Thursday, October 15, 2015

A new low from Speaker Carter

This morning Andrew Little's Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2) was drawn from the member's ballot. There is a majority for the bill, and I was wondering how National would try and stop it (since its non-financial they can't use the veto). And now we know: at the beginning of Question Time Speaker David Carter invoked Standing Order 264(a) (which prohibits bills which are the "same in substance" as a bill already voted on being proposed in the same calendar year) and essentially threatened that he would rule the bill out of order unless it was delayed. The problem? The ruling is bullshit - the bill is not "the same in substance" as the earlier version, at least under the usual understanding of Standing Orders.

There's an earlier Speaker's Ruling on this: 103/1 (in the 2011 edition):

The purpose of the Standing Orders is to prevent a question which has already been decided from being brought up again in an altered form, and the same in substance can be expressed as meaning “having the same effect”. A question is not substantially the same because it contains four out of five points of the question as originally proposed. The quantitative interpretation cannot be sustained. The important point is the effect of the words not the amount.

[Emphasis added]

Member's bills have long followed this guidance, both to avoid pre-ballots and to avoid being ruled out of order if they won. Marriage equality was passed in New Zealand in part because multiple MPs spammed the ballot with slightly different ways of doing the same thing. And bills which have failed are regularly reintroduced by finding slightly different ways of achieving the same objective. Little's bill does this: Twyford's bill allocated the power to set standards to EECA, while Little's one gives it to MBIE. Both require landlords to follow those standards, but the different regulator makes them different bills.

Carter should have noticed this. The fact that he didn't tells us that he didn't bother to read the two bills before ruling and that he is an incompetent, partisan hack who is unfit to be Speaker. The sooner he gets shuffled off, the better.