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An indelible stain on parliamentary lawmaking

Written By: - Date published: 2:50 pm, September 20th, 2010 - 11 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, dpf, national, Parliament, political education - Tags: , ,

Andrew Geddis (Associate Professor of Law at Otago and writer at Pundit) is an expert on democratic theory. He has become required reading for politics junkies. His latest piece — a brutally honest analysis of the recent work of the Law and Order select committee — should be required reading for everybody. It begins colourfully:

The National and Act Party members of the Law and Order select committee not only have no regard for basic individual rights, but they want to give William Bell, Graeme Burton and Clayton Weatherston the vote. They are not only moral pygmies, but they are really, really dumb.

Then gets down to business:

Now Parliament’s Law and Order committee has, by a majority consisting of National and Act members, recommended the enactment of Paul Quinn’s Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill …

This proposal is downright wrong in its intent, outright stupid in its design and (if finally enacted) would be such an indelible stain on the parliamentary lawmaking process as to call into question that institution’s legitimacy to act as supreme lawmaker for our society.

That’s very strong stuff from a constitutional expert. For details of the proposal, what’s wrong with it, and how the National and Act members of the committee bungled it so badly, go read the original at Pundit. Suffice it so say here that, as usual, the Nats have no regard at all for expert advice or human rights:

Let me reiterate that. National and Act members of the Committee want to strip literally thousands of people of one of the most basic rights New Zealanders’ – every adult New Zealander – possess, and they say nothing at all about the reasons for doing so.

What is more, their endorsement flies in the face of the Attorney-General’s advice that this measure is inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, which guarantees all New Zealand citizens the right to vote. It flies in the face of rulings by the UN Human Rights Committee, the Supreme Court of Canada, the European Court of Human Rights, the High Court of South Africa, and the High Court of Australia; all of which have decided that disenfranchising all prisoners is an unjustifiable breach of individual rights. And it flies in the face of 50-odd submissions – including ones from the Law Society and Human Rights Commission – saying it is a terrible, terrible idea; as opposed to only two submitters supporting it … one of whom was from Paul Quinn himself.

The proposal is not only bad law, it is appallingly stupid lawmaking, with the unintended consequence of restoring the right to vote to the currently incarcerated, such as “William Bell, Graeme Burton and Clayton Weatherston”.

That’s why I called the majority members of the Law and Order committee “dumb”. They obviously don’t understand what the effect of their recommended amendments would be. How could they have got it so wrong?

(Fertile ground for Danyl at Dimpost: “Dumbest select committee ever?”).

So – around 50 submissions opposing this stupid Bill, and only two in support, one from Paul Quinn (the author of the Bill) himself. Who was the other submission in support? Why none other than National party blogger David Farrar. It is no surprise to find this amoral opportunist supporting such stupid legislation and an “indelible stain” on parliamentary lawmaking.

Final word to Andrew Geddis, on what should happen next:

But here’s my personal challenge to National’s MPs who do have some understanding of and commitment to good lawmaking values – and in particular to Minister of Justice Simon Power and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson. You know that this bill is a really, really bad idea. You know that a properly deliberative legislative body should not make it a part of our nation’s laws, no matter the level of public disquiet about crime and criminals. You know that the right thing to do is stop it in its tracks. Now – will you do the right thing? Because if you won’t, you will be critically undermining the basic claim of Parliament to be trusted as our nation’s final determinor of what the law should be.

Watch this space…

11 comments on “An indelible stain on parliamentary lawmaking ”

  1. Rex Widerstrom 1

    Select Committe process:

    – Traipse into Committee Room.
    – Gorge self on sticky buns and cup of tea.
    – Languidly flick through draft Bill.
    – Spot the words “prisoners”, “rights” and “denied”.
    – Presuppose the outcome and wonder how you can pass the next few hours.
    – Start making list of bits of Christchurch your backers have asked you to get from Gerry Brownlee. Remember to write “thank you” note to Labour and Greens for the opportunity.
    – Try to ignore what David Garrett’s doing with his copy (at least Shane Jones had the decency to do it in private).
    – Calculate potential number of votes lost vs votes won whilst pretending to listen to a bunch of boring academics and hippies mouth stuff about human rights and courts or something.
    – Doodle “WWPHD” (What Would Paul Henry Do”… the new simplifed instructions from head office, to be applied whenever a decision is required) on your pad while pretending to take notes.
    – Admire David Garrett’s stamina. Does the man have some special wrist workout?
    – Choose and apply the “Yes” rubber stamp.
    – Exit, collecting paycheque on the way, having performed your solemn duty as as guardians of the civil and political rights of the citizens you represent.

    • Blighty 1.1

      best comment ever

      • Red Rosa 1.1.1

        Agreed – best comment ever!.

        Also perhaps – ‘Consider how best to spend forthcoming tax cut on $130k+ salary’

        • tea 1.1.1.1

          Dude this country needs some political satire. There’s just soooooooooooooooooooo much material. funny

          • the sprout 1.1.1.1.1

            well said Rex 😆
            then again, with the material on offer from this Parliament it’s a bit like shooting fish in a bucket

    • BLiP 1.2

      I’d love to laugh but I find myself wanting to weep.

      • RedLogix 1.2.1

        Yes BLiP, I’ve read this post several times, and hell even I’m lost for words. Except for maybe this:

        There’s something mean skulking in the underbelly of our national character, a tendency coming to a dark flower under this government. Proto-fascist…is the name of it.

  2. ZeeBop 2

    If people have lost their liberty (to jail) they should not have access to the
    same services that those who haven’t lost their liberty, the vote.

    But once they have served their time, they should have all the rights of
    liberty returned them, that includes the right to vote. Else government
    policies turn a whole group of society into criminals.

    I do not see how it matters what the prisoners did, or cherry picking
    the worse offenders to make a point, given the high number of Maori
    in jail, I think on release all ‘time served’ citizens should get the vote.

    Since they serve their punishment so should be returned the vote.

    I’m continue to be surprised by how this lecturer of public law
    seems to make subjective emotional arguments that appeal to
    the proto fascist – even as they attack obvious bad law making.

    • bbfloyd 2.1

      Zee Bop….hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! brilliant political satire sir! a cross between john cleese and rowan atkinson. masterful..

      • ZeeBop 2.1.1

        Its really import to Geddis that criminals don’t vote for Garrett, these evil criminals will order their lawyer to delay the court so they can vote before the sentence is handed down? It could swing marginals damnit!

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