web analytics

A Power grab?

Written By: - Date published: 9:29 pm, February 25th, 2010 - 11 comments
Categories: democratic participation, election 2011 - Tags: ,

The Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill, ostensibly drafted to bring about a merger of the Electoral Commission and the Chief Electoral Office, would allow Simon Power to appoint a new Chief Electoral Officer and new Electoral Commissioners for the 2011 election. This is wrong. These officials must all be completely independent, they must not be or be seen to be political appointees.

Strangely the Bill also provided for the possibility of an MP to be appointed as an electoral commissioner. So potentially Simon Power could appoint a retiree from National’s front or back benches, to oversee the next election! They would have to resign from Parliament, but again, this is quite wrong.

Simon Power has cultivated a reputation for being consultative, but these features have the appearance of – forgive the pun – a Power grab. As they say,  in politics perception is everything. Why put them in the Bill if they are not going to be used?

It is a small Bill and there were a select few submitters. The merger does make sense – dealing with two separate agencies in the last election was hair-pulling – not that I have much left to pull after three elections as a Party Secretary.

But it was a strange Bill in a number of respects. The Bill is intended for for enactment this year, to oversee the 2011 election. Simon Power must “consult” on the appointments, but in the end he – and the National party cabinet – would decide who to appoint. In simple terms, this would make the Commissioners perceived as political appointees. This is totally unsatisfactory – they must both be and be seen to be utterly independent from the slightest political influence. Our democracy demands it.

Secondly, the provision that envisages  a former Member of Parliament being appointed as an electoral Commissioner has come out of the blue.

It opens up the scenario that if a party wanted to move someone on from Parliament, the Minister could appoint a Member of his or her party to a reasonably well-paid and in the case of the Commissioners not a particularly time-consuming job.  This again would destroy any perception of their independence.

This also is completely unsatisfactory. As I said to the Select Committee, “If it can be done, it will be done.” One wonders why it was there at all.

My concern is about 2011, hence the puns, but none of the submitters supported the Ministerial appointment process, including David Farrar who identified his National Party colours, so opposition to it is not partisan.

At least one other submitter raised the question of the unsuitability of appointment of former Members of Parliament; however  the major discussion focussed around whether the persons so constituted should be independent Officers of Parliament, similar to the Auditor-General, the Commissioner for the Environment, and the Ombudsmen.

Most submitters favoured Officer of Parliament status, as do I. Former Clerk of the House and now Officer of Parliament as Ombudsman David McGee was of the contrary view, but made one very interesting point. While Officers of Parliament are appointed by parliamentary consensus,  he pointed out that this is only by convention. I think consensus should be a requirement in the law.

The consultation process used by Simon Power has been limited to  parliamentary parties – MPs – only. It’s a bit of a closed shop. The extra-parliamentary parties, members and officials, have not been included, even though they carry the can when things go wrong. Nor have those parties who contest elections but are currently not represented in Parliament been given a say.

I must say the way this  Bill has been drafted did not give me great confidence for the wider reform of the Electoral Act still to come. I will comment more on some aspects of  that in subsequent posts.

11 comments on “A Power grab? ”

  1. [abuse deleted — r0b] Firstly, the appointment process is better than the current one, where two members of the Electoral Commission (the secretary for justice and the additional member “appointed by the Governor-General”) are appointed by the Minister with no requirement for consultation, while the Chief Electoral Officer is effectively appointed by the Secretary for Justice after informal consultation with the Minister. The new bill makes these appointments transparent and formalises a requirement to consult other parties in Parliament. The Commission being a crown entity, its difficult to see how else its members should be appointed, unless you want to echo the appointment process for the Abortion Supervisory Committee and have them voted on by Parliament (though that process might be seen as more political – it certainly is with the ASC).

    Secondly, you’re just plain wrong about the bill allowing an MP to be appointed; rather, it makes it clear that membes of the Electoral Commission are public servants for the purposes of electoral law, and thus disqualified from sitting in Parliament. This echoes the existing s44, which disqualifies members or recent members of the Electoral Commission from sitting, but does it in a slightly tidier way which prevents sitting MPs from being appointed.

    If you’re goign to criticise a bill, it helps if you criticise what the bill actually says, rather than some imagined interpretation which bears no resemblance to reality.

  2. [abuse deleted — r0b]

    Yeah, I deserved that. Readers, feel free to mentally insert an appropriate disparaging remark.

  3. I should note that being voted on by Parliament does work for Ombudsmen, and could work in this case. If you want to try that, and have an MP to front it, I’ll happily draft the SOP.

  4. The feedback I got from the Select Committee is that they seemed favourably disposed to requiring the Minister to require some sort of approval from other parties, rather than just consult- which is good.

    I filed OIAs on the bill and it turns out that the draft bill did not even require the Minister to consult over the appointments (as is the status quo), so it is likely Power himself added in the requirement to consult.

    My preference is for an Officer of Parliament, but David McGee has made a good case against. The key is that appointments should be as widely agreed as possible – I prefer a double super majority of leaders representing 75% of the parties and 75% of the MPs.

    The actual method of appointment has pros and cons also. One can either make it a Ministerial appointment, but require the Minister to have written agreement from party leaders, or one can make it a direct parliamentary debate and vote.

    I have a small concern that having a parliamentary vote on the commissioners, could in itself politicise them slightly – but on the other hand the AG is done that way, so not a biggie.

  5. Having sat through all the public hearings on the bill, I can basically guarantee that the committee will unanimously recommend a different, better, appointment process at the very least.

    • lprent 5.1

      I hope so. But I’m completely unhappy with having some faceless wonk appointed by wellington sitting in control of natural monopolies that I depend on.

      Talking of which, it is time to get the bus…

      BTW: has anyone else noticed the Auckland buses getting steadily more unreliable since xmas? I keep having to push back my time to head to work because of missing buses. It is a marked change because they were utterly reliable last year.

      [lprent: opps wrong debate. I was reading comments backwards without reading the posts and thought it was about CCO’s. ]

  6. Mike Smith 6

    @Idiot/Savant: Here’s what the Explanatory Note preamble to the Bill says about Members of Parliament being appointed as Electoral Commissioners:

    “The Bill also specifies that Electoral Commissioners, Deputy Electoral Commissioners and Returning Officers are disqualified from being parliamentary candidates or from election as members of Parliament. This is to manage a situation that could significantly undermine public confidence in the electoral system, whereby a person administering an election also takes part in it. Likewise, the consequence of a member of Parliament becoming an Electoral Commissioner, Deputy Electoral Commissioner, or Returning Officer will be the creation of a vacancy in the member’s seat in the House. It is currently an offence for a member to continue to sit after having become a public servant, and the Bill extends that offence to a member who continues to sit after becoming an Electoral Commissioner, Deputy Electoral Commissioner, or Returning Officer.”

    The “Likewise” might have been intended as a “tidy up” but it still opens up the possibility I raised. I think that public confidence in the electoral system would be much more undermined if a Member of Parliament became an Electoral Commissioner.

    @ David Farrar Officers of Parliament are appointed by the Parliamentary Appointments Committee chaired by the Speaker, which has a convention of making appointments by consensus. As David McGee pointed out, this is only a convention. I think it should be a requirement; my threshold is slightly higher than yours as I consider these officers must be utterly independent and I think the evidence shows that Officers of Parliament are.

    @ Graeme Edgeler: I hope you are right, my worry is about the draughting that produced this Bill.

  7. The “Likewise’ might have been intended as a “tidy up’ but it still opens up the possibility I raised. I think that public confidence in the electoral system would be much more undermined if a Member of Parliament became an Electoral Commissioner.

    Its already a possibility; in fact, at present its worse, in that one can theoretically be a sitting MP and an electoral commissioner (but you can’t run for office while an electoral commissioner. Its plugging a loophole, not making one.

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • WHANAU OF MĀORI BATTALION SOLDIERS REUNITED WITH MEDALS
    A ceremony has been held today in Gisborne where the unclaimed medals of 28 (Māori) Battalion C Company soldiers were presented to their families.   After the Second World War, returning service personnel needed to apply for their medals and then they would be posted out to them.  While most medals ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    14 hours ago
  • SolarWinds compromise attributed to Russian state actor
    New Zealand has today added its voice to the international condemnation of the malicious compromise and exploitation of the SolarWinds Orion platform. The Minister Responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau, Andrew Little, says that New Zealand's international partners have analysed the compromise of the SolarWinds Orion platform and attributed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Queenstown roading project given fast track approval
    An expert consenting panel has approved the Queenstown Arterials Project, which will significantly improve transport links and reduce congestion for locals and visitors in the tourism hotspot.   Environment Minister David Parker welcomed the approval for the project that will construct, operate and maintain a new urban road around Queenstown’s town ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Screen industry secures landmark project
    Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash says a landmark deal has been agreed with Amazon for The Lord of the Rings TV series, currently being filmed in New Zealand. Mr Nash says the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) secures multi-year economic and tourism benefits to New Zealand, outside the screen ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Report into review of health response to lead contamination released
    The Government welcomes the findings from a rapid review into the health system response to lead contamination in Waikouaiti’s drinking water supply. Sample results from the town’s drinking-water supply showed intermittent spikes in lead levels above the maximum acceptable value. The source of the contamination is still under investigation by ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • NZ Upgrade Programme revs up economic recovery
    Transport Minister Michael Wood today marked the start of construction on the New Zealand Upgrade Programme’s Papakura to Drury South project on Auckland’s Southern Motorway, which will create hundreds of jobs and support Auckland’s economic recovery. The SH1 Papakura to Drury South project will give more transport choices by providing ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Speech releasing the Digital Council's report 'Towards Trustworthy and Trusted Automated D...
    CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY  E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā karanga maha o te wa, tēnā koutou, tēna koutou, tēna tātou katoa. Ki ngā mana whenua, ko Ngāi Tahu, ko Waitaha, ko Kāti Māmoe  anō nei aku mihi ki a koutou. Nōku te hōnore kia haere mai ki te ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Green light for 10 minute e-bus to Auckland Airport
    Transport Minister Michael Wood today marked the completion of upgrades to State Highway 20B which will give Aucklanders quick electric bus trips to and from the airport. The State Highway 20B Early Improvements project has added new lanes in each direction between Pukaki Creek Bridge and SH20 for buses and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Review into greyhound racing announced
    The Government is putting in place a review of the work being done on animal welfare and safety in the greyhound racing industry, Grant Robertson announced today. “While Greyhound Racing NZ has reported some progress in implementing the recommendations of the Hansen Report, recent incidents show the industry still has ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Road safety boosted by increased penalty for mobile use while driving
    The infringement fee for using a mobile phone while driving will increase from $80 to $150 from 30 April 2021 to encourage safer driving, Transport Minister Michael Wood announced today. Michael Wood said too many people are still picking up the phone while driving. “Police issued over 40,000 infringement notices ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Pacific mental wellbeing supported across Auckland and Wellington
    Pacific people in New Zealand will be better supported with new mental health and addiction services rolling out across the Auckland and Wellington regions, says Aupito William Sio.  “One size does not fit all when it comes to supporting the mental wellbeing of our Pacific peoples. We need a by ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Fresh approach proposed to Smokefree 2025
    New measures are being proposed to accelerate progress towards becoming a smokefree nation by 2025, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced. “Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke kills around 12 people a day in New Zealand. Recent data tells us New Zealand’s smoking rates continue to decrease, but ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Govt expands Mana Ake to provide more school-based mental wellbeing support
    More children will be able to access mental wellbeing support with the Government expansion of Mana Ake services to five new District Health Board areas, Health Minister Andrew Little says. The Health Minister made the announcement while visiting Homai School in Counties Manukau alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Record Number of People Move Into Work
    The Government’s COVID-19 response has meant a record number of people moved off a Benefit and into employment in the March Quarter, with 32,880 moving into work in the first three months of 2021. “More people moved into work last quarter than any time since the Ministry of Social Development ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Significant global progress made under Christchurch Call
    A stocktake undertaken by France and New Zealand shows significant global progress under the Christchurch Call towards its goal to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.  The findings of the report released today reinforce the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach, with countries, companies and civil society working together to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • New chair of interim TAB NZ Board appointed
    Racing Minister Grant Robertson has announced he is appointing Elizabeth Dawson (Liz) as the Chair of the interim TAB NZ Board. Liz Dawson is an existing Board Director of the interim TAB NZ Board and Chair of the TAB NZ Board Selection Panel and will continue in her role as ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Government to phase out live exports by sea
    The Government has announced that the export of livestock by sea will cease following a transition period of up to two years, said Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor. “At the heart of our decision is upholding New Zealand’s reputation for high standards of animal welfare. We must stay ahead of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Workshop on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems – opening remarks
    WORKSHOP ON LETHAL AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS SYSTEMS Wednesday 14 April 2021 MINISTER FOR DISARMAMENT AND ARMS CONTROL OPENING REMARKS Good morning, I am so pleased to be able to join you for part of this workshop, which I’m confident will help us along the path to developing New Zealand’s national policy on ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Inter-prison kapa haka competition launched
    For the first time, all 18 prisons in New Zealand will be invited to participate in an inter-prison kapa haka competition, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis announced today. The 2021 Hōkai Rangi Whakataetae Kapa Haka will see groups prepare and perform kapa haka for experienced judges who visit each prison and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Government takes step forward on counter terrorism laws
    The Government has introduced the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill, designed to boost New Zealand's ability to respond to a wider range of terrorist activities. The Bill strengthens New Zealand’s counter-terrorism legislation and ensures that the right legislative tools are available to intervene early and prevent harm. “This is the Government’s first ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Carbon neutral government a step closer
    Coal boiler replacements at a further ten schools, saving an estimated 7,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next ten years Fossil fuel boiler replacements at Southern Institute of Technology and Taranaki DHB, saving nearly 14,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next ten years Projects to achieve a total ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Appointment of Chief Parliamentary Counsel
    Attorney-General David Parker today announced the appointment of Cassie Nicholson as Chief Parliamentary Counsel for a term of five years. The Chief Parliamentary Counsel is the principal advisor and Chief Executive of the Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO).  She is responsible for ensuring PCO, which drafts most of New Zealand’s legislation, provides ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Emissions report shows urgent action needed
    Every part of Government will need to take urgent action to bring down emissions, the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw said today in response to the recent rise in New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions. The latest annual inventory of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions shows that both gross and net ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • NZ becomes first in world for climate reporting
    Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark says Aotearoa New Zealand has become the first country in the world to introduce a law that requires the financial sector to disclose the impacts of climate change on their business and explain how they will manage climate-related risks and opportunities. The Financial ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Awards celebrate the food and fibre sector employer excellence
    Exceptional employment practices in the primary industries have been celebrated at the Good Employer Awards, held this evening at Parliament. “Tonight’s awards provided the opportunity to celebrate and thank those employers in the food and fibres sector who have gone beyond business-as-usual in creating productive, safe, supportive, and healthy work ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Tourism Infrastructure Fund now open
    Applications are now invited from all councils for a slice of government funding aimed at improving tourism infrastructure, especially in areas under pressure given the size of their rating bases. Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has already signalled that five South Island regions will be given priority to reflect that jobs ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Electricity Networks Association (ENA) Annual Cocktail Speech 2021
    Tēnā koutou e ngā maata waka Tenā koutou te hau kāinga ngā iwi o Te Whanganui ā TaraTēnā koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te Rā. No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa.  It is a pleasure to be here tonight.  Thank you Graeme (Peters, ENA Chief ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Construction Skills Action Plan delivering early on targets
    The Construction Skills Action Plan has delivered early on its overall target of supporting an additional 4,000 people into construction-related education and employment, says Minister for Building and Construction Poto Williams. Since the Plan was launched in 2018, more than 9,300 people have taken up education or employment opportunities in ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Youth Justice residence offers new pathway
    An innovative new Youth Justice residence designed in partnership with Māori will provide prevention, healing, and rehabilitation services for both young people and their whānau, Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis announced today.  Whakatakapokai is located in South Auckland and will provide care and support for up to 15 rangatahi remanded or ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • The Duke of Edinburgh
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today expressed New Zealand’s sorrow at the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. “Our thoughts are with Her Majesty The Queen at this profoundly sad time.  On behalf of the New Zealand people and the Government, I would like to express ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Five Country Ministerial Communiqué
    We, the Home Affairs, Interior, Security and Immigration Ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America (the ‘Five Countries’) met via video conference on 7/8 April 2021, just over a year after the outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Guided by our shared ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Inspiring creativity through cultural installations and events
    Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Carmel Sepuloni has today announced the opening of the first round of Ngā Puninga Toi ā-Ahurea me ngā Kaupapa Cultural Installations and Events. “Creating jobs and helping the arts sector rebuild and recover continues to be a key part of the Government’s COVID-19 response,” Carmel ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Drug-testing law to be made permanent
    Interim legislation that is already proving to keep people safer from drugs will be made permanent, Health Minister Andrew Little says. Research by Victoria University, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, shows that the Government’s decision in December to make it legal for drug-checking services to operate at festivals ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Better rules proposed for freedom camping
    Public consultation launched on ways to improve behaviour and reduce damage Tighter rules proposed for either camping vehicles or camping locations Increased penalties proposed, such as $1,000 fines or vehicle confiscation Rental companies may be required to collect fines from campers who hire vehicles Public feedback is sought on proposals ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government backs Air New Zealand as Trans-Tasman bubble opens
    The Government is continuing to support Air New Zealand while aviation markets stabilise and the world moves towards more normal border operations. The Crown loan facility made available to Air New Zealand in March 2020 has been extended to a debt facility of up to $1.5 billion (an additional $600 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Building gifted for new community hub in Richmond red zone
    Christchurch’s Richmond suburb will soon have a new community hub, following the gifting of a red-zoned property by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) to the Richmond Community Gardens Trust. The Minister for Land Information, Damien O’Connor said that LINZ, on behalf of the Crown, will gift a Vogel Street house ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Pacific languages funding reopens
      Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio says the reopening of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ (MPP) Languages Funding in 2021 will make sure there is a future for Pacific languages. “Language is the key to the wellbeing for Pacific people. It affirms our identity as Pasifika and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • ERANZ speech April 2021
    It is a pleasure to be here tonight.  Thank you Cameron for the introduction and thank you for ERANZ for also hosting this event. Last week in fact, we had one of the largest gatherings in our sector, Downstream 2021. I have heard from my officials that the discussion on ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Strengthening Māori knowledge in science and innovation
    Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has today announced the 16 projects that will together get $3.9 million through the 2021 round of Te Pūnaha Hihiko: Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund, further strengthening the Government’s commitment to Māori knowledge in science and innovation.  “We received 78 proposals - the highest ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government delivers next phase of climate action
    The Government is delivering on a key election commitment to tackle climate change, by banning new low and medium temperature coal-fired boilers and partnering with the private sector to help it transition away from fossil fuels. This is the first major announcement to follow the release of the Climate Commission’s ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago