Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Not good enough

Parliament's Standing Orders Committee has reported back on the Members of Parliament (Pecuniary Interests) Bill and confirmed that it will be put into the Standing orders rather than passed into law. This simply is not good enough. The purpose of financial disclosure regulations is to promote openness and transparency - but under the proposed regime, failure to disclose or falsifying a disclosure would be a breach of standing orders, judged by the Speaker and the Privileges Committee, rather than a crime able to be enforced by the courts. And as the repeated attempts by the Opposition to take government Members (most recently David Benson-Pope) to the Privileges Committee have shown, its "justice" leaves a lot to be desired. The upshot is that rather than having an impartial and enforceable system of disclosure, we are likely to get one which is widely ignored, or enforced in an openly partisan manner for purely political purposes.

The New Zealand public deserves better than this. Our elected representatives must not just not corrupt, they must be seen to be so. This demands not just transparency, but transparency which is actually able to be enforced. We no longer accept the police judging their own; why should we accept it of politicians?

Financial disclosure is not a matter of "Parliamentary sovereignty". It is not a matter of whether MPs trust one another, but whether we trust them. This requires independent and public oversight and open, fair, and impartial enforcement. Politicians cannot provide this. The courts, on the other hand, can.


how come you dont have sign for soldier deaths or do their sacrifices not matter to you

Posted by Derek : 6/28/2005 06:57:00 PM

Club rules, old boy. All members are honourable members don't you know.

Posted by Bomber : 6/28/2005 09:23:00 PM

Derek: For the simple reason that soldiers die in wars while civilians shouldn't. Not being an American and opposing the war also have something to do with it.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/29/2005 03:26:00 AM

Jordan: How so? Standing Orders are enforced by the Privileges Committee. It meets in secret, and the Standing Orders prohibit publication of its minutes. The Committee is made up of politicians, who will be sitting in judgement on one of their own, and whose judgements are likely to be influenced as much by political considerations as by the facts.
In order to even get to the Committee, a complaint must be referred by the Speaker - who is usually (but not always) a member of the governing party, and is traditionally accused of manipulating the rules to their party's advantage.

No matter which way you look at it, this process lacks the required transparency and openness to be seen as impartial. And even if everything that went on in the Committee was completely above board and there was no skullduggery or back-room politics, this would still be a fatal flaw - because the enforcement mechanism could not be seen to be impartial.

The public would have more faith if meetings of the Committee were open, the minutes were published, and Parliament made subject to the OIA - but our politicians show about as much interest in that as they do in allowing the media to show them asleep in their benches.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/29/2005 01:34:00 PM

I/S -

The counterargument is that any member of the Privileges Committee who whitewashes the ethical failings of their fellow MPs would be e exposed — funny how often PC proceedings *happen* to find themselves doing the rounds of the Press Gallery - and punished at the ballot box. (I'm not saying I'm entirely convinced by the argument, just laying it out.)

I didn't actually think this was a very good bill, but shunting it sideways into Standing Orders reeks of trying to have a bob both ways.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 6/30/2005 09:52:00 AM

Craig: They might - or they might set up a cosy mutual back-scratching arrangement of everyone looking the other way, backed by the threat of mutually assured destruction if anyone pries too closely. Which means that these issues may never even get to the Committee. Given our Parliamentarian's past behaviour, this doesn't seem unlikely.

Again, where matters of public trust are concerned, transparency is the only solution. We need open and impartial courts overseeing this, not secretive and politically biased politicians.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/30/2005 10:15:00 AM