Wednesday, February 01, 2006

In the ballot

The other day I blogged about the increased importance of private member's bills in the current Parliament, and the very real prospect of the Opposition being able to advance their own program through such bills. Since then I've been working my way through the list of member's bills in the last Parliamentary Bulletin, contacting MPs and asking for more information. Here's some of the information I've received so far. Each of these bills is still in the ballot, and may be drawn at the next drawing in February.

Official Information (Openness of District Health Boards New Zealand) Amendment Bill (Jo Goodhew): This would make District Health Boards New Zealand subject to the Official Information Act. DHBNZ is an organisation established by the 21 DHBs "to assist [them] in meeting their objectives and accountabilities to the Crown" and to represent their interests. It is not a government entity, and so is not currently subject to the OIA.

This sounds suspicious - and it is - but DHBNZ is not the only body in this role of being a "private" representative of fully public entities. The New Zealand School Trustees Association also springs to mind. And this sort of thing is exactly what you'd expect given the separation of policy advice and delivery seen in the health and education systems. One of the chief reasons this was done was to prevent policy being "captured" by delivery agencies - which tells you immediately that those agencies have policy interests which they need to represent to government. Clubbing together to pool resources and provide a unified voice on common interests is an obvious step for such bodies, hence entities such as DHBNZ. But such entities aren't really private, and should probably be subject to the OIA. They should probably be dealt with wholesale rather than piecemeal, however.

Control of Noisy Exhausts Bill (Nicky Wagner): This would crack down on "boy racers" driving noisy vehicles by setting a standard noise test as part of the warrant of fitness, and by providing police with "proper, standardised instruments to measure noise levels" (the current test being rather subjective and generally not policed). From the wealth of information provided, Wagner clearly feels very strongly about the scourge of noisy cars and wants something done about it. Fairly trivial.

Easter Sunday Shop Trading Amendment Bill (Jacqui Dean): This would amend the Shop Trading Hours Repeal Act 1990 to allow shops in scheduled "visitor districts" to open on Easter Sunday. The only such district scheduled is Wanaka - though I think some other places may be covered by other legislation, and Steve Chadwick has a similar bill in the ballot aimed at freeing up shop trading in Rotorua. As an interesting point, the existing act (which allowed shops to open on most public holidays) inserted a set of protective provisions into every existing employment agreement, preventing workers from being forced to work on those holidays even if their workplace was allowed to open. These provisions could only be removed by mutual agreement. Dean's bill would shift the balance in favour of the employer, allowing such protective clauses to be inserted only by mutual agreement - meaning that they will not happen; The net effect will be to make employees in scheduled districts worse off than they were before.

Residential Tenancies (Damage Insurance) Amendment Bill (Maryan Street): This would amend the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 to protect individual tenants against personal liability for damage caused by others. Basically, in cases of shared tenancy (your standard flat, in other words), tenants are jointly liable for damage to the property, and where one of them behaves negligently (say, smoking in bed, or leaving a pan full of hot oil on the element), the others may be held liable. There have been cases recently of insurance companies suing tenants for the actions of their flatmates; this bill would effectively end that practice. Instead, landlords would be required to insure tenants against the cost of damage caused by others; they (or their insurers) could still sue the responsible party where damage is intentional, but they would no longer be able to hold people liable for actions which were not of their doing.

Any costs will be able to be passed on, and the chief losers would seem to be the marketing departments of insurance companies, who have taken to using the threat of liability for flatmate stupidity as a sales tool.

I'll do another post on more bills in a day or two, once I've got more information.


good work I/S!

Posted by Span : 2/01/2006 06:08:00 AM

This is the kind of useful information we could do with more of. Maybe you could contract with Parliament to build a specialist site around pending legisation?

Posted by M'Lud : 2/01/2006 12:28:00 PM