Monday, September 20, 2010

Geddis on prisoner disenfranchisement

Over at Pundit, Andrew Geddis has a blistering attack on Paul Quinn's Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill and the boneheaded select committee who recommended it be passed despite a declaration from the Attorney-General that it violated the Bill of Rights Act. His summary:

This proposal is downright wrong in its intent, outright stupid in its design and (if finally enacted) would be such an indelible stain on the parliamentary lawmaking process as to call into question that institution's legitimacy to act as supreme lawmaker for our society.
The latter point is important. We have a tradition of Parliamentary sovereignty, but that tradition is retained for two reasons: trust, and because the alternative of a judicial veto over the law seems worse. Parliament passing this bill will blow both those reasons out of the water. Parliament will have shown that it cannot be trusted to respect fundamental rights. And the obvious solution is to emasculate MPs and bind Parliament to obey a sovereign BORA.

But in addition to that, the select committee (which included David Garrett) has made a major mistake in the drafting of the bill, meaning that anyone denied the right to vote under the current law will be allowed to. Which is the sort of thing that happens when you send a bill to a committee which knows nothing about the topic, and they then steadfastly refuse advice from anyone who does. As Danyl puts it, its a miracle that the bill "wasn’t written in crayon with fairy dust and bits of macaroni glued to it". And that I think highlights that some of the damage has already been done.

Like Andrew, I'm hoping that smarter heads within National will prevail. And if not, well, the legislative equivalent of the required pair of rusty clippers is already in the ballot...