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

  • World’s first algae-based local anaesthetic another step closer to reality
    A partnership between the Government and the Cawthron Institute has delivered a breakthrough in the production of a potent microalgal ingredient for the world’s first algae-based pain medication, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced.  “Scientists at Cawthron Institute in Nelson have developed a reliable and commercially scalable method for producing neosaxitoxin, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 hours ago
  • Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri and the Crown sign Agreement in Principle| Ka waitohu a Ngāti Mutunga o...
    Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri and the Crown have signed an Agreement in Principle marking a significant milestone towards the settlement of their historical Treaty of Waitangi claims. Ngāti Mutunga are based on Wharekauri/Chatham Islands and are the second of two iwi/imi to reach agreement with the Crown. “Today’s signing follows ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Further ACC reforms introduced to Parliament
    New reporting requirements on access to ACC Earlier access to minimum rate of compensation Refinement to ACC purpose to focus on supporting all eligible injured people to access ACC The Accident Compensation (Access Reporting and Other Matters) Amendment Bill which aims to improve access to ACC for all injured people, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Government supports Chatham Islands' resilience
    The Government is supporting the Chatham Islands’ resilience to extreme weather events and natural hazards through a grant to secure safe drinking water, Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty said. “Many households in the Chatham Islands lack easy access to drinking water and have been forced to get water to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • New Chief Coroner appointed
    Coroner Anna Tutton has been appointed as the new Chief Coroner, Attorney-General David Parker announced today. Anna Tutton was appointed as a Coroner in January 2015, based in Christchurch, and as Deputy Chief Coroner in 2020.  After the previous Chief Coroner, Judge Deborah Marshall, retired Ms Tutton took on the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • DIRA Amendment Bill passes third reading
    The Government has passed an Amendment Bill today to support Fonterra’s move to a new capital structure and the continued success of New Zealand’s dairy industry. The Dairy Industry Restructuring (Fonterra Capital Restructuring) Amendment Bill will allow the Fonterra co-operative to make changes to its capital structure, as well as ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Minister Whaitiri to attend Food Ministers’ Meeting with Australian counterparts
    Minister for Food Safety Meka Whaitiri will attend the Fourth Australia and New Zealand Food Ministers’ Meeting in Melbourne on Friday. It will be the first time the meeting has been held in person since the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted international travel. “The Food Ministers’ Meeting sets the policy direction for ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • New Kiwibank parent appoints directors
    David McLean and Sir Brian Roche have been appointed as the first two directors of the newly incorporated Kiwi Group Capital Limited (KCG), the parent company of Kiwibank. In August, the Government acquired 100 percent of Kiwi Group Holdings, which also operates New Zealand Home Loans, from NZ Post, ACC ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Defence Ministers meet in Cambodia
    Minister of Defence Peeni Henare attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) in Siem Reap, Cambodia. “The first face to face meeting of the ADMM-Plus members is an opportunity for me to highlight New Zealand’s position on key regional security matters,” Peeni Henare said.  “In ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Pay equity extended to thousands more social workers
    The Government will extend pay equity to all community and iwi organisations who employ social workers and receive funding from the Crown, Minister for Women Jan Tinetti announced today. We expect this will improve the lives of approximately 4,600 social workers. “This extension means thousands more social workers will be ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Taskforce set up to protect construction industry from product shortages & delays
    New ‘Critical Materials Taskforce’ will trouble shoot building materials shortages Focus on maximising productivity & cushioning businesses from supply chain risks Successful ‘Plasterboard Taskforce’ reshaped to include broader sector knowledge and expertise Will provide guidance, data and information to support builders, designers and business owners A new Critical Materials Taskforce ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Bigger ED, more theatres and more beds in new Whangārei Hospital
    A new emergency department with three times more space will be part of the first stage of a two-stage project to build a new hospital for Whangārei and Northland. The Government has today confirmed funding for stage one of the new hospital – an acute services building and a child-health ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Finnish PM to visit New Zealand
    Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin, accompanied by Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari and a business delegation will visit New Zealand next week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today. The two leaders will meet in Auckland. “New Zealand and Finland are natural partners. We share similar approaches ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • New recreational rules to support hāpuku and bass fisheries
    The daily limits on recreationally caught hāpuku (also known as groper) and bass will be lowered to a total of two per person in some areas, with a new accumulation limit of three per person on multi-day trips. Oceans and Fisheries Minister, David Parker said the rule changes would take ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature enabling Mātāuranga Māori
    Mātāuranga Māori is at the heart of the latest tranche of Jobs for Nature projects set to promote biodiversity and reduce impacts of climate change on Māori land, Minister of Conservation Poto Williams says. Project work will include the creation of an ecological corridor in Tairāwhiti, protecting 60 hectares of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Supporting resilient shipping infrastructure in Vanuatu
    The Government has announced further support to Vanuatu to assist in constructing climate-resilient wharves as part of the Vanuatu Inter-Island Shipping Support Project (VISSP). “Aotearoa New Zealand is committed to supporting the economic recovery of our Pacific region in a way that continues to provide growth and supports climate resilience,” ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Government welcomes High Court ruling on climate case
    The High Court has today confirmed the legality of the advice provided by the Climate Change Commission (the Commision) to inform New Zealand’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) and the first three emissions budgets.  Minister of Climate Change James Shaw says New Zealanders can have confidence in the Commission and of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Government introduces changes to mining Act with stronger environmental focus
    ·         Crown Minerals Act will no longer actively “promote” prospecting, exploration, and mining of Crown-owned minerals ·         Will create more certainty around engagement between industry, iwi and hapū. The Government is proposing changes to modernise the Crown Minerals Act 1991 (CMA) to support more environmentally conscious management of resources, says ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Speech to Building Nations 2050 conference
    Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Good morning and thank you, Jack, for the introduction. I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge Infrastructure New Zealand Chair, Margaret Devlin and all the sponsors and organisers of this event for bringing us together in ‘Building Nations 2050’. I would also like to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Better natural hazard information for home buyers
    Associate Minister of Local Government Kieran McAnulty has today introduced legislation to empower councils to share better information about natural hazards with the public. The Local Government Official Information Amendment (LGOIMA) Bill will make it easier for Councils to share clear and concise information in Land Information Memorandum (LIM) reports. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • New Zealand welcomes visiting WTO Director General
    The World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala visits New Zealand this week. Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor said the WTO was essential to New Zealand as a small export-dependent trading nation.  “New Zealand’s economic security depends on our ability to trade. Our goods exports ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Faster, cheaper, better resource management law given first reading
    New laws that will deliver a faster, cheaper, and better resource management system had their first reading in the House today. The Spatial Planning (SP) and the Natural and Built Environment (NBE) Bills, which were introduced last week, will replace the 30-year-old Resource Management Act (RMA). Environment Minister David Parker ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Minister Sio to meet new Vanuatu PM
    Associate Foreign Affairs Minister Aupito William Sio travels to Vanuatu today, to meet with the new Government led by Prime Minister Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau and to represent Aotearoa New Zealand at the Pacific Community (SPC) Ministerial Conference being hosted in Port Vila. Minister Sio will have a number of bilateral meetings with ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Driving ahead with the Clean Car Standard
    Following discussions with vehicle importers, the Government has confirmed the Clean Car Standard will be phased in from 1 December 2022, significantly reducing the CO2 emissions of light vehicles in New Zealand, announced Transport Minister Michael Wood. “Emissions from our light vehicle fleet are the single largest source of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Speech to Constitutional Kōrero conference
    Our Evolving Sense of Nationhood – Me Anga Whakamua Indigenous Futures and New Zealand’s Constitution Tuia ki runga, Tuia ki raro, Tuia te here tangata, Mai i te wheiao ki te ao mārama Ka rongo te pō ka rongo te āo! Tīhei Mauri Ora! Kei ngā miro o te ao ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Rental sector changes to regulate residential property managers, clear up meth confusion and ease pr...
    A suite of measures to improve the lives of renters and landlords has been announced by Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods as the Government makes more progress on reform of the rental sector. “Nearly 600,000 households rent in New Zealand and these measures will result in regulated oversight of residential ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Further sanctions on the political and economic elites of Russia and Belarus
    Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta today announced further sanctions on members of the inner circles of governments in Russia and Belarus, as part of the ongoing response to the war in Ukraine. “Aotearoa New Zealand first moved against the powerful and wealthy in Russia with sanctions on political and economic ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Another step towards improved supermarket competition
    The Bill to trigger an unprecedented shake-up of the grocery sector and deliver New Zealanders a fairer deal at the checkout and help tackle cost of living pressures is ready for its first reading at Parliament. “The duopoly has now been given plenty of warning. If they fail to adequately ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Black Ferns to be celebrated at Parliament
    A public event and celebration will be held on Parliament’s lawn on December 13 to celebrate our Rugby World Cup winning Black Ferns. “The Black Ferns’ triumph at Eden Park is one of New Zealand’s greatest sporting moments,” Grant Robertson said. “They are extraordinary athletes, exceptional people and proud New ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Autism Guideline released by Ministry
    The release of the latest edition of the Aotearoa New Zealand Autism Guideline – He Waka Huia Takiwātanga Rau has been welcomed by Minister for Disability Issues Poto Williams today. The Guideline provides an opportunity to better understand and communicate best practices for supporting autistic people and their families and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Speech to Aotearoa Refugee Hui
    Nga mihi nui ki a koutou, Welcome to the Parliament, your Parliament. It is great to see the community here in such numbers, and I am happy to be here with my parliamentary colleagues to listen and take part in the discussions today. I particularly want to acknowledge Ibrahim Omer ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Global climate talks underline need for domestic action
    Minister of Climate Change James Shaw marked the end of COP27 negotiations in Egypt by saying it was now crunch time for counties to step up and take urgent action at home. “Even though we have these international negotiations every year, our focus must always be on what we do ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Defence Minister visits Ukraine and Poland
    Defence Minister Peeni Henare has visited Ukraine and Poland, holding talks with his Ministerial counterparts. During the talks Minister Henare reaffirmed New Zealand’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian defence against Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion.   The visit  was a further demonstration of New Zealand’s ongoing support to the people ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Stuart Nash to attend OECD meetings
    Small Business Minister Stuart Nash will travel to Paris today to attend small business meetings with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Stuart Nash will chair the OECD’s Digital for SMEs (D4SME) Steering Group meeting and the 4th Roundtable of the OECD D4SME Global Initiative. “The OECD’s Digital ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Human Rights Act enhanced to protect religious communities
    The Government will amend the law to make sure religious communities feel safe and welcome in New Zealand. After extensive consultation, with more than 19,000 submissions on six proposals, the Government will make one change to address incitement towards religious communities while asking for further work to be done alongside ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Defence Minister meets with UK counterpart and visits NZDF personnel
    Minister of Defence Peeni Henare held talks in the UK today with his counterpart, Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace.   The Ministers reiterated the importance of our defence relationship, and reflected on the strong historical and cultural ties between the United Kingdom and New Zealand.   Together, they ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government takes action to reduce gambling harm from pokies
    The Government is announcing today changes to strengthen the requirements in venues which have pokie (gambling) machines to reduce the harm they cause people. “The changes focus on reducing harm caused by pokies, which can affect both those people gambling and their whānau. In short, they would make the ‘host ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • The Pacific business village comes to Auckland
    The Pacific Business Village (the Village) is now going to set up in the Auckland region, said Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio. The Ministry secured $15.5 million in Budget 2022 to meet community demand volumes for services to support Pacific businesses and Pacific social enterprises across Aotearoa. “The ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government’s health investments making a difference for New Zealanders
    Fewer New Zealanders say cost is a barrier to visiting a GP or getting a prescription. The number of children going hungry has halved over the past decade. Statistics show why the Government has made major investment in mental health. Official statistics released today show the Government’s targeted health investments ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Speech to the Asia New Zealand Foundation
    Kia koutou, warm pacific greetings.I am delighted we have the opportunity to meet kanohi ki te kanohi and talanoa in-person, I would like to extend my thanks to Adele and her team for organising this event, for us, today; fa’afetai tele lava.  I am also delighted to see some rangatahi ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago