Sunday, November 07, 2004

Select committee

In light of recent legislation, such as the Families Commission Act, the Prostitution Reform Act, and with the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, this current government is returning to an extreme form of majoritarian democracy which was seen in the First Past the Post days. When MMP was introduced in 1996, those who supported it wanted to see a more representative form of Government with less power and more responsibility.

But currently there is too much power and not enough responsibility - and the Government plans to impose more unwelcome reforms on an unwilling public. If people are concerned about a bill they can submit to a select committee. Yet in the case of the Foreshore and Seabed Legislation, most people who wanted to present an oral submission to the committee did not get the chance as the Government decided only the few that it selected had a right to do so.

Had the Government appealed the Appeal Court decision on the Foreshore and Seabed to the Privy Council, instead of scrapping the Privy Council, it would have either delayed or not needed any Foreshore and Seabed Bill. The legislation has not only divided the country, it has divided MPs within Government. The fact is that most people don't like the legislation, but the Government is hell bent on passing it to save face, with an election next year. After all, power is more important than governance for Labour at present.

The Social Services Select Committee failed to report back to Parliament on the Families Commission Bill as members couldn't agree on a definition of "family". The fact that written submissions were disregarded caused one party leader to write and apologise to all submitters to the select committee for wasting their time.

Back in the FPP days, the smaller select committee representation was effectively neutered by the fact that the majority of its members owed an overriding loyalty to the Government of the day. Voters didn't like that.

It hasn't channged much with MMP, other than hte fact that if there is a disagreement between parties, the select committee is neutered by the fact that no clear decision is reached.
Those people who submitted to the select committee on the Families Commission and the Foreshore and Seabed legislation did not have too much sway in the final draft of the bills, as no report was tabled forhte former bvill and no changed was made to the latter bill.

However, the powerful and influential groups such as the Human Rights Commission and the Law Commission still had their say. You can also include the Prostitutes Collective - who pretty much wrote the Prostitution Reform Act - and medical groups who lobbied against a change to teenage abortion notifications in the Care of Children Bill.

In the case of the Foreshore and Seabed bill, it is going back to the House for the second reading unchanged, (Select committee report is here). This is despite 97 percent opposition by the public - including Maori groups, who have much less leverage than non-Maori groups in New Zealand.

Any alterations are left to MP's via supplementary order papers.

Come the final readings of these bills, the Government flip-flops. First its off to United Future for the Families Commission, will go to NZ First to pass the Foreshore and Seabed Legislation, and to the Greens to pass the Care of Children Bill.

That's not how voters wanted MMP to pan out.

Do submitters to select committees have any more sway over the decision of legislation at select committee time than they did during the days of FPP? Especially as there is no evidence that written submissions are actually read by every committee member unless the submitter makes an oral presentation.

And then ignore it if they don’t agree with it, or only allow some to make oral submissions, particularly those who agree with the Government line. That's elitist.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, I fail to see how exactly the Prostitution Law Reform Act's passage was 'excessive majoritarian
democracy,' when Ashraf Choudhary's absention was the key to its passage, and it only passed by one vote!

On the other hand, the Seabed and Foreshore Bill is going to cause headaches for them. For one thing, what
if Tariana Turia and other Maori Party MPs end up holding the balance of power after the next election?
As far as I'm concerned, the government should have left well enough alone. Ditto the Ahmed Zaoui debacle.

However, Dave, note that the fact that you and I have
different criticisms about the scope of government action over the last three years would probably be interpreted as the Clark administration's 'centrism.'

As for the Care of Children Bill's Clause 37*, well, yes, current legislative reforms do rely on professional corroboration for passage or failure. And it's true, that has worked to the advantage of prostitution law reform, lesbian/gay rights and abortion rights.

However, that doesn't *always* work to conservative Christian disadvantage, either. What about the Death With Dignity Bill, which the New Zealand Medical Association currently **opposes?**


*And what happened to the debate over lesbian and gay
guardianship rights and responsibilities in the CCB?

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