Monday, March 26, 2007

Submitting to select committees

I have been asked whether submitting to select comittees is worth it if MPs have pretty much made up their minds what to do once the call for submissions have been made, the insinuation that was made in association with the anti smacking bill.

For those who don't know, select committees work on the principles of natural justice. Members work on behalf of the House and report their conclusions to the House . Sometime, when they are considering a bill before Parliament, they can ask your opinion and call for submissions, but it is not compulsory to do so. However the reason they sometimes ask for public input is so that they can get ideas to make bills before the committee a little clearer so they can be passed.

Many use the process to protest against prospective legislation and wonder why they are listened to and then ignored. Many MPs on a select committee have made up their minds that a certain bill is likely or could be passed before even considering the first submission - otherwise the bill concerned will have been voted down at the first reading. The reason it goes to select committee is to consider public input, particularly input that will assist MPs in passing a bill, not defeating it. The reason why dissenters are also heard is so that democracy can be seen to be upheld.

Yet if the select committee is considering other matters and the Labour Members in the committee are on the minority side as they were here, not only the public who disagree with Labour get snubbed, but so do the majority of MPs on the committee, and the committees recommendations are ignored.

Public opinion doesn't even come into the process.If the issue is not going to avote in the house ,as with the plunketline issue, parliamentary opinion doesnt come into it either.

With the Section 59 anti smacking bill, every submission that directly opposed the bill was ignored as the majority of the committee wanted the bill passed in the best form possible. The majority of submitters effectively had no say in the matter, despite being asked to have their say.

I submitted to the bill and suggested improvements with a view to it being passed, yet if submitters are not going to suggest improvements to a bill to a select committee including the bill's sponsor with the view that it should be passed, but submit that it should be withdrawn, what difference does it make writing a submission in the first place if it is to be "considered and disregarded"?


Anonymous said...

I also submitted and to be frank I have felt disenfranchised over it.
The fact that the law change will change many accepted relationships in society and will have great social implications makes the issue worse.

I have often wondered why we don't have more murders of legislators and justice eprsonel with regard to the whole father exclusion situation and can only put it down to the restraint and inate goodness of the men involved.

The seeking to change societal relationships and the lying of Sue bradfor and her supporters over the criminalisation of parents is of serious concern.

That this law change will in no way change the status quo for any victims is the height of hypocrisy.

So my answer is yes one must submit so there is a record of discent plus so that later one can go after those who ignore unintended consequences.

To do otherwise is to abdicate ones responsibility to society.


Nigel Kearney said...

In my experience, if it's a bill that is getting a lot of media coverage, politicians aren't going to be swayed by the arguments and opinions of submitters. It's still worth putting in a short submission because the total number of submissions for and against will be reported. But that's the only reason.

The bills that don't get much media coverage are the best ones to submit on. Often the bills are poorly though out and badly drafted and select committees will make changes when this is brought to their attention.