Chief Justice’s cows breaking the law

January 27th, 2016 at 11:56 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A South Island farm owned by Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias has breached regional council rules by allowing cattle in a lake.

Holidaymaker Allan Brown photographed cows drinking in Lake Taylor, about 50 kilometres northwest of Hawarden, last week. He has since lodged a complaint with Environment Canterbury (ECan).

His picture, which has been widely shared online, showed the animals were on Lakes Station land. Elias and her businessman husband, Hugh Fletcher, are the majority owners of the 5000-hectare high country farm.

Fletcher told RNZ he let the cows into the lake on hot days, but their access was not continuous.

ECan consents and compliance manager Marty Mortiaux said the cattle were not allowed to be in the lake.

“It’s breaking our regional rules, there is a . . . resource consent to carry out the activity, but in this case there is no consent, so they are breaching the rules,” he told RNZ.

“We have an officer that’s investigating. There may well be an explanation that is satisfactory for them being in there and that will determine what sort of enforcement action we look at.”

Mortiaux said there were several penalties that could be imposed, including an abatement notice, an instant $750 fine and, in the worst case, prosecution.

On matters of legal compliance, a farm owned by the Chief Justice should be like Caesar’s Wife – above reproach and suspicion.

Should Elias recuse herself?

December 22nd, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes in NZ Herald:

Should Chief Justice Sian Elias recuse herself from the upcoming Supreme Court hearing on the Maori water rights claim?

The Chief Justice will no doubt be aware of the mutterings around Wellington on this score since the Maori Council, whose co-chairman is Maanu Paul, issued its claim to water rights and geothermal energy.

It would be a big call to challenge the Chief Justice, who has (in fact) presided over at least three Supreme Court hearings in which the Maori Council has been a plaintiff without facing any challenge from the Executive. But Cabinet ministers are understood to have asked Crown Law to look at whether grounds do in fact exist for a challenge, or a request to be made to her to stand aside.

That’s news to me, and I wouldn’t take it as gospel.

Elias’ prior connections with the Maori Council were so deep that it is surprising that issue has not come up in a considered way before.

She successfully acted for the council on several high-profile Treaty of Waitangi claims against the Crown in the late 1980s through to the mid-1990s.

Some Cabinet ministers take the view that because of this strong and lengthy relationship as one of the council’s prime legal advocates, she should recuse herself from the upcoming appeal by the Maori Council against High Court judge Ron Young’s judgment effectively clearing the way for the Government to sell down its shareholding in Mighty River Power.

I don’t think there is a need for Elias to recuse herself. You should recuse yourself due to personal conflicts, but not on the basis of whom your former clients were. Lawyers are advocates for hire. If Judges had to recuse themselves because someone appearing before them is a former client, then you’d have no end of recusals.

Elias is known to be very sympathetic to Maori claims, but that also is not a ground for recusal. She was appointed a Judge and later Chief Justice with her leanings being well known.

The Elias speech

October 15th, 2011 at 11:05 am by David Farrar

The media have suddenly found a speech by Chief Justice Elias and are reporting:

The country’s top judge has taken a veiled swipe at the Government’s justice policies, warning that some Cabinet decisions threaten the “fragile” independence of the judiciary.

In a rare public critique, Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias warns that decisions “which seem quite innocent” are undermining the basic principles of the constitution.

In a speech at Waikato University last month, Dame Sian broke with convention, criticising moves by politicians to interfere with the courts in pursuit of cost savings.

The speech was made on 12 September, so has been available for five weeks. The first part of her speech is about constitutional reform, and I tend to agree with the sentiments of the CJ that the reliance on conventions has its risks. On one issue of electoral law the CJ said:

The Electoral Acts stand in a special category because they establish the conditions of democratic government and have long been subject to supermajority requirements for amendment as a result.

I wish that was the case. But in fact only a small number of provisions in the Electoral Act require a super-majority, and in recent times we have seen highly partisan and even retrospective changes to the Electoral Act done on narrow majorities. I would like to see more of the Electoral Act entrenched.

Of course the entrenchment clause itself is not entrenched so Parliament could change even entrenched clauses with a bare majority, but there would be a significant political price to pay for doing that.

The CJ then refers to three risks from the current “obscurity” of the constitution. They are:

  1. the rule of law
  2. human rights
  3. the role of the Treaty

With regard to (1) she quotes Lord Cooke that there are some rights and duties that are “truly fundamental” and are ultimately an inescapable judicial responsibility. This is an ages old argument about what would the courts do if for example Parliament voted to execute all babies with blue eyes. It is an interesting academic argument but not one I deem necessary to stay awake at nights worrying about.

Personally my view is that the reserve powers of the head of state should be the protection we rely on from a non-benign Parliament, but the problem with our current arrangements is the PM can sack the effective head of state at will.

The part that has got people excited is this:

I think there are signs that the courts are isolated and aspects of their independence precarious. Court resources are within the responsibility of executive government. Regulations prescribe the terms on which citizens have access to the courts. Court fees are within executive control. These are matters which should be subject to more public discussion than has been the case, perhaps because they are not popularly seen as touching on the constitutional principle of access to the courts. One of my colleagues has asked in a previous Harkness Henry lecture, not entirely in jest, whether we would regard with similar equanimity the imposition of fees to have access to a member of Parliament or a responsible Minister. Judges and lawyers may get the point. But if the wider community does not, it is no jesting matter at all.

Judges complaining about court fees is nothing new. But unless the Judges wish to self-fund their salaries, then Parliament will set the fees (or delegate to Govt) as it is Parliament that raises the revenue to pay for their operations.

As for the comparison to access for MPs, I think it is apples and oranges. No developed country charges for access to MPs and no developed country I know of has no court fees.

Judicial support staff are Ministry employees. The Registrars of the courts are managers employed by the Ministry although nominally responsible to the judges for their registry functions. The judges have no effective say in the allocation of the budget for courts and have had little influence in the priorities set by the Ministry. It seems to be assumed that the administration of the courts (including the administration of judges) is an executive function and that judicial independence is sufficiently preserved if individual judges are not directed how to decide particular cases.

Here the Chief Justice is acting as head of the Judges’ Union. Most previous CJs have done the same. Wanting their own budget has been a long-standing issue, as is wanting to control their support staff directly. I have some sympathy for their desires but would be interested in how many countries have the judiciary actually managing their own department.

It can be expected, too, that the work of international agencies such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee will provide encouragement towards commonality. It would be bold to suppose that legal cultural differences will not shift under such external influences.

The UN Human Rights Committee/Council is probably the biggest threat to human rights we have. They seek to invent new rights such as for religions to be immune from criticism which would be fatal for free speech.

Perhaps it is time to think again about the recommendation of Lord Lester that we would benefit from a Human Rights Committee of Parliament to keep a close watch on legislation which impacts on fundamental rights and freedoms. Such a Committee might even with advantage take on a wider responsibility to scrutinise measures which impact upon constitutional values.

The CJ says several times that protecting human rights is not the duty of the courts alone. I agree, and think a Human Rights Committee of Parliament could be a good thing.

The next Governor-General

August 17th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key is about to consider who the next Governor-General will be. And the word is he may buck the recent trend of appointing a former judge and opt for someone more unorthodox to the role.

Some of the names being tossed around by observers include Sir Don McKinnon, Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast and arts patron Dame Jenny Gibbs.

Philanthropist and recently named Distinguished Citizen of Auckland Rosie Horton said one person stood head and shoulders above others.

“Sir Don McKinnon. He has had an outstanding and highly revered international life and done a stunning job at the Commonwealth Secretariat, and he’s just a very fine New Zealander that we can all be proud of. And he’s come back to New Zealand.

On a personal level, Sir Don would be well suited for the role and would perform it well. However I maintain that former MPs should not be appointed to the job, regardless of how meritorious their post-parliamentary life.  The GG should be non-partisan.

“[Philanthropist and arts patron] Dame Jenny Gibbs is also marvellous, very clever and gracious to meet and such a marvellous role model.”

Dame Jenny is an interesting possibility.

Property investor Sir Robert Jones said the Governor-General should be a New Zealander who was not a token appointment.

He said Kerry Prendergast would “be wonderful at the job”.

Heh I presume this means he is not standing a Mayoral candidate against her. While there would be precedent fer Kerry to be given the job, as Cath Tizard was, I still maintain that Kerry’s national party background makes her a sub-optimal appointment. Again, nothing to do with her personal qualities, but that the GG should not be a political figure.

Asked about Maori academic Sir Mason Durie, Sir Robert said he would be “very tokenistic”, and former Labour Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer would be “most unsuitable”.

I can’t see it going to a former Labour PM.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei would support a female representative of ethnic groups, but insisted she was not throwing her own hat into the ring.

I am surprised Metiria only insisted that the GG be ethnic and female. She forget to include the additional criteria of being left handed and disabled.

She said former Rugby World Cup Ambassador Andy Haden “might not be the best option”.

Can agree on that one.

The appointment is the Prime Minister’s alone. He can consult whom he wants, or no one at all.

Which is why I think the effective head of state should be (at a minimum) appointed by Parliament, not by the PM solely.

If Mr Key decided that another judge should live in Government House, then Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias could be a candidate, though husband Hugh Fletcher might be a more popular choice.

There is no way the Chief Justice will give up that job to become Governor-General.

Sir Kenneth Keith, who is serving on the International Court of Justice, may be less controversial than either of them.

Sir Kenneth would be a fine choice in my opinion.

The Thomas/Farmer e-mails

August 6th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald has put online 50 pages of e-mails related to the Justice Wilson complaints, between former Judge Ted Thomas and QC Jim Farmer.

They are a fascinating read, and quite extraordinary – especially as the friendship gets strained on the issue of Justice Wilson. The Herald summarises:

As time passed and Sir Edmund pressed Dr Farmer to come forward, the emails between the two good friends became strained.

When Dr Farmer suggested that Sir Edmund might have leaked information to a controversial blogger, the retired judge replied that the comment made him “unbelievably angry”.

“I note that you are distressed. You sound like Weatherston,” Sir Edmund wrote, referring to Clayton Weatherston, the man found guilty of killing Sophie Elliott.

“We are all distressed. Those who have expressly used the word ‘sick’ to describe how they felt about this whole sorry business include you, me, the Chief Justice and the Attorney-General. To make matters worse, it is a distress that could have been avoided if Alan had followed your original advice and tabled the true facts with the Chief Justice at the outset.”

The blogsite they refer to is the one by Vince Siemer.

Siemer v Solicitor-General

March 2nd, 2010 at 10:15 am by David Farrar

Proceedings have just started in the Supreme Court with the full bench of five Justices, and I am live blogging from the media bench.

Robert Lithgow is appearing pro bono for Vincent Siemer in seeking leave to appeal appealing a decision of the Court of Appeal.

Siemer has had a long standing feud with receiver Michael Stiassny and various items on a website he ran have been ordered to be removed. Siemer was prosecuted by the Solicitor-General for refusing to do as contempt of court, and was sentenced to jail for a finite period.

The issue is that as the Solicitor-General did not seek a term of less than three months, then should Siemer have been entitled to a trial by jury under the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990.

A major aspect of this is whether or not use of contempt of court is a criminal process or civil process.

Chief Justice Elias is interjecting quite frequently.

Lithgow is arguing that rather than have the Court of Appeal reduce the term of imprisonment, they should have quashed the conviction for contempt and ordered a jury trial.

Finally another Justice has interjected. Not sure of his name, but the Justice sitting on the far right (from my view).

CJ Elias has interjected around a dozen times, which may be seen as scepticism, but she has also commented she is favourable to one of the arguments.

An interesting discussion on what will happen is Siemer does get his jury trial, and whether he will argue that the injunctions should not have been issued, rather than the he did ot breach them.

Lithgow concedes his client is most likely to want to argue the injunctions should not have been issued, but that this is not relevant as the court will control the trial, and can rule on what is allowed.

The Registrar has kindly given me a seating plan for the Justices, so I can now identify that Justice Anderson was the Judge referred to above. Justice Blanchard has questioned Lithgow considerably also.

It is tempting to try and conclude that the level of questioning means a Judge is hostile to the argument, but this is not necessarily the case. What I will find interesting is to contrast how the Crown Law arguments are treated.

Back now after the morning tea break. Focusing on a 1908 English case on contempt. Only other media here are Law Journal editor Bernard Robertson and NBR’s Rob Hosking.

The discussion is how to assemble a jury where there has been no criminal indictment.

The Court of Appeal has already found that the contempt process was essentially a criminal matter (unlike the High Court), but did not grant a jury trial, and instead reduced the sentence so no trial was necessary. Lithgow says main point is he received a criminal sentence originally.

If the original conviction/order is quashed, then the Solicitor-General could seek a new trial, and seek a punishment of less than three months. However it is debatable whether the SG not seeking a longer sentence means that this is binding on the court, and hence even in that circumstance could still require a jury trial.

Lithgow is arguing that a jury can be trusted to deal with a matter of contempt, as the contempt laws exist for the sake of citizens.

CJ Elias is trying to move Lithgow on, saying that if there is a right, there is a right, regardless of whether or not one thinks it is suitable for a jury.

The debate has now moved to whether or not Siemer had complied with the injunction as he did remove some material from his website. Lithgow argues there was no way to know exactly what material needed to be removed.

Justice Anderson makes the point that Siemer could have applied to the High Court to get the injunction clarified. CJ Elias says the SC will not give an advisory opinion during the hearing on the injunction. She also says that the injunction does not require the entire website to be taken down – just material that breaches the injunction.

My feeling is that Siemer is unlikely to prevail on the issue of asserting he did not breach the injunction. But on the wider issue of the right to a jury trial, still very hard to read until one hears the Crown Law arguments.

Justice Blanchard has said the terms of the injunction are not complicated. Lithgow argues what remains on the website is merely a few splinters, and how far does one go in removing material, when the vast majority has been removed.

Madeleine Laracy has just started speaking for the Solicitor-General. Says that requiring jury trials to enforce contempt breaches would lead to many

more people ignoring court orders, so they can take their chances pleading before a jury. Is now quoting my favourite Justice Scalia on how contempt is just enforcing a civil process.

Justice Anderson has asked if there is any other civil proceeding that can lead to imprisonment, now that they no longer jail for debts. Laracy responds that prison can be avoided my complying with the court orders, and is essentially a choice for Siemer.

The Assistant Crown Counsel is Briar Charmley. So far the “off-siders” have not got to speak.

Just back from the lunch break. My views of the exterior remain unchanged. Up close it is even worse. The rails look dusty, and it really belongs in a 1950s Soviet museum. However the inside is quite different. What I most like is that the court room itself is just inside from the main door, so it is really easy to access it. And the interior of the court room is lovely. I’d take a photo of it, except I didn’t apply in advance for permission – may do so next time.

Justice McGrath is asking why there should be a distinction between civil and criminal contempt. Laracy says criminal law’s aim is to punish, and civil law’s aim is to coerce to comply and is not unconditional and can be mitigated or averted by compliance.

McGrath responds that the distinction is academic because at the end of the day it is still jail. Laracy says it may only be jail if they do not comply. Quite amusing to see a former Solicitor-General cross swords with Crown Law.

Justice Wilson has also said he finds the distinction artificial.

Overall Crown Law is getting reasonably battered on the civil vs criminal argument.

Laracy says no case in NZ history has had contempt dealt with as an indictable criminal offence, and referring to the Nash case.

Have to head off now. Very dangerous to make predictions on a case when you have not read all the material, but my impressions are:

  • Siemer will not succeed at being found to have not broken the injunctions
  • Siemer will succeed at having contempt charges with no maximum term of imprisonment deemed to be a criminal matter, which could require in future a jury trial
  • But I do not think he will succeed in getting a new trial

I may be wrong on everything though 🙂

I also think at some stage the Government may amend the law so that an offence of contempt with a maximum three month imprisonment term is made available as a judicial option. This would be a sensible measure so there is something less draconian that possible indefinite imprisonment.

Parliament and the Courts

September 11th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Australasian Study of Parliament Group had a seminar in the Beehive on Wednesday on the issue of Parliament and the Courts.

The first speaker was Professor Philip Joseph, who is widely considered the leading constitutional scholar in New Zealand.

Professor Joseph discussed the issue of parliamentary sovereignty and whether or not it exists or is absolute.  There were references to musings from Lord Cooke and Chief Justice Elias that such sovereignty is not absolute.

This does not mean that the judiciary is sovereign either. In fact the theme pushed was neither institution was sovereign, and there is mutual respect for the roles of each, with boundaries between them.

There was a suggestion you could call this co-sovereignty, looking at it being the Crown through her Parliament and the Crown through her Courts being co-sovereign, but sovereignty tends not to be shared (the Roman Republic did effectively share it through having two Consuls but that didn’t work too well eventually).

The example by CJ Elias was whether the judiciary would uphold a law that (for example) said all blue eyed babies must be killed.  Of course that would never be passed (and if it was, the Governor-General might not assent to it) so it is an academic argument.

Professor Joseph said that the rule of law does exist outside of legislation and that it pre-dates the concept of parliament sovereignty by many hundreds of years.

An example would be in countries that have had a coup. Often the judiciary will adopt or refer to the doctrine of necessity to maintain the rule of law – even without legislative backing.

The second speaker was Labour MP Charles Chauvel, in his role as Chairman of the Privileges Committee. He had some interesting historical facts such as how Magistrates were not seen as Independent Judges until just a few decades ago, and how the Minister of Justice used to actually be accountable in the House for their decisions.

His main theme was respecting the boundaries between Parliament and the Judiciary, and how the Privileges Committee decision to recommend limitations on an MPs ability to breach a court suppression order, helps respect those boundaries – especially as it was initiated by Parliament voluntarily.

He took a swipe at both Justice Minister Simon Power and his colleague Trevor Mallard for their recent comments, plus also at Attorney-General Chris Finlayson for not publicly defending the Judges concerned. Power criticised CJ Elias’ call for prisoners to be released early and Mallard criticised the lack of jail in the Moses exorcism manslaughter case, saying they would have got jail time if they were not Maori.

Chauvel said he thought both Power’s and Mallard’s comments pushed against the boundary of mutual respect, or comity.

In fact he revealed the Opposition was concerned enough about Mallard’s comments they their Justice Spokesperson wrote officially to the Chief Justice disassociating themselves from the comments, and saying he was speaking as a local MP only and not on behalf of Labour. The letter and response from the CJ was shown briefly on the screen.

The seminar was well attended and ably chaired by Colin James, with extra chairs having to be found for everyone. Definitely only a topic for constitutional geeks, but it is a fascinating area for New Zealand as one of the few countries with no written constitution.

The Press on the Chief Justice

July 20th, 2009 at 6:30 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial is hard hitting:

The flouting of convention that the Chief Justice’s address on penal policy represents is such that it is very hard to see any other explanation for it except that it was a preparation for resignation from the Bench. Even then, her observations were something that would have been more properly delivered after she had left rather than before.

The Chief Justice has effectively declared herself in opposition to the policies endorsed by voters at the last election. Any decisions she makes in future will be tainted with the fact she has entered the realm of partisan politics, and the respect for her decisions will be greatly lessened.

Once appointed, judges hold their positions until they reach retirement age. It is, for all intents and purposes, impossible to sack them and they are answerable to no-one. These provisions are designed to ensure that their judgments are given without fear or favour, and in particular that they are free from political interference.

The other side of this arrangement is that judges loyally apply the laws passed by Parliament and refrain from inserting themselves into political debate. These conventions are now hundreds of years old and have stood the test of time better than any of the alternatives tried in other jurisdictions.

Departure from them risks compromising the integrity of the justice system. The Chief Justice’s address crossed the line between what is proper under this convention and what is not.

And the Chief Justice said herself, she knew her speech would provoke a reaction.

The Chief Justice speaks with the authority of her high judicial office, although it should be remembered that that does not give her any particular expertise in penal policy. It would also be interesting to know what her attitude would be if any judge whose views differed from hers were to make his or her opinions publicly known.

Indeed. Is it open slather for Judges now? Can other Judges give speeches demanding Parliament impose longer prison terms?

Unlike judges, politicians are answerable every three years for their opinions and actions on political topics. Like anyone else, judges are free to enter into these political debates if they wish to do so. But if they do wish to do so they must be answerable for the policies they advocate. They cannot do so from the privileged position they occupy on the Bench.

The real danger is that Elias may use her position as head of the judiciary to impose her personal views that sentences should be much shorter, regardless of what Parliament says. We have already seen the Court of Appeal consistently knocking a few years off non parole periods in a couple of cases.

Great line

July 16th, 2009 at 4:19 pm by David Farrar

In response to the suggestion by Chief Justice Elias that the Government reduce prison populations through a mass early release amnesty, Simon Power gave an excellent response:

Justice Minister Simon Power said inmates would not get amnesties.

He also made a pointed remark about the role of the judiciary versus Parliament.

“This is not government policy. The Government was elected to set sentencing policy, judges are appointed to apply it.”

Indeed that is how it works. And it is not as if any prisoners server their full sentences anyway. Almost everyone gets out at two thirds of their sentence, and some even get out at one third. They already have lots out on early release.

A parliamentary day

December 8th, 2008 at 7:55 pm by David Farrar

My day started in Auckland. I stayed up there for an extra day as National’s Northern Region had its Christmas Party on Sunday Night. The Regional Chair spoke about how well the Party did locally n both the party and the electorate vote.

John Key gave a very funny speech. There were serious parts about the future of mass membership parties, the financial crisis etc but I remember the part about his son ringing him up a few days ago, from the place he was babysitting at and complaining he was hungry. When John asked what he was meant to do, he was informed that as Prime Minister he can surely arrange for some pizzas of he can run the country. The story continued with how impressed the Pizza Hut staff were to have the PM call in an order, and now that they have his cellphone number they let him know how he is doing in the job 🙂

This morning I was on the same flight as Helen Clark, and in fact was set to be just behind her in the queue to board the plane. I was just about to greet her automatically with “Good Morning Prime Minister” until I realised that of course is no longer the salutation. I actually had to stop and think for quite a few seconds about what the correct greeting would be, and settled on “Miss Clark”. But by then she had left the line.

Headed into Parliament a bit after 1 pm, and for the first time in nine years sat on the side of the visitors gallery opposite the Government benches. It was nice to be able to see the Nats back on the Speaker’s right.

There was a TV set up in the gallery, so we could see the three Commissioners cross the road and walk through the grounds and corridors of Parliament to the House. The Governor-General is not allowed in the House so he sends three Commissioners to do the opening. They were the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal and the Chief High Court Judge.

Dame Sian read out the various proclamations and asked the MPs to elect a Speaker. The Commissioners then exited the House and the Clerk of the House proceeded to swear MPs in. They come up in alphabetical order and are grouped by whether they swear or affirm the oath and on whether they speak in English or Maori.

Lots of MPs did modified versions of the oath, as their way to try and score a point. It got a bit tiresome really, as after they did their version, they then did the official one. Several MPs tried to add on references to the Treaty of Waitangi (including a European MP), and Sio tried it in Samoan before doing it in English. I did have to laugh though at Hone Harawira’s one which bore no resemblance at all to the oath as he went on about a duty to Te Tai Tokerau, Aotearoa, his constituents, the public etc. He then did the much shorter standard one.

The funniest part was when they called Darren Hughes and Parekura Horomia up together. This was a slip up as Parekura was to do it in Maori, and Darren in English. Rather than make a fuss Darren said it in Maori with Parekura – he didn’t even do a Milli Vanilli but managed the words well.

Then the election of Speaker at around 2.45 pm. Lockwood was the only nominee and certainly looked the part. He did a really good acceptance speech and referred to being in Parliament when Speaker Gerry Wall threw out the PM and the Opposition Leader on the same day. He said he hoped not to emulate that record but would do so if it was necessary!

This then led to several other MPs telling uncomplimentary stories of Speaker Wall (generally regarded as worst Speaker in living memory) as they congratulated Lockwood. Talking of Lockwood, Audrey Young has a blog on what she sees as his strengths and weaknesses for the job.

Normally after the House elects a Speaker-Elect (believe it or not the GG has to confirm them in the role), the Speaker-Elect travels to Government House to be confirmed and ask the GG to respect the privileges of the House etc. But as Government House is being renovated, we got a rare treat and MPs (and their guests) got to witness the ceremony being held in the Legislative Council Chamber. Took around half an hour all up.

As we were waiting I was chatting to a Minister about special votes and overseas votes and how he was keen for me to do some analysis around them. As I agreed to do so, one of the new Labour MPs sitting just in front of us turns around, and says she’d like a copy also 🙂

Actually I’ll probably stick it on the blog once I do finish it, as it is all sourced from public information.

After the GG/Speaker ceremony, there was a function in the State Banquet Hall, hosted by the GG. Got to meet a few of the new MPs I had not yet met, which was nice. What was funny was when talking to one new Labour MP and her husband, the photographer asked if we wanted our photo taken together. I quipped that it would probably knock 1,000 votes off her majority so we declined 🙂

Finally as I was leaving Parliament, I had the good fortune to be on the forecourt just as Emma Daken arrived. I blogged about Emma a few days ago – she is walking the length of New Zealand to raise money for cystric fibrosis research. MP Katrina Shanks pointed her out to me. Katrina, like many MPs, has been really supportive of Emma’s efforts. She’s now raised $21,000 but still some way off the $50,000 target. You can donate online to here at this site. I find what people like Emma are doing is really inspiring in its selflessness.

So a pretty full day. Tomorrow is the state opening and the GG reads out the speech from the throne. After that I expect the House will elect a Deputy Speaker, two Assistant Speakers and also appoint MPs to Select Committees. They will then start the address in reply debate, but also go into urgency to introduce and pass some of the laws they promised.

The maiden speeches will start tomorrow, and the best speeches you will ever hear in Parliament are (in my order) valedictory speeches, maiden speeches and then speeches on conscience issues. With 35 MPs that is a heck of a lot of maiden speeches (I guess Sir Roger won’t get one though) so I doubt I can cover them all, but will try to cover a few of them anyway.