Monday, September 03, 2012

In the ballot L: The final batch

Another batch of Member's Bills currently in the ballot. Previous batches are indexed here:

Coroners Amendment Bill (Lianne Dalziel): would require the Minister of Justice to formally respond to Coroner's recommendations within 90 days. Coroners frequently (and are required to) make recommendations aimed at reducing the incidence of similar deaths, and there's been some disquiet recently that they are simply ignored (OTOH, some of those recommendations are also batshit crazy and utterly ignore the Bill of Rights Act, which makes them of dubious utility and legality). The Chief Coroner seems to want to act as a legislator, and have these recommendations implemented immediately. Obviously, that sits very poorly with our constitutional system in which Parliament is sovereign. Requiring a formal response from a Minister on whether the government accepts the findings and what, if anything, they plan to do about them is a much better (and more constitutional) response.

Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill (Hone Harawira): Amends the Education Act 1989 to require all decile 1 and 2 schools to provide free breakfasts and lunches to all enrolled students. The Child Poverty Action Group has been pushing this for years and last week the Children's Commissioner's Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty weighed in in support. its a good idea which deserves to be passed. Sadly, I expect Nationa will threaten to financially veto it if it is drawn.

Marriage (Court Consent to Marriage of Minors) Amendment Bill (Jackie Blue): Amends the Marriage Act to remove the current provision allowing 16 and 17 year-olds to marry with permission of their parents and replace it with a requirement for permission from the Family Court. The concern is to prevent forced marriages, such as this one. However, you'd expect that concern to be addressed via a government bill. Relegating it to a member's bill shows that this fundamental human rights issue is a low priority for this government.

Finally, a word on the future of "In the Ballot". When I started doing this series in 2006, the ballot and member's bills were private and/or secret. You knew when a bill had been drawn (because it was introduced to the House), but not what it was up against, unless you had a source in Parliament (thankyou, Long-Nosed Potaroo and others). If you wanted to know what a bill actually did, you had to ask the relevant MP - and they were not always willing to provide a copy. Obviously, things have changed since then: there's now a greater interest in member's bills, ballots are public and live-tweeted, and member's bills are posted on the Parliamentary website. This series, with its brief summaries, is now pretty much redundant, so after 50 episodes and ~150 bills, I'm calling it a day. I'll still be paying attention to the ballot and analysing member's bills, but it will be more in-depth analysis of individual bills, rather than a summary of three random ones. while it makes for easy bloggage, there's no need for me to tell people what they can learn for themselves simply by reading the web.