Thursday, December 08, 2005

Setting the agenda

The usual ballot for private member's bills was held today, and three bills were drawn. One was Sue Bradford's Minimum Wage (Abolition of Age Discrimination) Amendment Bill, which would scrap youth rates and set a single minimum wage. The second was a bill from Heather Roy to remove PHARMAC's exemption from the Commerce Act. This sounds quite boring, but PHARMAC basically uses its monopsony power for the public benefit, by screwing cheaper deals out of pharmaceutical companies on the bulk-purchase of drugs for our health system. If Roy's bill passes, it would limit PHARMAC's ability to do that (if only from fear of legal action) - meaning higher profits for pharmaceutical companies, and more expensive prescriptions (or limited supplies) for sick kiwis. The irony of the tax-cutting party trying to pass a bill which will increase the cost of the health system is astounding - but the whole point is to make it unaffordable, and therefore encourage privatisation. It's wrecking behaviour, pure and simple.

The third bill is the real worry: Rodney Hide's Treaty of Waitangi (Principles) Bill. This would define the principles of the Treaty in legislation. I have a lot of sympathy for this aim, but the principles as Rodney would define them (sovereignty, protection of property rights, and equality before the law) are a little narrow for my tastes; I far prefer the 1989 "Principles for Crown Action on the Treaty of Waitangi" (which I still can't find a convenient link for, but which are included in the last two pages of this Waitangi Tribunal report). These include sovereignty and equality, but also self-management (iwi have a right to organise themselves and control their own resources), reasonable cooperation (meaning consultation and good faith), and redress for past and future wrongs. And I would rather that any movement on this front was done through the ongoing process of the constitutional inquiry or through the Waitangi Tribunal, and in full consultation with Maori, rather than unilaterally by a private bill which seeks to redefine one of our core constitutional documents for partisan advantage.

If you're wondering why ACT has two bills, it is because (as Rodney points out), they made their own luck. I've been informed that there were only 28 bills in the ballot - around a third of the usual number. The Greens, NZ First and ACT all had their maximum allocation (6,6, and 2 respectively). National had 11 bills out of a possible 48, and Labour only 3 (out of 21 non-Ministers). The Maori party and United Future had none. While there's perhaps some excuse for those parties with large intakes of new MPs, it's still a tremendous waste of a very limited opportunity to get something on Parliament's agenda - particularly from the Maori Party.

The bills drawn today will come before Parliament in February.


Rodney and crew aren't interested in self-management. No doubt they see it as a potential impediment to the "free market".

Posted by Anonymous : 12/08/2005 04:00:00 PM

ACT's behaviour is sickening. Even worse, it is a bad influence on the Nats - not that they need it, they're wicked enough on their own.
I wonder if Rodney and that woman sidekick of his have seen "The Constant Gardener" and know what big pharma companies get up to.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/08/2005 07:12:00 PM