’s bill would have seen the size of Parliament in the last three elections as 127 MPs, 128 MPs and 126 MPs.


Tags: , ,

The Care of Children Law Reform Bill debate

October 24th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The House debated last night Jacinda Ardern’s Care of Children Law Reform Bill. Despite the fact that most parties and MPs agree adoption laws need to be reformed, the House voted down the bill because it was so lightweight. As I blogged last May, it was basically a press release pretending to be a bill. It did nothing except ask the Law Commission to write a bill, and require the Minister of Justice to introduce it.

One Minister has said that the bill basically meant handing over most of the powers of Parliament and the Cabinet/Executive to Wayne Mapp! (Dr Mapp is a Law Commissioner).

The debate is in the draft Hansard transcript:

JACINDA ARDERN (Labour):  It makes sense that as Parliament we make use of the expertise of the Law Commission and the work that has already been done. Doing so would be an unusual practice, though, and I do acknowledge that. Embedding this process into a member’s bill is, however, a very, very unique approach, but, as I have said, given that this work is so overdue, anything that can help us speed up reform in this area surely must be welcomed.

The problem is that the bill doesn’t speed up reform. It would mean an actual law reform bill would not be considered by Parliament for two to three years.

SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel): The sponsor of this Care of Children Law Reform Bill, Jacinda Ardern, has nominated the Justice and Electoral Committee to scrutinise the bill should it pass this first reading. Therefore, as chairman of the committee, it falls to me to have a first go at what can only really be described as a very sloppy and lazy member’s bill by this member. …

But I am very aware that in contrast to this once-over-lightly bill that is being presented by Ms Ardern, the Green MP Kevin Hague has actually done a very significant and substantial piece of work and has a bill in the ballot on this very matter. His bill remains in the ballot. It is a hugely complex area. It is emotional and it has huge impacts on people’s lives. Just identifying the key policy issues is itself quite a task, but if Jacinda Ardern genuinely wants to make a real contribution to serious and meaningful law reform in this area, then she needs to put in a bit of serious work. This bill that she has put forward is basically little more than a legislative request for the Government to do something. It is not a solution; it is not even an attempt at a solution. 

Hague’s bill is 18,000 words of legislation which covers around a dozen different policy areas. It is a very serious piece of law reform, which if drawn from the ballot could see a new law in less than a year.

The first major flaw with this very sloppily drafted piece of legislation is that if passed, under this bill there would probably be no law change for at least 4 years or more. And let us just have a look at the likely timings. A select committee would take about 6 months or more to give this member’s bill consideration, given the looming summer break ahead of us. Then there would need to be a second and third reading—that would easily take a further 3 months or more. Then the Law Commission itself would need to draft its report, and that would take at least a year—probably longer. Then, of course, once it came back from the Law Commission under instruction, the Government bill would have to be first read and scheduled, and that could take up to another 12 months. Then there would be a select committee process; that would be another 6 months or more. Then there would be a second and a third reading, and at least another 3 months after that. So the problem is that the member sponsoring this bill is essentially trying to use her member’s bill to get the Law Commission to write her bill for her. That is sloppy. That is lazy. It is a lazy approach. It is politically lazy—it is politically lazy—and it is intellectually lazy.

It is an NCEA not achieved.

The second flaw with this bill is that it does not actually specify a single policy principle—not one. It does not identify a single policy principle. It actually gives no direction at all to the Law Commission as to what should be in the bill or what its scope should be. The bill does not even indicate whether it should discriminate against same-sex relationships. Every single detail is left to the Law Commission. It would effectively give the Law Commission a blank piece of paper. It is a constitutional affront to this House and to the members who sit in this House.

The lack of detail is also a killer.

It is very easy to write a nine-clause bill and trumpet that as some kind of solution, claiming that it would address a wide range of concerns about the outdated Adoption Act. But, sadly for the member sponsoring this bill, lawmaking is not that simple; nor is it that easy, and it absolutely should not be. If she wants to do some serious work, then she should put in the hard work. She should put some intellectual grunt into it and actually apply her not insubstantial brain to the matter at hand and actually proffer a solution—she should actually proffer a solution. So simply drafting this bill and asking someone else to do the job for you is a lazy way of ensuring that a prospective glittering political career falls in the dustbin. The National Government MPs will be opposing this bill. It is a sloppy, lazy piece of legislation, and it deserves to be consigned to the legislative rubbish bin.

A somewhat harsh speech, but not inaccurate. And it wasn’t just National voting against. The Greens did also:

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green): The member Jacinda Ardern announced her intention to place this bill in the members’ ballot back in 2010. On that same day the Greens indicated that we did not support the approach that she proposed. We reiterated that position again when the bill was drawn from the ballot, and as a result we will be voting against the bill today.

Kevin Hague has blogged on why the Greens said they would vote against:

This Bill is very big and complex. I believe that the cross-Party approach that I set up was the best way of proceeding, and have been very pleased that work in the last Parliament led me to be able to continue work with Nikki Kaye (and many others outside Parliament) to produce this Bill. Along the way we are certain to have made some mistakes or policy decisions that others disagree with. That is why I have indicated that while the Bill sits in the ballot waiting to be drawn I am very keen to get feedback, so that we can refine it and advance important law reform that has the broadest possible support.

“But your Bill and Jacinda’s are very similar. Why are you voting against hers?” To understand that you need to look at the Bills – they’re not similar at all. Jacinda’s Bill does not change adoption law in any way. While my Bill is a substantive reform of adoption and surrogacy law, Jacinda’s instead gets the Minister of Justice to ask the Law Commission to update the advice they have already given on adoption reform and turn that into a bill. With the best will in the world, that process will take at least two or three years to arrive at the point we have already reached, and will use valuable Law Commission money and time to bring us to where we already stand! Even then the notional Bill would require a well-disposed government to do something with it. Well if we had one of those, it would pick up my Bill and advance it as a Government one. And hers doesn’t deal with surrogacy.

Labour withdrew from the cross-Party process on adoption in order to advance Jacinda’s approach – a choice of unilateralism over multilateralism. In my opinion it is a history of unilateralism from successive governments that has led to the situation we have now, where everyone agrees the existing law is obsolete and harmful, but nobody has done anything about it. I told Jacinda at the time, and then said publicly, repeatedly, that we opposed her move, because what we really need is an approach that will actually takes us forward, not a bill that won’t pass and is instead a distraction from the goal of having adoption law that actually works for families. It should be no surprise to anyone that our position hasn’t changed. Supporting Jacinda’s Bill would undermine the cross-Party work we have been doing for the last 3 years.

You can imagine Kevin’s annoyance. He’s been spending over a year working cross-party to do a serious piece of law reform, and Labour chooses to draft up a press release, call it a bill, and try and claim credit for doing something.

TUREI: We believe batting the issue back to the Law Commission is an abdication of the responsibility to act now. One of the reasons that this is important is that drafting a bill to give effect to the Law Commission’s recommendations requires political judgment calls to be made on many policy issues, not just legal or technical ones. It is Parliament that has the mandate to do this, not the Law Commission. Secondly, this bill incorporates another form of abdication of responsibility to a future Parliament. A future Parliament cannot be bound, of course—we know that well enough—by what we decide today, so there is no greater likelihood that the process will advance the cause of adoption reform any further than the Law Commission’s 2000 report did. More to the point, although it is inevitable that issues first raised by a particular Parliament will not be completed until a future one sometimes, this bill would effectively defer any action to a future Parliament. We need to take action now. Thirdly, the Law Commission already has a busy programme, and even under the very best of circumstances this bill will not result in an actual bill on adoption for us to debate for at least another 2 to 3 years. In other words this bill delays law reform further.

If the Ardern bill did proceed, it would mean that Parliament would have the perfect excuse to do nothing until the Law Commission reported back in three years or so.

There is no reason why a bill cannot be drafted now, and, indeed, one already has been, saving us those years. Back when the member first announced this bill colleagues from Labour and National had joined Green members in a cross-party approach addressing adoption reform. We still believe that this is the best way of pursuing the change, and, indeed, have continued to work with National and other parties in the House and community organisations to develop a bill.

Labour and Jacinda had a choice – continue with the cross-party work with adoption reform groups, or seek to do some cheap grandstanding. Sadly they chose the latter. You may not get headlines from the behind the scenes work – but you do get progress.

Hopefully Hague’s bill will be drawn out of the ballot in the near future, allowing real progress to be made on this issue. The Adoption Act is woefully out of date. Note also that this isn’t about same sex adoption. Louisa Wall’s Marriage bill has already changed the law to allow same sex married couples to adopt. Adoption law reform is about recognising that almost all adoptions today are open, not closed etc.

The fate of this bill is a good lesson to other MPs. Do the hard work up front. Parliament will not vote for a bill that contains no policy principles, no details and just asks someone else to write the actual bill that is needed.

Tags: , ,

Will Street drop euthanasia bill?

July 17th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:

Labour MP Maryan Street is under pressure to drop a member’s bill which would legalise euthanasia because her party is concerned it could be a negative distraction in the lead-up to the general election next year.

If Ms Street’s End of Life Choice Bill was pulled from the ballot, the debate could extend into election year, and some Labour MPs felt this could hurt the party’s run for Government by distracting from its main policies and deterring more conservative voters.

Ms Street said that several colleagues had discussed with her what would happen if the bill were pulled from the ballot in 2014.

I think they are more worried that the euthanasia bill could help the Conservative Party make 5%.

Personally I’ll be very disappointed if Maryan does drop the bill. I think we inflict some terrible suffering on people by not allowing them to opt for euthanasia.

If she does drop the bill, then maybe a Green Party MP can pick it up?

At present, there are 69 members’ bills in the ballot. Nine members’ bills were still waiting for a first reading, so another ballot was unlikely to be held until the end of the year.

Not quite right. Once the number awaiting first reading drops below eight, then another ballot is held. I expect another ballot in August, say September at the latest.

Tags: , ,

The Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill

June 13th, 2013 at 12:30 pm by David Farrar

Jami-Lee Ross has had pulled from the ballot his Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill. The purpose of the bill is:

to repeal section 97 of the Employment Relations Act 2000. Section 97 prevents the use of volunteers, contractors, or other casual employees by an employer during a strike or lockout

His rationale:

Any employment legislation needs to provide a balance between employers and employees to be fair. Section 97 creates an imbalance by providing unions with a significant legislative advantage during negotiations. The restrictions placed on employers preventing them from engaging temporary replacement labour to maintain business continuity duringa strike or lockout even extends to family members, volunteers, and willing workers from associated companies that may wish to work within an organisation to maintain business continuity. Restricting the ability of employers to engage temporary replacement labour can have a considerable impact on the productivity and financial viability of an organisation. These restrictions particularly affect the primary production processing industries where production cannot cease without considerable loss to a business.

As far as I’m aware, employees on strike can engage in other work, so it seems only fair employers can do much the same, and use temporary labour to keep revenue flowing. Otherwise a union action can cripple them.

Prior to the enactment of the Employment Relations Act 2000, no equivalent provision existed in any New Zealand employment legislation.

I’ll be interested to see what the situation is in other countries.

I think it is fair to say the the Labour Party will fight this bill with all their might.

UPDATE: It will be interesting to see how parties vote at first reading. We can assume National and ACT will vote in favour, and Labour, Greens and Mana against.

NZ First had this to say when the ERA was passed in 2000:

Part 8 – Clauses 97-111 – Strikes and Lockouts
Under these clauses employees are allowed to strike for a collective agreement, to obtain a multi-employer collective contract, and on the grounds of safety and health.

It prohibits an employer from using replacement labour during a strike but does not prohibit striking workers taking up other employment. This has the potential for a few employees to, in some circumstances, hold the employer, the industry, and sometimes the country, to ransom until their demands are met.

On the basis of their 2000 statement, one would expect they would at least vote for the bill at first reading so it can be considered by a select committee.

Tags: , , , ,

Mondayisation bill passes second reading also

March 14th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The marriage bill has hogged the headlines but worth noting that David Clark’s Mondayisation bill passed its second reading despite being opposed by the Government.

Labour, Greens, NZ First, Maori, Mana, United and Brendan Horan were 61 votes in favour and National and ACT 60 votes against.

I’m pleased to see it progress. it is illogical that we Mondayise some holidays but not all of them.

I don’t accept the argument that by placing the public holiday on a Monday, it shifts the focus from the actual day.

Put it like this. If Christmas Day is on a Saturday, the public holiday is on Monday the 27th. Does anyone celebrate Christmas on the 27th or regard that as Christmas Day? Of course not.

There is a legitimate debate you can have about whether 11 paid public holidays a year is too many or too few. But if we have a public holiday, it should occur every year in opinion – not just five out of seven years.

It is also a good thing to occasionally have Parliament able to legislate over the will of Government. This is the benefits of no party having a majority (there are drawbacks also). You don’t want the Government losing votes too often, but it is good for a Government that they have to defeat bills in the House on the basis of the strength of their argument, not on the basis of a vote in caucus.

In the end the arguments against David Clark’s bill are not persuasive and it should also pass into law in April.

In the next decade, the years when it will have an impact are:

  • 2013 – none
  • 2014 – none
  • 2015 – ANZAC Day on a Saturday
  • 2016 – Waitangi Day on a Saturday
  • 2017 – none
  • 2018 – none
  • 2019 – none
  • 2020 -ANZAC Day on a Saturday
  • 2021 – Waitangi Day on a Saturday, ANZAC Day on a Sunday
  • 2022 – Waitangi Day on a Sunday


Tags: , ,

Not being rushed through

March 4th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Some commenters and others have alleged that the Government is “rushing” the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment bill through Parliament. This is incorrect, and in fact isn’t even possible. The Government can control the order and timing of Government bills, but has no ability to speed up or slow down Members’ Bills – especially ones that are conscience issues.

The process and timing for Members’ Bills is controlled by Parliament’s Standing Orders. I thought it would be useful to take people through what these are, and how they have worked in this case.

  1. An MP submits a proposed Members’ Bill to the Clerk – SO 274. Louisa Wall did this on 1 June 2012
  2. If at any time less than eight Members’ Bills are awaiting a first reading, a ballot is triggered under SO 277(1). This occurred on Wed 27 June and Wed 25 July when the House had a Members’ Day and considered a number of other Members’ Bill that were awaiting first reading.
  3. Ballots were held on Thu 28 June and Thu 26 July. On 28 June four bills were selected out of 65 submitted and on 26 July five bills were selected out of 63 submitted. The Marriage (DOM) Bill was one of those selected on 26 July.
  4. The bill was introduced to Parliament that day – SO 277(3)
  5. The bill is set down for a first reading three sitting days later – SO 281(2), which is Thu 2 August 2012.
  6. In every two weeks of House sitting, Govt bills are debated on five of the six sitting days, and Members’ bills are given priority on every second Wednesday – SO 74(1). Generally there will be four and a half hours available.
  7. On Members’ Days, any local or private bills take precedence – SO 63. This means that a Members’ Bill will not be debated until any local or private bills scheduled for a reading or committee stage are dealt with first.
  8. If they get to Members’ Bills, any bills awaiting third reading, committee stage or second reading are given priority over a bill awaiting first reading. S70(1)
  9. There was a Members’ Day on 15 August which did not see the Marriage (DOM) Bill got to, but on Wed 29 August its first reading was held. There are 11 speeches lasting 65 minutes under Appendix A. The vote was 80-40.
  10. At the conclusion of the first reading, the MP in charge nominates a select committee for it to be referred to. SO 283(1). It was referred to the Government Administration Select Committee.
  11. The Select Committee is required under SO 291/1 to report back the bill within six months, which in this case is 28 February 2013. The only way this deadline can be extended is if Parliament unanimously (or near unanimously consents.
  12. The Select Committee called for submissions on 12 September, and allowed the normal six weeks until 26 October.
  13. They received 21,533 submissions with 10,487 in favour and 8,148 against. 2,898 of the submissions were individual ones, not form letters.
  14. The Select Committee starting hearing oral submissions on the 7th of November and the last submission was heard on 30th of January. They heard 220 submissions in person with hearings in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The final day for oral submissions was only 4 weeks before the bill had to be reported back.
  15. The Select Committee then considered the bill, the submissions, proposed amendments, had a report drafted and voted to accept the report. They reported back on 27 February 2013 – the second to last day possible.
  16. The bill is then set down under SO 292 for a second reading three sitting days later. This is Thu 6 March.
  17. The second reading will occur automatically on a Member’s Day once any local or private bills on the order paper are dealt with, and any committee stage or third readings of Members’ Bills. There are three such bills ahead of it on the Order Paper which will take place on Wed 13 March – the next Members’ Day. This is all automatic under Standing Orders – the Government gets no say on it.
  18. If the second reading passes on 13 March, then the committee stage is likely to be on Wed 27 March when amendments can be considered.
  19. After the committee stage, the third reading is likely to be Wed 17 April.

All this timetabling is basically automatic. The rules of Parliament are binding. Only with unanimous leave can dates or timing be changed. This is deliberate. It is important that the Executive only controls its own bills, but doesn’t control Parliament as a whole.

Tags: , , ,

Stopping forced marriages

November 13th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Marika Hill at Stuff reports:

After hearing of a distraught school girl forced to marry by her parents, National MP Jackie Blue knew she couldn’t stand by and do nothing.

The 100 teenagers – most of them school girls – who marry each year in New Zealand would require a court’s permission to walk down the aisle under Dr Blue’s proposed amendment to the Marriage Act.

Marriage under the age of 16 is illegal in New Zealand, but 16 and 17-year-olds can marry with parental consent.

More than 1000 teenagers gained consent to marry over the past decade, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Four out of five of those were female.

Dr Blue said only a small number of teenage nuptials would be marriages forced upon girls for cultural reasons.

“The majority are probably quite legitimate, but the majority of those minors are young girls. I can’t not do anything. If it saves one young girl it’s going to be worth it.”

I think this is a good idea. A 16 or 17-year-old is still officially a minor and is far more likely to be able to be coerced by their parents.

Yes some 16 and 17 years olds want to marry on their own initiative. But I don’t think the proposed change really disadvantages them. Either they merely have to wait until they are 18 (they can be engaged until then) or they get the permission of the court which will check the marriage is truly desired.

The idea I think is that it will discourage parents from forcing their child into an arranged marriage if they know a Judge will question their child on whether they really want it.

This is not a huge problem in NZ, but I don’t see the proposed law at having much downsides, and if it saves even a handful of young girls for a forced marriage then it is worthwhile.

Tags: , ,

The pre-ballot

September 20th, 2012 at 12:37 pm by David Farrar

Chris Hipkins blogs:

 Today at midday there’ll be a ballot for members’ bills, with two places available on the Order Paper. A preliminary ballot will be held to determine which of the following bills will be entered in the main ballot:

20. Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill – Hone Harawira
22. Education (Food in Schools) Amendment Bill – David Shearer

In my view, the Clerk’s decision to conduct a preliminary ballot to determine which of these two bills, which have similar aims, goes into the ballot is the wrong one. While the goals of the two bills are similar, the means of achieving them a very different. The test needs to be whether the bills are substantially the same in their ‘content’, not whether they are the same in the outcome they seek to achieve.

For example, if two bills were put up around the transportation of goods from Wellington to Auckland, and one sought to do so via rail and one via road, if we used ‘outcome’ as the criteria for determining whether they were the same, only one bill would go in the ballot, yet clearly the bills are very different in their content. We’ll be relitigating this for sure, but for today at least, only one of these bills will make it into the ballot.

You can see the full list of bills in today’s ballot after the break. I’ll post the results just after midday.

Update: Hone Harawira’s Bill made it into the ballot and the following were drawn:

Conservation Natural Heritage Protection Bill – Jacqui Dean
Electricity (Renewable Preference) Amendment Bill – Charles Chauvel

Heh, no wonder Labour are annoyed. Imagine if Hone got his bill drawn on what they are trying to make their signature issue.

I wanted to look at both bills, to see if I agree with Hipkins that the bill are different enough to let them both go through. My gut reaction is you trust the Office of the Clerk who have no political motives, but they are not infallible.

But Shearer’s bill is not on the parliamentary website. I don’t know why. Maybe it was only finished this morning. Hone’s bill is here. Hopefully Shearer’s bill will go online at some stage, so we can judge for ourselves.

Tags: , , , , ,


August 30th, 2012 at 1:03 pm by David Farrar

The four members’ bills selected are:

53 Oaths and Declarations (Upholding the Treaty of Waitangi) Amendment Bill Te Ururoa Flavell
43 Local Government (Public Libraries) Amendment Bill Darien Fenton
39 Land Transport (Admissibility of Evidential Breath Tests) Amendment Bill Scott Simpson
2 Care of Children Law Reform Bill Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda’s bill is a same sex adoption bill. Two major conscience issues in a week has almost killed me. The thought of another major campaign is enough to make moving to Palmie seem a good idea.

However while I am fully supportive of removing the legislative ban on same sex couples being able to adopt (note they can already adopt as individuals), I have blogged previously on the problems with this particular bill. I’m not sure it is a goer.

Complicating things also is that the marriage equality bill may lead to a de facto change in the adoption law anyway. One part of the Adoption Act refers merely to spouses, while another refers to husband and wife.


Tags: , ,

How they voted details

August 30th, 2012 at 6:40 am by David Farrar

For media and others who are interested in a breakdown by the numbers, here they are:

  • All MPs 80 – 40
  • Electorate MPs 45 – 25
  • List MPs 35 – 15 (1 non vote)
  • Female MPs 32 – 7
  • Male MPs 48 – 33 (1 non vote)
  • Asian MPs 1-3 (1 non vote)
  • European MPs 60 – 29
  • Maori MPs 17 – 4
  • Pacific MPs 2 – 4
  • 20s MPs – 2-0
  • 30s MPs 11 – 2
  • 40s MPs 20 – 18
  • 50s MPs 34 – 13 (1 non vote)
  • 60s MPs 12 – 7
  • 70s MPs 1-0
  • Auckland MPs 29 – 12 (1 non vote)
  • Christchurch MPs  11 – 2
  • Provincial MPs 10 – 12
  • Rural MPs 16 – 12
  • Wellington MPs 14 – 2
  • North Island MPs 58 – 32 (1 non vote)
  • South Island MPs 22 – 8
  • National MPs 30-29
  • Labour MPs 30-3 (1 non vote)
  • Green MPs 14-0
  • NZ First MPs 0-8
  • Maori Party MPs 3-0
  • Mana, ACT, United all 1-0
  • Cabinet Ministers 14-6
  • All Ministers 20-8
  • Gay MPs 3-1
  • Lesbian MPs 3-0
  • “Straight” MPs 74 – 39 (1 non vote)
  • 1970s MPs 0-1
  • 1980s MPs 7-1
  • 1990s MPs 11-9
  • 2002 MPs 5-1
  • 2005 MPs 18 – 6
  • 2008 MPs 22 – 11 (1 non vote)
  • 2011 MPs 16 – 11

A few interesting facts stand out.

  • Female MPs voted 4-1 in favour and Male MPs around 3-2 in favour
  • MPs in their 40s more against than those in their 50s or 60s
  • In the three main cities it was 54 – 16 in favour – more than 3:1
  • Provincial MPs were overall against, but rural MPs were in favour
  • 1 gay MP voted against (on grounds that the state should register unions, and churches, mosques etc confer marriage)
  • MPs who entered in the 1990s were most against

Now let’s look at changes in votes over time

  • John Bank and Lockwood Smith voted against decriminalising homosexual behaviour in 1986 but in 2012 voted in favour of same sex marriage. Winston Peters voted against in 1986 and in 2012. Peter Dunne, Phil Goff, Annette King, Trevor Mallard voted yes both times.
  • MPs who voted against civil unions and for same sex marriage are Gerry Brownlee, David Carter, Judith Collins, Clayton Cosgrove, Peter Dunne, Paul Hutchison, John Key, Murray McCully, Lockwood Smith, Tariana Turia, Maurice Williamson

Wasn’t planning to comment in detail on the speeches, except to note as often with conscience issues it is Parliament at its finest – MPs speaking from the heart on what they believe. Hunua MP Paul Hutchison spoke of his issues and concerns but concluded saying:

Although I would have personally preferred a slower process regarding this legislation as I said earlier, I simply cannot construct an intellectual, moral, health, or spiritual argument against it—in fact the reverse is very much the case. I support it.

You could tell this was an issue he had grappled with, and spent a long time considering.

Anyway, vote over on this issue (for now). The vote/s on the alcohol purchase age will be at 5.30 pm tonight!

Tags: , ,

How they voted

August 29th, 2012 at 9:39 pm by David Farrar

The marriage equality bill passed by a huge 78 – 40 80 – 40. The voting sheets are below. An analaysis by party will follow later.


Now analysed by party. I understand Banks and Dunne did do proxy votes in favour which have now been accepted or are likely to be. Counting those, the voting stats are:

  • National 30-29
  • Labour 30-3 (1 not vote – Raymond Huo)
  • Greens 14-0
  • NZ First 0-8
  • Maori 3-0
  • Mana 1-0
  • ACT 1-0
  • United Future 1-0
  • Total 80-40 (1 non vote)
Tags: , ,

The members’ bill ballot

August 16th, 2012 at 11:38 am by David Farrar

The ballot for three bills takes place at midday. The bills in the ballot are:

1. Accident Compensation (Recent Migrants and Returning New Zealanders) Amendment Bill – Melissa Lee

2. Care of Children Law Reform Bill – Jacinda Ardern

3. Children’s Commissioner (Reporting on Legislation) Amendment Bill – Dr Rajen Prasad

4. Children, Young Persons and Their Families (Parent and Guardian’s Responsibilities) Amendment Bill – Mike Sabin

5. Climate Change (New Zealand Superannuation Fund) Amendment Bill – Eugenie Sage

6. Climate Change Response (Low Carbon Economic Development) Amendment Bill – Gareth Hughes

7. Commerce (Code of Practice for Supermarket Grocery Suppliers) Amendment Bill – Steffan Browning

8. Conservation Natural Heritage Protection Bill – Jacqui Dean

9. Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill – Mojo Mathers

10. Coroners Amendment Bill – Hon Lianne Dalziel

11. Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance (Break Fees Disclosure) Amendment Bill – Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga

12. Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (Application to Casinos) Amendment Bill – Metiria Turei

13. Customs and Excise (Prohibition of Imports Made by Slave Labour) Amendment Bill – Hon Annette King

14. Dairy Industry Restructuring Amendment Bill – Hon Damien O’Connor

15. Defence (Overseas Deployments) Amendment Bill – Iain Lees-Galloway

16. Disputes Tribunals Amendment Bill – Mark Mitchell

17. Education (Community Representation on Polytechnic Councils) Amendment Bill – Hon Nanaia Mahuta

18. Electoral (Entrenchment of Maori Representation) Amendment Bill – Hon Parekura Horomia

19. Electricity Industry Act (Energy Efficiency) Amendment Bill – Dr David Clark

20. Electricity Industry Act (Smart Meters) Amendment Bill – Moana Mackey

21. Electricity (SuperGold Cardholder Discount) Bill – Andrew Williams

22. Employment Relations (Protection of Young Workers) Amendment Bill – Rino Tirikatene

23. Employment Relations (Statutory Minimum Redundancy Entitlements) Amendment Bill – Sue Moroney

24. Employment Relations (Triangular Employment) Amendment Bill – Andrew Little

25. End of Life Choice Bill – Hon Maryan Street

26. Energy Efficiency and Conservation (Warm Healthy Rentals) Amendment Bill – Holly Walker

27. Environmental Protection Authority (Protection of Environment) Amendment Bill – Louisa Wall

28. Environmental Reporting Bill – Grant Robertson

29. Equal Pay Amendment Bill – Jan Logie

30. Family Proceedings (Paternity Orders and Parentage Tests) Amendment Bill – Nicky Wagner

31. Financial Assistance for Live Organ Donors Bill – Michael Woodhouse

32. Fisheries (Precautionary Approach) Amendment Bill – Kevin Hague

33. Immigration (Migrant Levy) Amendment Bill – Raymond Huo

34. Income Tax (Universalisation of In-work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill – Catherine Delahunty

35. International Non-Aggression and Lawful Use of Force (Implementation of Amendment to Statute of Rome) Bill – Dr Kennedy Graham

36. Keep Kiwibank Bill – Hon Clayton Cosgrove

37. Kiwi Jobs Bill – Hon Shane Jones

38. Land Transport (Admissibility of Evidential Breath Tests) Amendment Bill – Scott Simpson

39. Land Transport (Safer Alcohol Limits for Driving) Amendment Bill – Phil Twyford

40. Local Electoral (Enhancement of Transparency) Amendment Bill – Hon David Cunliffe

41. Local Electoral (Finance) Amendment Bill – Denise Roche

42. Local Government (Council-Controlled Organisations) Amendment Bill – Darien Fenton

43. Local Government (Public Libraries) Amendment Bill – Dr Megan Woods

44. Local Government (Salary Reform) Amendment Bill – Denis O’Rourke

45. Maritime Transport Amendment Bill – Hon Phil Goff

46. Members of Parliament (Code of Ethical Conduct) Bill – HV Ross Robertson

47. Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill – Hon David Parker

48. New Zealand Bill of Rights Amendment Bill – David Clendon

49. New Zealand Flag Bill – Charles Chauvel

50. New Zealand Public Health and Disability (Change of Electoral System for District Health Boards) Amendment Bill – Dr Jian Yang

51. Oaths and Declarations (Members of Parliament) Amendment Bill – Su’a William Sio

52. Oaths and Declarations (Upholding the Treaty of Waitangi) Amendment Bill – Te Ururoa Flavell

53. Overseas Investment (Owning our Own Rural Land) Amendment Bill – David Shearer

54. Plain Language Bill – Chris Hipkins

55. Public Broadcasting Foundation (TV 7) Bill – Clare Curran

56. Public Finance (Sustainable Development Indicators) Amendment Bill – Julie Anne Genter

57. Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill – Rt Hon Winston Peters

58. Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Essential Financial Services) Amendment Bill – Dr Russel Norman

59. Resource Management (Requiring Authorities) Amendment Bill – Hon Ruth Dyson

60. Secondhand Dealers and Pawnbrokers (Scrap Metal Dealers) Amendment Bill – Tim Macindoe

61. Sentencing (Reparation) Amendment Bill – Kris Faafoi

62. Sentencing (Short-sharp Sentences) Amendment Bill – Le’au Asenati Lole-Taylor

63. Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal (Shopping Centre Opening Hours) Amendment Bill – Hon Trevor Mallard

64. Summary Offences (Possession of Hand-held Lasers) Amendment Bill – Dr Cam Calder

65. Summary Proceedings (Warrant for Detention Conditions) Amendment Bill – Jonathan Young

66. SuperGold Health Check Bill – Barbara Stewart

67. Wild Animal Control (Increased Fines and Sentence of Imprisonment) Amendment Bill – Ian McKelvie

All 34 Labour MPs have a bill in the ballot.

Hat Tip: Chris Hipkins

UPDATE: The three bills selected are:

  1. Local Government (Council-Controlled Organisations) Amendment Bill – Darien Fenton
  2. Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill – Rt Hon Winston Peters
  3. Income Tax (Universalisation of In-work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill – Catherine Delahunty

Fenton’s bill would define port companies (that mare majority Council owned) as Council-controlled organisations for the purpose of the OIA etc. I’m not aware of the rationale for why they are excluded, so this bill may be fine.

The Peters’ bill is to amend the Reserve Bank Act, so we have higher inflation.

Delahunty’s bill will be the really interesting one. It legislates for the $60 a week in-work tax credit to be extended to parents who are on benefits and not working. This has been long-standing Green policy, but after resisting it in Government was Labour policy in 2011. It was hugely unpopular and it will be a fascinating defining issue for David Shearer as to whether Labour keeps their 2011 policy, or ditches it. They would rather not had to decide until 2014, but this bill will force them to confront this issue.

If Labour vote for this bill, it will be a huge weapon against them in 2014. If they ditch their policy, their activist base could go even more feral, coming on the back of the sickness beneficiary comments.

Fenton’s bill may pose the biggest challenge to the Government, if  they oppose it, as their coalittion partners could support it.

The Peters’ bill is unlikely to pass first reading.


National needs more members’ bills

July 31st, 2012 at 9:39 am by David Farrar

In the last ballot for members’ bills, Labour had four of the five bills drawn, Greens one and National none. The outcome was rather toxic for National.

National has 35 MPs who are not Ministers (I am assuming even the Speaker could do a members’ bill if he wanted to do so). This is one more than Labour’s 34MPs, so they should have near equal numbers in the ballot.

However in the last ballot just 63 out of 93 eligible MPs had a bill in the ballot. The breakdown is:

  • Greens – 14/14 – 100%
  • Maori – 1/1 – 100%
  • Labour – 33/34 – 97%
  • NZ First – 5/8 63%
  • National – 10/35 – 29%
  • Mana 0/1 – 0%

So you see why Labour is winning the ballot so much – they have more than three times as many bills in the ballot as National, despite one fewer eligible MP.

Interesting that Hone Harawira has no bill in the ballot. This reinforces my view that Hone is a very good politician, but somewhat inept parliamentarian.

Also I wonder who is the sole Labour MP with no bill in the ballot. Did not have time to work it out.

Anyway what can National do to improve its chances in the ballot, and hence reduce the number of bills getting drawn which are Labour and Greens? The simple solution is they need to make it easier for MPs to have their bills approved.

Pretty much all the parties require a caucus to agree to a bill, for it to be submitted by a member of that caucus. So National is not alone in requiring this. However National it seems is extremely risk averse with what it will approve. They think some bills may rouse opposition etc. The problem with such an approach is you have so few bills approved that Labour and Greens win all the ballots, which cause far greater problems for the Government.

National, in my opinion, should be far more permissive in authorising members’ bills by its MPs. There should be a simple ideological test that what is proposed is not inconsistent with National’s principles, and beyond that a fairly liberal approval regime. Backbenchers should be allowed to propose things the Government wouldn’t necessarily want to do (as opposed as be against). You can always water them down at select committee, rather than deny them the light of day at all.

If National doesn’t get more bills into the ballot, the problem will get worse for them. Many opposition bills get rejected at first reading. That means there are few bills needing second and third readings, which means you have ballots more often as more first readings get done. You need some members’ bills which get past first reading, as they slow the overall number of ballots down.

Tags: ,

Opposition can make a difference

July 26th, 2012 at 4:04 pm by David Farrar

My NZ Herald column:

Yesterday the Opposition showed that you can make a difference, despite not being in Government. Parliament voted for four members’ bills to pass their first readings and to proceed to select committee.

One, by Government backbencher and Tamaki MP Simon O’Connor was to repeal to the Joint Family Homes Bill, and is uncontroversial.

The Opposition managed to get Parliament to vote for three of its bills, despite the opposition of National (and ACT) to two of them. This was a real reminder of MMP in action where single parties may form the Government, but will not win every vote in Parliament.

A brief snippet on each bill:

The first of the three opposition bills was by Labour’s Dunedin North MP, David Clark. It seeks to Mondayise ANZAC Day and Waitangi Day, if they fall on the weekend. It was supported by Labour, Greens, NZ First, Maori, Mana and United Future.

Personally I’m somewhat bemused by the fact National decided to oppose this bill. Yes one has to be careful of imposing additional costs on businesses, because doing so destroys jobs and reduces international competitiveness, unless there are productivity gains to compensate.

However two extra days of public holidays every seven years is relatively insignificant.

On paid parental leave:

This bill I think fails to take account of the ongoing crisis of debt ripping apart the European Union, and affecting the world economy. When fully implemented, after three years, it would cost taxpayers an extra $170 million a year. This extra spending would almost inevitable have to be borrowed from China or some other foreign lender. I don’t think Labour truly appreciates the nature of our fiscal challenges. Even if we manage to get back into surplus by 2014/15, we then need to grow that surplus to at least $2 billion a year, to cover the cost of contributions to the NZ Super Fund. That is probably around 2017 or 2018, if we are lucky and the Eurozone doesn’t disintegrate as Greece, Spain, and even Italy get declared bankrupt.

We should be grateful I suppose that Labour are only proposing an extra $170m a year for 26 weeks paid parental leave. Their policy is to eventually increase it to 52 weeks, which would cost half a billion dollars a year.

And the lobbyists bill:

It’s one of those thinsg no political party will want to be against. However getting an agreement on how it should work, is likely to be problematic. Will Labour want a law that requires it to disclose every and all meetings with union officials and what was discussed? Will the Greens want a law that requires very environmental group that talks to them on an issue to have to register with the Auditor-General? However, if you exclude unions and NGOs from the bill, it then becomes very unbalanced. So it is far from certain what form the bill will emerge from select committee on.

But overall a good day for the Opposition to get three bills through a first reading.


Tags: , ,

Same sex marriage bill drawn

July 26th, 2012 at 1:50 pm by David Farrar

Five bills were drawn from the ballot today – four from Labour and one from Greens. The most high profile will be the bill from Louisa Wall to allow same sex marriage. This will be a conscience vote, so expect to see media to start to ask around MPs how they will vote for it on first reading. That is probably six or so weeks away.

Tags: , ,

Members’ Bills

July 25th, 2012 at 1:11 pm by David Farrar

The changes to standing orders around members’ bills has really increased the number Parliament can consider in a day. First readings traditionally took 120 minutes, with 12 speeches of 10 minutes.

However now they take just 65 minutes with the first two speakers having 10 minutes each, the next eight speakers having 5 minutes each and then the member in charge has a five minute right of reply.

So this afternoon, we may see:

  1. 4 pm – 4.25 pm – Holidays (Full Recognition of Waitangi Day and Anzac Day) Amendment Bill, David Clark
  2. 4.35 pm – 5.30 pm – Joint Family Homes Repeal Bill, Simon O’Connor
  3. 5.30 pm – 6.00 pm and 7.30 pm to 8.05 pm – Illegal Contracts (Unlawful Limitation on Regulators’Powers) Amendment Bill, Lianne Dalziel
  4. 8.05 pm – 9.10 pm – Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months Paid Leave) Amendment Bill), Sur Moroney
  5. 9.10 pm – 10.00 pm – Lobbying Disclosure Bill, Holly Walker (partial)

Unusually the 1st and 4th bills may both pass, despite National voting against. However they could veto the Parental Leave bill at third reading if it proceeds that far.

Tags: ,

The four members’ bills

June 29th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

My column in the Herald (now published Thursdays) was on the members’ bill ballot. This was timed with four bills being drawn from the ballot. They are:

50 Overseas Investment (Restriction on Foreign Ownership of Land) Amendment Bill Dr Russel Norman
24 Habeas Corpus Amendment Bill Chris Auchinvole
35 Local Government (Salary Moderation) Amendment Bill Hon Annette King
52 Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Bill Todd McClay

Dr Norman’s bill would ban foreign ownership of “sensitive land”. This is any non-urban land greater than 0.05 square kilometers!

Chris Auchinvole’s bill implements some recommendations from the Law Commission on  habeas corpus applications. Mainly seems to be giving Judges slightly more discretion in dealing with them.

Annette King’s would require the State Services Commissioner to approve local authority CEO remuneration packages, as they do for government departments. Technically a bit of a breach of the independence of local bodies, but worth supporting at least for first reading as may be a useful tool for keeping relativity between central and local government.

Todd McClay’s would ban gang insignia being displayed within government (central and local) premises.

Tags: , , , ,

Super Thursday

June 28th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Today is a sort of Super Thursday at Parliament. A massive four new members’ bills will be drawn out of the ballot.

There are around 59 bills in the ballot, and two of them are on same sex marriage so the chances of one of them being drawn is around one in eight.

I’ll blog later today the ballot, and which bills got drawn.

Tags: ,

Handing over law making

May 29th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

As I blogged yesterday I am in support of modernising our adoption laws. They are literally a relic from the 1950s. But the law reform is not just about whether same sex couples should be able to adopt, but needs to deal with a wide range of adoption issues, guardianship issues and surrogacy issues.

A few people think this will lead to many gay couples getting to adopt children, ahead of “deserving” heterosexual couples. But I quote Andrew Geddis on this:

This law change will result in only an infinitesimal increase in the number of children who actually get raised by a same-sex couples because there are Fuck All “stranger” adoptions in New Zealand (less than 100 a year). And then a given same-sex couple only will be able to adopt a child if the birth mother chose them ahead of all other eligible couples. So if gay couples could join the pool of people eligible to adopt in this manner, the number of children who would be placed with them likely would be negligible

What this means is that the argument about whether kids being raised by same-sex couples is good/bad is pretty much irrelevant to this issue, because it ISN’T ABOUT MORE KIDS BEING RAISED BY SAME SEX COUPLES THAN THERE ARE AT THE MOMENT.

What this is about is like what we saw on TV3, where two lesbians have lived together for 19 years, and both have a biological child. however they can not make each other the adoptive parent of each child. So if one of them dies, one of the children could be left in limbo. The current law actually prevents the best interests of the child being paramount.

Media reported yesterday that National MP Nikki Kaye and Green MP Kevin Hague have been working for around 18 months on an adoption law reform bill. As I indicated, it is a hugely complex area, and just identifying the key policy issues is quite a task.

Now some in Labour have been saying that there is no need for a bill by Hague/Kaye, as Jacinda Ardern already has a bill in the members’ ballot. This prompted me to look more closely at the bill, and I’m afraid it is very seriously flawed. I have absolutely no doubt that Jacinda genuinely wants good law reform in this area, but the bill she has put forward is basically little more than a legislative request for the Government to do something. The bill, which is only slightly longer than a press release, essentially does the following:

  1. Requires the Minister for the Law Commission to ask the Law Commission to review the law relating to the care of children and update its September 2000 report on adoption
  2. Requires the Law Commission to report within 12 months a report, recommendations and draft legislation
  3. Requires the Minister of Justice to introduce the bill, as drafted by the Law Commission, without amendment within seven days

There are a significant number of semi-fatal flaws with this approach. The first is timing. Under the Ardern bill, there would probably be no law change for four or more years until after it has been selected from the ballot. The likely timings are:

  • 1st reading – 3 months after introduction
  • select committee – 6 months
  • 2nd and 3rd reading – 3 months
  • Law Commission report – 12 months
  • Govt Bill has first reading scheduled – up to 12 months
  • select committee – 6 months
  • 2nd and 3rd reading – 3 months

So even if the Ardern bill was drawn tomorrow, any actual law change would take four or more years, so maybe the law would be changed by 2017. The problem is that Jacinda is trying to use a bill, to get the Law Commission to write a bill. But Ardern’s bill itself would have to go through the full legislative process which would take probably 12 months. And I am being generous in suggesting it could take 12 months to pass. Many member’s bill have spent 18 months just awaiting their first reading!

Effectively what Ardern wants could be achieved by writing a letter to the Minister of Justice, and this would save one to two year’s time if the Minister agreed. However Ardern is trying to legislate to force the Minister to introduce a bill, even if they do not want to. But she has made a fatal error. She has legislated that such a bill must be introduced within 7 days of the Law Commission drafting it, but she has not said that the Government must schedule it for a first reading debate.  So if the Government did not want the bill to progress, it would simply place it at the bottom of the order paper – which they can do as it would be a Government bill. Even a minority Government would be able to prevent the bill from ever being voted on – something they can’t do with a private members’ bill that actually seeks a law change – rather than just ordering the Government to introduce a bill.

So to be very clear, even if a majority in Parliament favoured law reform, the process outlined in this bill would give the Government an effective veto. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario where for example it is after the 2014 election and say Colin Craig or Winston Peters could demand that the price of their support is the bill not proceed, as their constituents do not like it. By making it a Government bill, you lose control of its timing.

So the biggest problem if Ardern’s bill would not actually see any law change for four or more years, and could in fact never be voted on if the Government did not want it to pass. But that is only one flaw.

The second flaw is that the Ardern bill doesn’t specify a single policy principle. Not one. It gives actually no direction to the Law Commission as to what should be in the bill, what its scope should be, or even that the bill should not discriminate against same sex relationships. Every single detail is left to the Law Commission. This is a blank piece of paper. Now one could say, well surely they would mainly repeat what they reported in September 2000. Well they might. But it is worth considering that I think every single member of the Law Commission is now different from 12 year ago. So there is no guarantee that what the Law Commission would deliver is what Ardern wants. It is the job of legislators to spell out the general policy principles they want a law to reflect.

The third flaw is that the Minister of Justice is required to introduce whatever the Law Commission drafts, without amendment. Putting aside the rather important constitutional issues of making the Law Commission able to bypass Cabinet, it means that if a first reading is scheduled the MPs have to vote on whatever the Law Commission drafted. It could not be amended unless it survives to select committee. Such a bill could include a provision that all babies named David have to be placed into the care of CYFS and the Minister of Justice would be forced to introduce it without amendment. Sure that is an unlikely example, but it is a horrific precedent to have draft laws bypass Ministerial and/or MP approval, and going straight to a vote. This gives huge powers to the unelected Law Commissioners.

This is obviously a very bad idea. The political process is about MPs and parties working together to ensure a bill is acceptable and has enough support to pass first reading. There are often intense negotiations before a bill is introduced into Parliament.  The Ardern Bill actually entirely removes MPs from the legislative equation until the Law Commission bill reaches select committee – if it even made it that far. And the probability that it would face massive changes at select committee is enhanced when MPs have had zero say in its drafting.

The fourth flaw, I touched on earlier. Rather than introduce a private members’ bill that actually outlines the desired law changes, it just instructs the Government to introduce a bill in probably two years time. By then making it a Government bill, it means Parliament loses control of when it gets voted on, as Government bills are debated at the discretion of the Government. So by failing to specify that the bill must be scheduled for first (and subsequent) reading/s at the top of the Government order paper, the bill is basically entirely ineffective.

So in summary the Ardern bill is not a helpful (while I am sure well motivated) step towards sensible adoption law reform for the following four reasons:

  1. It would probably delay any actual law reform for four or more years. By contrast a private members bill which actually specified the proposed reforms could be passed into law within a year or so.
  2. There are absolutely no policy principles in the bill (not even that the welfare of the child is paramount). It is a total blank piece of paper for the Law Commission.
  3. The bill locks MPs out of any involvement in the eventual draft government legislation prepared by the Law Commission, making it far less likely of gaining the necessary support.
  4. The private members bill requires the Government to introduce a Government bill, which will then only progress at the timetable decided by the Government – rather than as Parliament wishes. Under MMP the two are not the same thing.

It is very easy to write a nine clause bill and trumpet that as the “solution”, claiming it would “address a wide range of concerns about the outdated Adoption Act”. But alas law making is not that simple or easy. Either you convince the Government to make adoption law a Government priority, or you draft a private members bill to do it yourself.

Tags: , , , ,

The Lobbying Disclosure Bill

April 11th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

One of the bills drawn out of the ballot last week was the Lobbying Disclosure Bill in the name of Holly Walker, bur originally drafted by Sue Kedgley.

The Herald had a headline “Long time lobbyist lobbies against lobby law”, but in fact the substance of the story was quite different:

One of the country’s longest standing lobbyists says a bill which would force lobbyists to register and disclose their clients and meetings with Government ministers is not necessary in New Zealand.

Mark Unsworth, a partner of government relations firm Saunders Unsworth, said he was not against the proposals in a Green Party bill which will soon go before Parliament but did not believe it was necessary.

I would suggest that this bill is a solution looking for a problem. But as no one wants to be seen as against transparency, it will probably proceed. Like Mark Unsworth, I have no problem in principle with the intent, but people should be aware of how far reaching the bill may be.

The Dom Post editorial is in favour of the bill, as is the Herald.

The proposed bill makes it an offence for any person to engage in lobbying activity, unless they are registered with the Auditor-General. The definition in the bill of lobbying is very wide. I blogged last year:

Arguably I could be regarded as a lobbyist for InternetNZ. For many years I chaired their Public Policy Committee as Vice-President of InternetNZ. As VP I had a small honorarium of $12,000 a year. I’ve retired as VP, but still chair the now titled Policy Advisory Group. This involves literally chairing the monthly meetings, but also meeting with policy staff regularly to help develop submissions, pro-actively identifying policy issues etc. I am now technically a contractor, as I am no longer an officer, and still get $12,000 a year for it.

Now for the last seven years or so, I’ve been one of the InternetNZ people who speaks to our submissions at select committees, and meets with MPs to advocate for what we regard as good for the Internet.

One could argue I am a paid lobbyist for InternetNZ in my current role. I don’t quite see it like that because my advocacy is based on my beliefs of what is good for the Internet, which coincide with InternetNZ. But under the proposed law, I might be classified as a lobbyist. Now that doesn’t worry me at all, but it seems strange to me as I’m not like a lawyer or lobbyist who will argue for a client regardless of their own beliefs. If ever INZ adopted a policy position I disagreed with, I would not take part in the advocacy around it.

Now depending on how you define a lobbyist, my advocacy on behalf of InternetNZ might be deemed lobbying in my role as a contractor to them, but how about when I was their Vice-President? I was doing much the same then, as I was today. I would argue you should say that if I am deemed a lobbyist as a contractor, I am also a lobbyist as an office holder.

Now if you do take that definition, then just be aware that an awfully large number of people will now be classified as lobbyists. I’d suspect 1,000+ people would fall into that definition.

Now if I am classified as a lobbyist for InternetNZ, then under this bill I’d say I’d have to report any tweets I direct towards MPs on Internet related issues.

At Kiwi Foo Camp there was a roundtable discussion with David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Clare Curran on innovation. I’m pretty sure we discussed some Internet issues there, so does that have to be disclosed even though there were 40 people in the room?

What if I go to a Meet the Candidates meeting and ask MPs a question on copyright issues, mentioning my own views on them? Do I face a $10,000 fine for not including that?

How about my blog posts? I know many MPs read this blog. Does that count as a communication towards them, that must be disclosed?

The bill should be supported at first reading. Its intent is worthy. However I think a select committee will have to very carefully consider it to ensure it doesn’t become a bureaucratic monster where (for example) every discussion between a Greenpeace activist and a Green MP doesn’t require forms in triplicate.

Tags: , ,

The Members’ Bill Ballot

April 5th, 2012 at 11:42 am by David Farrar

Two members’ bills had their first readings yesterday which means a ballot today for two new bills. The bills in the ballot are:

1. Accident Compensation (Recent Migrants and Returning New Zealanders) Amendment Bill, Melissa Lee
2. Care of Children Law Reform Bill, Jacinda Ardern
3., Children’s Commissioner (Reporting on Legislation) Amendment Bill, Dr Rajen Prasad
4. Climate Change (New Zealand Superannuation Fund) Amendment Bill, Eugenie Sage
5. Commerce (Code of Practice for Supermarket Grocery Suppliers) Amendment Bill, Steffan Browning
6. Conservation (Natural Heritage Protection) Bill, Jacqui Dean
7. Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill, Mojo Mathers
8. Continental Shelf (Oil Exploration Safety) Amendment Bill, Moana Mackey
9. Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance (Break Fees Disclosure) Amendment Bill, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga
10. Customs and Excise (Prohibition of Imports Made by Slave Labour) Amendment Bill, Hon Maryan Street
11. Defence (Overseas Deployment) Amendment Bill, Iain Lees-Galloway
12. Electoral (Entrenchment of Māori Representation) Amendment Bill, Hon Parekura Horomia
13. Employment Relations (Protection of Young Workers) Bill, Rino Tirikatene
14. Employment Relations (Statutory Minimum Redundancy Entitlements) Amendment Bill, Louisa Wall
15. Employment Relations (Triangular Employment) Amendment Bill, Dr David Clark
16. Energy Efficiency and Conservation (Warm Healthy Rentals) Amendment Bill, Gareth Hughes
17. Environmental Reporting Bill, Grant Robertson
18. Equal Pay Amendment Bill, Jan Logie
19. Family Proceedings (Paternity Orders and Parentage Tests) Amendment Bill, Nicky Wagner
20. Financial Assistance for Live Organ Donors Bill, Michael Woodhouse
21. Habeas Corpus Amendment Bill, Chris Auchinvole
22. Illegal Contracts (Unlawful Limitation on Regulators’ Powers) Amendment Bill, Hon Lianne Dalziel
23. Immigration (Migrant Levy) Amendment Bill, Raymond Huo
24. Income Tax (Universalisation of In-work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill, Metiria Turei
25. International Non-Aggression and the Lawful Use of Force Bill, Dr Kennedy Graham
26. Kiwi Jobs Bill, Clare Curran
27. Land Transport (Admissibility of Evidential Breath Tests) Amendment Bill, Scott Simpson
28. Land Transport (Give Way to Buses) Bill, Julie Anne Genter
29. Land Transport (Safer Alcohol Limits for Driving) Amendment Bill, Phil Twyford
30. Lobbying Disclosure Bill, Holly Walker
31. Local Government (Council Controlled Organisations) Amendment Bill, Darien Fenton
32. Local Government (Public Libraries) Amendment Bill, Dr Megan Woods
33. Local Government (Salary Moderation) Amendment Bill, Hon Annette King
34. Local Government (Salary Reform) Amendment Bill, Denis O’Rourke
35. Maritime Transport Amendment Bill, Hon Phil Goff
36. Members of Parliament (Code of Ethical Conduct) Bill, HV Ross Robertson
37. Minimum Wage Amendment Bill, Andrew Little
38. New Zealand Bill of Rights Amendment Bill, David Clendon
39. New Zealand Flag Bill, Charles Chauvel
40. New Zealand Public Health and Disability (Change of Electoral Sytem for District Health Boards) Amendment Bill, Dr Jian Yang
41. Oaths and Declarations (Members of Parliament) Amendment Bill, Su’a William Sio
42. Oaths and Declarations (Upholding the Treaty of Waitangi) Amendment Bill, Te Ururoa Flavell
43. Overseas Investment (Owning Our Own Rural Land) Amendment Bill, David Shearer
44. Overseas Investment (Restriction on Foreign Ownership of Land) Amendment Bill, Dr Russel Norman
45. Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months Paid Leave) Amendment Bill, Sue Moroney
46. Plain Language Bill, Chris Hipkins
47. Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Bill, Todd McClay
48. Public Finance (Sustainable Development Indicators) Amendment Bill, Kevin Hague
49. Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Essential Financial Services) Amendment Bill, Denise Roche
50. Resource Management (Requiring Authorities) Amendment Bill, Hon Ruth Dyson
51. Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill, Catherine Delahunty
52. Sentencing (Reparation) Amendment Bill, Kris Faafoi
53. Sentencing (Short-sharp Sentences) Amendment Bill, Le’aufa’amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor
54. Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal (Shopping Centre Opening Hours) Amendment Bill, Hon Trevor Mallard
55. State-Owned Enterprises and Crown Entities (Protecting New Zealand’s Strategic Assets) Amendment Bill, Hon Clayton Cosgrove
56. Summary Offences (Possession of Hand-held Lasers) Amendment Bill, Dr Cam Calder
57. Summary Proceedings (Warrant for Detention Conditions) Amendment Bill, Jonathan Young
58. Wild Animal Control (Increased Fines and Sentence of Imprisonment) Amendment Bill, Ian McKelvie

I’ll try and blog who won if I hear before I start driving north.

Hat Tip: Red Alert

Tags: ,