Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Member's Day?

Today is a member's Day, assuming the government doesn't pull urgency to squash it. And thanks to the new sessional order expanding the ballot, it looks like there's some real business to debate.

First up is Paul Quinn's execrable Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill, which would strip anyone in jail of the vote (currently only those serving a sentence of three or more years - i.e. those whose jail term means they will miss an election if it was served in full - are denied the vote). The Attorney-General has declared that this bill violates the Bill of Rights Act, so it will be interesting to see whether he, and the rest of National, vote for it or give it the shredding it deserves.

Second there is Tau Henare's bill on requiring a secret ballot for strikes. The unions all support this (since they do it anyway), and I expect it to go to committee without any controversy.

Thirdly, there is Roger Douglas' futile tilt at the windmill of restoring youth rates. National have already said they'll vote against this, so if they keep their word, it is going down. Meanwhile, I'm struck by the inconsistency between ACT's forceful "one law for all" rhetoric on the topic of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the House yesterday, and this bill. "One law for all - except for young people"? Just another example of ACT's deep hypocrisy on human rights, I think.

Finally, if all goes well, we might finally get to start debating the most important member's bill of the term: Keith Locke's Head of State Referenda Bill. This will be the first time the New Zealand Parliament has formally debated republicanism, and it will not be the last. Now the discussion has been opened, the topic is not going to go away. The bill is highly unlikely to be voted on tonight, but Keith will probably get his opening speech in. Tune in around 9:45 to see.