The Justice Select Committee’s failure to make changes or report on the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is an indictment on the Government’s respect for good parliamentary process, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says.
“The committee was unable to consider any amendments, nor get any advice from officials on key issues. Government MPs simply stated the Bill had to be reported back to the House unamended to meet the demands of Winston Peters.
“This Bill received a torrent of opposing submissions from 21 constitutional experts, former Speakers, former Green MPs, the Human Rights Commission, the Law Society and even the Clerk of the House of Representatives.
“In fact, not a single submission supported the Bill without amendment yet the Government insisted it be progressed as is. The Ministry of Justice would not provide any views on the Bill and simply stated it was Government policy to pass it unamended.
“The process over the critical issue of compliance with the Bill of Rights made a complete joke of the Government’s promise to be the most open and transparent ever. Constitutional experts said it breached the Bill of Rights and previous officials’ advice from earlier versions of the legislation said the same.
“The Government refused to release officials’ advice on Bill of Rights compliance even though it has been long-standing practice to make such advice public. It was also unusual for officials to refuse a unanimous request of the committee to appear and give evidence.
“National moved motions to require the officials and the Attorney General to appear and to get independent advice on Bill of Rights compliance. These were voted down by Labour members of the committee.
“It was Labour’s decision to block a factual report on what occurred around the Bill of Rights from being included in the select committee report that led to the committee being unable to agree to a report to the House.”
The Justice Select Committee is equally split with four Labour and four National members and was unable to agree on the Bill’s progression. The Bill was automatically reported back to the House with all submissions and advice being released at midnight.
“The offensive part of this Bill is enabling a party leader to dismiss an MP, a provision demanded by Mr Peters to enable him to wield even more power. It’s particularly outrageous that this Bill is proposing to be passed when a majority of Parliament oppose it.
“It is an affront to the core Kiwi values of freedom of speech, tolerance of dissent, and democracy. National will continue to fight this Bill every step of the way,” Dr Smith says.