Tuesday, February 14, 2006

In the ballot V

Another batch of private members bills currently in the ballot. Previous batches can be found here, here, here, and here.

Young Offenders (Serious Crimes) Bill (Ron Mark): This bill would put children in jail. Currently, the law provides that children (anyone under 14) cannot be charged with a criminal offence other than murder or manslaughter. Instead, they are dealt with in other ways, as specified in the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989. "Young persons" (people between 14 and 17) can be charged, but are generally dealt with by the Youth Court. Only in exceptional circumstances (murder, manslaughter, serious assault) is the case transferred to the District or High Court and heard as usual. The underlying principle is to keep children out of the criminal justice system as long as possible, to give police and their families space to influence them, and to give them a decent chance to change their ways.

Ron Mark's bill would change all that. First, it would create a new class of "serious offence", consisting of any offence with a maximum penalty of more than three month's imprisonment or more than a $2000 fine (essentially, anything in the Crimes Act other than the most minor shoplifting). Any offence committed by a child or young person who had previously committed a "serious offence", or by one with three previous convictions (for anything) would be considered "serious". Children and young persons accused of such crimes would by default be heard in the District Court, and would be subject to imprisonment if convicted. The net result: children in jail.

Most frighteningly, this bill is part of the Labour - NZ First confidence and supply agreement [PDF], and if it is drawn, Labour is bound to support it to select committee. And if it isn't drawn, they have to introduce a similar measure themselves to allow it to be discussed at committee before the next election. I really hope Labour have a coalition lined up to ensure its defeat at the second reading...

Consumer's Right to Know (Food Information) Bill (Sue Kedgley): This would introduce country-of-origin labelling and mandatory labelling of any GE-derived content for all food manufactured or sold in New Zealand. It would also require the government, crown entities and SOEs to make publicly available all information they collect on pesticide residues, heavy metals and other contaminants in the food chain. The bill is predicated on a consumer's right to know what they are purchasing and eating. A full copy can be found here.

Friendly Societies and Credit Unions (Capacity for Competition) Amendment Bill (Bill English): This one seems to be aimed at freeing up credit unions and allowing them more flexibility. It's not a subject I know a great deal about, but from my quick research it looks like the government conducted a review of the legislation at the request of the credit unions, but that the recommendations left the credit unions unhappy. This bill seems to reflect their position; I'm not sure what happened with the government's changes, whether they have been passed or are still on the agenda somewhere. Unimportant, unless you belong to a credit union.

There are still a couple of bills where MPs have promised to send me copies but they haven't arrived yet; I'll post another batch when enough trickle in.


"Unimportant, unless you belong to a credit union."

Execept that, should a credit union (or any retail financial institution) go bust, there will be teary old dears on "Close Up" demanding that the taxpayer bale them out. So it's good policy to ensure that such institutions are adequately regulated and avoid having to pay out public funds for no good reason.

Posted by Rich : 2/14/2006 03:34:00 PM

Rich: yes. Though credit unions do carry insurance, and the bill doesn't seem to change that.

Most of the changes center around membership and what they are allowed to do (basically they want to be able to act more like banks). However, one section would remove the Securities Act requirements for supervision by an independent trustee company, which could spell trouble...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/14/2006 03:41:00 PM

And on yet another count - credit unions and friendly societies provide an alternative to foreign-owned banks which doesn't require the taxpayer to own a bank (Kiwibank). They provide credit on less than usurious terms to people who might not meet banks' criteria for personal lending, and as not-for-profit institutions they generally have much lower fee structures. Idiot, I'm surprised at your cavalier dismissal of credit unions. ;-)

Posted by stephen : 2/14/2006 03:47:00 PM

Stephen: well, the "cavaliar dismissal" is more because its an area I don't know much about. Credit unions indeed sound good - but my instinct here would be that if credit unions want to change and become more banklike, that's really up to their members.

If this bill is drawn, I expect Parliament will just vote it to committee, and let the details be hashed out there.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/14/2006 03:57:00 PM

Typical NZ First Bill - totally divorced from (not to mentaion devoid of) reality. By this logic, all special Youth Court procedures etc would be scrapped and we can expect to see 14 year old's in the dock right after Joe P-head. What exactly was Ron Mark on when he dreamed up this nightmare and did he ever think to actually consult with anyone who works in the system - youth workers, youth advocates, judges, etc? Then again, perhpas I'm expecting too much. This is NZ First after all!

Posted by Anonymous : 2/15/2006 11:12:00 AM