The Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill under urgency in Parliament

The Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill is currently progressing through Parliament under urgency. So far just the National Party has opposed the Bill.

The Bill gives the Police the legal ability to walk into anyone’s home without a warrant, so there are risks to civil rights and liberty.

It is being rushed under urgency to try to make the move to Level 2 tonight legal, but it leaves open the question about whether the first move to Level 2 in March may have been illegal.

David Parker:

“This bill creates a bespoke legal framework to support the Government’s future efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

The bill will give police and other authorised enforcement officers clearer powers to enforce the orders, consistent with the graduated approach police have taken to enforcement to date. Those powers sit aside along voluntary measures, public health, and other guidance.

This bill creates a power to enter premises, a power to direct people, to stop activities that are in breach of the order, a power to close roads and public places, and a power to close businesses operating in breach of the rules for 24 hours. Clause 23 allows a constable to enter a private dwelling house without a warrant only if they have reasonable grounds to believe that people have gathered there in contravention of an order and entry is necessary to give a direction to cease the activity.”

Michael Woodhouse:

“I find myself in the situation of going, within an hour and a half, from commendation to condemnation for this piece of legislation—both in its process and in its executive overreach. I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness.”

I am, frankly, astounded that a Government that purports to be open and transparent, to be kind, and to give the country, the public, the credit for the amazing work that they have done, still increases further and further into their freedoms and their lives.”


Attorney General David Parker introduced the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill yesterday:

This bill creates a bespoke legal framework to support the Government’s future efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand. This is designed to last for a maximum of two years although can be brought to an end earlier if the threat passes.

New Zealanders have been on a precarious journey combatting this virus. We’re not at our final destination yet, but together we’ve made extraordinary progress through the largely voluntary efforts of our people, who accepted the need for unprecedented actions to isolate ourselves in bubbles to cut off the chains of infection.

We went hard and we went early to fight a virus for which there is currently no vaccine and no cure. We know it can hide and spread through those with no symptoms, and around the world we’ve seen the devastation and loss of life it can cause, especially in aged care and in dementia units. We’ve negotiated difficult terrain and have broken the chain of community transmission.

In the meantime, we’ve improved our stocks and supply lines for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits and reagents as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and distribution. We’ve ramped up testing and the quality and capacity of track and tracing. We’ve minimised the damage the virus would have otherwise done to our people and to our economy.

To date, restrictions at alert levels 3 and 4 were given legal effect by notices under section 70 of the Health Act, in conjunction with the state of emergency under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act and the Economic Preparedness Act. To support alert levels 3 and 4, the Director-General has issued notices to close premises, except those providing essential services, prohibiting congregation in outdoor places, and require people to remain at home in their bubble except to access essentials and to exercise. These orders are lawful under the Health Act, and the restrictions proportionate to the scale of the COVID-19 threat.

I think there’s doubt about that, as pointed out here: New legal framework for Alert Level 2 to be introduced today

That said, some aspects of the Health Act do need to be modernised and adapted, and this is particularly true for the detailed level 2 measures, which are not well suited to the existing Health Act and Civil Defence Emergency Management regime. This bill provides new enforceable measures that don’t depend on a state of emergency being in force.

We went into Level 2 and Level 3 before the State of Emergency was announced in March.

The bill will give police and other authorised enforcement officers clearer powers to enforce the orders, consistent with the graduated approach police have taken to enforcement to date. Those powers sit aside along voluntary measures, public health, and other guidance.

This bill creates a power to enter premises, a power to direct people, to stop activities that are in breach of the order, a power to close roads and public places, and a power to close businesses operating in breach of the rules for 24 hours. Clause 23 allows a constable to enter a private dwelling house without a warrant only if they have reasonable grounds to believe that people have gathered there in contravention of an order and entry is necessary to give a direction to cease the activity.

We acknowledge that it is unusual—though not unprecedented—for a constable to have warrantless power of entry into a private dwelling house. This is due—the fact that it is unusual—to the high expectation of privacy that citizens have in these places.

The extraordinary risk posed by COVID-19—I will cover instances in later speeches; I haven’t got time to detail that now—and the fact that it can be spread readily in large social gatherings, whether in public or in private, justifies the power in these circumstances and the limits it places on rights.

There are safeguards in the bill so that a constable must report every time a warrantless entry power is exercised, summarising the circumstances and the reason why the power needed to be exercised.

This bill will create a new infringement offence regime. Some breaches will be dealt with as an infringement offence, and an intentional breach will be a criminal offence which may result in a fine or imprisonment on conviction. An infringement offence regime gives police another graduated step in their enforcement options where the breach is not serious enough to warrant criminal prosecution.

The bill also amends the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 to ensure a nationally consistent approach to the response and to management of risks arising from COVID-19, and to better deal with concurrent emergencies that are not COVID-19 but which might arise during the period of the COVID-19 response.

We believe this legislation is needed to appropriately continue our response to the unique and unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.

Simon Bridges in reply:

… it’s with regret that I say we have on this side of the House in the National Party, real concerns with this bill. You’ll hear from other members of National about, I am sure, civil liberty concerns—concerns with our freedoms as a people that have been long fought for—in the speeches and contributions. I want to simply place on record my concerns in two areas, really, but four for completeness: funerals, tangi; churches or places of worship; enforcement; and the length of time that this bill—or law, as it will, I think, become—applies for.

…this bill, in coming here, has had very limited scrutiny. There will be, as it becomes law, no select committee. It’s a case of, on this side of the House—I don’t know about the support parties in Government—us having it for less than 24 hours. I think it was Geoffrey Palmer who lamented this Parliament being the fastest lawmaker in the West. Dare I say it, to the members opposite, in recent times we have got it wrong; passing things that we didn’t even know we were passing. So the room for error in this bill, I suggest, is incredibly high, given the legal complexities.

Michael Woodhouse:

I find myself in the situation of going, within an hour and a half, from commendation to condemnation for this piece of legislation—both in its process and in its executive overreach. I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness.

I’m old enough to remember carless days, wage and price freezes, reducing the road speed limit from 100 kilometres to 80 kilometres per hour — that’s right: SMPs — by an executive that road roughshod over this parliamentary process. Even they pale into comparison with the influence and executive fiat that is being exerted on this country by this bill.

I am, frankly, astounded that a Government that purports to be open and transparent, to be kind, and to give the country, the public, the credit for the amazing work that they have done, still increases further and further into their freedoms and their lives.

Let’s be very clear. If there was a question about whether the level 4 and level 3 lockdown was legally allowed under section 70 of the Health Act—and that is a question yet to be answered—then there’s no doubt that the sort of influence that the Government wants to have in level 2 is not. So if the Government wants to act in this way, it does need to pass legislation. But, as I said in my previous intervention, that is the very time when this place matters most, when the rule of law matters most, and where changes to that law need to be carefully thought through, well-considered, consulted on, robustly debated, and definitely not rushed through.

Now, the Minister of Health, very clearly says there is haste—understandable. But this Government has had three months. I think this Government did get legal advice that said that there was a question mark over their ability to act at level 3 and 4, and, clearly, they wanted to continue to impose themselves on New Zealanders’ lives under level 2 in a way that was entirely inconsistent given what we heard about what level 2 would look like. And so they’re going to pass that bill.

But not even the Minister of Health knows his own legislation, because he said in his speech that he will have to consult with the Director-General of Health. Actually, the bill doesn’t say that; it says quite the opposite. At subclause (2) of clause 9, on page 5, when making a section 11 order, “Nothing in this section requires the Minister to receive specific advice from the Director-General about the content of a proposed order or proposal to amend, extend, or revoke an order.” So he doesn’t need to consult the director-general, and not even Dr Clark knew that.

 I’m sad that at this stage in the process the National Party cannot support this bill, because we want this to be a team of 5 million, but it’s the Government that is racing off in a direction that we cannot support, curtailing the freedom of New Zealanders without their right to have their say. Unless there are material changes to it, which will be signalled, it will be difficult to support this subsequently.

Ron Mark spoke for NZ First but his speech was mainly an attack on National with little altention given to the Bill.

Julie Ann Genter for the Green Party:

I rise in support of this bill.

This bill, I think, is absolutely necessary to ensure that all New Zealanders will benefit from the period of lockdown that we’ve already been in, and will benefit from being assured that that the rules will be able to be enforced. Because even if the vast majority of New Zealanders embrace these rules and want to stop the spread of COVID-19, it would only take a small number who ignore the rules to cause an outbreak that could quite quickly become very serious and cause us to have to move back to a stricter level.

So, of course, the vast majority of New Zealanders support the actions that have been taken thus far. I think they will absolutely respect the rules in level 2, which are not at all arbitrary, but absolutely informed by what is going to prevent the spread of the illness.

Many people were pushing boundaries if not overstepping them under Level 3 over the last two weeks.

Of course, the Green Party would always prefer that there would be a select committee, even a very short one, and we would’ve liked to have seen that. But we also understand the need for urgency right now, given the move to level 2 at—was it at midnight on Thursday morning or 11:59 Wednesday? So recognising that this is a very, very short period of time and that there was a desire to move back to level 2 sooner rather than later, then we can understand this.

But the Bill didn’t have to be only introduced to Parliament the day before the we go back down to Level 2.

David Seymour (ACT):

I rise on behalf of ACT in support of this bill to its first reading. The reason ACT supports the COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Bill is very simple. It’s about the rule of law, and the rule of law matters because if it means anything to be a New Zealander, it is to live freely under democracy and the rule of law: to be able to send representatives to this House to make laws that are clear, that we can read for ourselves and understand what the law is. Having the rule of law protects the weakest people in our society because they can see it written down and it applies equally to every person.

But, unfortunately, I can only support this bill to the first reading, through this urgent process, because it has some real problems. I can understand the Government going through urgency. I won’t relitigate the issues that got us here, except to say that it has been four months–actually, nearly four and a half months–since it became clear to countries such as Taiwan that there might be an issue.

The idea that this has all suddenly happened and the Government has to rush Parliament through urgency now is a poor reflection on the preparedness of the Government. But, no matter, we’re here, and we have to rush this through urgency so we can get to level 2 lawfully and quickly. Understood.

There was a lot of debate over the severe restrictions on funerals still.

The Bill looks certain to pass, probably today, with the support of Labour, NZ First and the Green Party and possibly ACT.

First and second reading votes were the same:

  • Ayes 64 New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8; ACT New Zealand 1.
  • Noes 56 New Zealand National 55; Ross.

Hansard (Tuesday): https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20200512_20200512_34

Hansard (Wednesday: Tuesday, 12 May 2020 (continued on Wednesday, 13 May 2020) – Volume 745

 

 

Urgent tax relief for small businesses to be pushed through Parliament

The Government has announced what they say are significant tax reforms targeting small and medium sized businesses that they will try to rush through Parliament today.

The main measures will:

  • introduce a tax loss carry-back regime to provide cash flow quickly to businesses, by allowing losses to be carried back one year;
  • allow IR to change due dates, timeframes or other procedural requirements for tax returns for taxpayers affected by COVID-19;
  • ensure the treatment of benefits and pensions paid to New Zealanders stranded overseas is consistent with the treatment of equivalent payments in New Zealand;
  • Bring forward the commencement date of certain protections relating to high-cost consumer credit contracts;
  • Prevent famers and others working with animals having to call in vets to undertake minor surgical procedures during the lockdown; and
  • extend the timeframe for certain Crown entities to provide planning documents to responsible or shareholding Ministers.

Tax changes throw cash lifeline to SMEs

A significant package of tax reforms will be pushed through all stages in Parliament today to throw a cash flow lifeline to small businesses.

Revenue Minister Stuart Nash says the COVID-19 Response (Taxation and other Regulatory Urgent Measures) Bill gives businesses more than $3 billion in tax refunds as they deal with the economic impact of the virus.

“This response delivers the single biggest government support package to businesses via the tax system in modern New Zealand history, and more is yet to come,” Mr Nash said.

“As the Prime Minister and Finance Minister have said we are constantly monitoring the situation for business and adjusting our support as required. Just yesterday we indicated additional support will be coming for commercial leases.

“We will keep supporting business and jobs where we can to cushion the blow of the virus and ensure New Zealand is well positioned for recovery.”

“Today’s changes mean cash could start flowing to businesses via the tax system as early as next week. Many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are feeling the pain now. We are moving urgently to get cash into their hands as quickly as possible, by taking current losses back to a prior year.

“My strong advice to businesses is to talk to their accountant, bookkeeper or tax agent, or log onto the MyIR portal as quickly as possible to ensure they take advantage of the government support as soon as changes come into effect this week.

“The tax refunds will be a cash lifeline for businesses with non-wage fixed costs, like rent, interest and insurance. Some don’t want to take on extra debt with a bank loan. Without this support these otherwise viable SMEs may be forced to close.

“The changes were signalled two weeks ago and design features have now been finalised after discussions between Inland Revenue and external tax practitioners. I am grateful to the accounting and legal profession and IR officials for their rapid work on this legislation.

“The omnibus bill deals with tax and regulatory changes to support businesses and others get through the economic shock caused by COVID. The main measures will:

  • introduce a tax loss carry-back regime to provide cash flow quickly to businesses, by allowing losses to be carried back one year;
  • allow IR to change due dates, timeframes or other procedural requirements for tax returns for taxpayers affected by COVID-19;
  • ensure the treatment of benefits and pensions paid to New Zealanders stranded overseas is consistent with the treatment of equivalent payments in New Zealand;
  • Bring forward the commencement date of certain protections relating to high-cost consumer credit contracts;
  • Prevent famers and others working with animals having to call in vets to undertake minor surgical procedures during the lockdown; and
  • extend the timeframe for certain Crown entities to provide planning documents to responsible or shareholding Ministers.

Other tax changes just before the lockdown involved a $2.8 billion support package for business.

“It gives $2 billion in tax deductions to landlords through depreciation on commercial buildings. It removes 95,000 taxpayers from the provisional tax regime by raising the tax threshold to $5,000; allows businesses to claim back more for spending on low-value assets like laptops and phones; and allows interest to be waived on late payments.

“The wage subsidy has also been a vital factor in small business survival. Around 97 per cent of businesses who received the subsidy are either sole traders or firms employing fewer than 20 staff.

“More than $1.25 billion has been paid to about 188,000 sole traders. A further $4.27 billion has gone to 160,000 small businesses that employ between one and 19 staff. Almost 8,900 medium-sized firms, with 20-99 staff, have been paid $1.3 billion.

“SMEs can also call on government support to pay for professional advice to plan for survival and recovery from the economic shock caused by COVID. A $25 million business consultancy fund will pay for tailored specialist support such as business continuity planning, finance and cash flow management, HR and staffing issues.

“The global pandemic and economic crisis is hitting every nation hard. We are moving to cushion the blow for businesses and workers in this country as Alert Level 3 opens up the economy to prepare for recovery,” Mr Nash said.

Further information: :

‘Urgency’ for ‘virtue signalling’ foreign donation ‘ban’

Again the Government is talking big and doing little, this time under urgency in Parliament. It has been described as little more than “virtue signalling”.

Beehive: Government to ban foreign donations

The Government is taking action to protect New Zealand from foreign interference in our elections by banning foreign donations to political parties and candidates, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today.

Legislation will be introduced to Parliament this afternoon and passed under urgency.

“There’s no need for anyone other than New Zealanders to donate to our political parties or seek to influence our elections,” Andrew Little said.

“We need to protect the integrity of our elections. These changes will reduce the risk of foreign money influencing our election outcomes.

“We don’t want our elections to go the way of recent overseas examples where foreign interference appears to have been at play.”

Other countries ban foreign donations. Foreign or anonymous donations cannot be accepted in Australia over $1,000, Canada over $20 or the United Kingdom over £500 respectively.

The Bill contains a minimal threshold of $50, to ensure that small-scale fundraising activities such as bucket donations and whip-rounds won’t be affected. But big donations will be gone.

What the Beehive/Andrew Little don’t say is that all they are doing is lowering the threshold, from $1500 to $50. So donations are not being banned, they are just more limited than they were.

The Bill also introduces a new requirement that party secretaries and candidates must take reasonable steps to ensure that a donation, or a contribution to a donation over the $50 foreign donation threshold, is not from an overseas person. The Electoral Commission will issue guidance on what ‘reasonable steps they might take to check the origin of the donations.

The Bill also requires Party Secretaries to reside in New Zealand, to make it easier to enforce parties’ compliance with the donations rules.

It also extends the requirement to include name and address details on election advertisements to apply to election advertisements in all mediums.

Another couple of tweaks.

The threshold reduction is unlikely to have much effect on donations – and leaves large loopholes open (that have been used by NZ First and National foundations).

Newsroom: Govt’s foreign donation ‘ban’ leaves loopholes untouched

At first glance, the changes seem reasonable: a ban on foreign donations is a topic on which nearly all political parties agree, and the threat of foreign interference in elections (such as the Brexit vote and the United States presidential elections) is a growing concern around the world.

On closer reading, though, the changes seem to create as many problems as they solve.

The “ban” is not in fact a ban, but a reduction in the overseas donation limit from $1500 to $50, designed to protect smaller fundraising efforts such as whip-arounds.

But in 2017, overseas donations of the type being curtailed made up less than a quarter of a percent of all party donations that year (or $26,272 out of a whopping $11.4 million).

Even the Ministry of Justice concedes (in its regulatory impact statement for the bill) that the rationale for a ban is not about the amount of money being donated, but “the implicit message that allowing foreign donations sends to domestic political parties and prospective candidates, and those who are not part of New Zealand’s electoral system” – virtue signalling, if you will.

And it won’t stop loopholes from being used – Jacinda Ardern admits political party ‘foreign donation ban’ won’t close loopholes

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has admitted it won’t stop an apparent loophole: big foreign donations of over $100,000 being funnelled through New Zealand trusts, businesses or foundations.

In August, the Prime Minister accused the National Party of operating”outside the spirit of the law”, for accepting a $150,000 donation from a Chinese billionaire channelled through a New Zealand business.

Electoral law expert Andrew Geddis explained to Newshub: “It doesn’t matter if that company is owned by an overseas person – the law allowed it and will continue to allow it.”

But the Prime Minister appeared to have a different view. She said she “absolutely acknowledges” that the law change wouldn’t completely close loopholes in the law.

In fact, she said the law change wouldn’t catch donations like the one she once described as “outside the spirit of the law” at all.

“It does not cover the substantive issues that some have raised around how the National Party have used donations,” she told Parliament.

The Electoral Commission is currently looking into allegations New Zealand First has been hiding donations through the New Zealand First Foundation.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wouldn’t say if the law change would prevent foreign donations to foundations like the New Zealand First Foundation.

If NZ First are supporting the changes, and supporting urgency to ram through the changes, then it is unlikely it will impact on how NZ First are using the NZ First Foundation.

Newsroom: Govt’s foreign donation ‘ban’ leaves loopholes untouched

The “ban” is not in fact a ban, but a reduction in the overseas donation limit from $1500 to $50, designed to protect smaller fundraising efforts such as whip-arounds.

But in 2017, overseas donations of the type being curtailed made up less than a quarter of a percent of all party donations that year (or $26,272 out of a whopping $11.4 million).

Even the Ministry of Justice concedes (in its regulatory impact statement for the bill) that the rationale for a ban is not about the amount of money being donated, but “the implicit message that allowing foreign donations sends to domestic political parties and prospective candidates, and those who are not part of New Zealand’s electoral system” – virtue signalling, if you will.

It seems that virtue signalling is now done under urgency by the Government.

In Parliament yesterday (Tuesday):

URGENCY

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): I move, That urgency be accorded the passing through all stages of the Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2), the third readings of the Farm Debt Mediation Bill (No 2) and the National Animal Identification and Tracing Amendment Bill (No 2), and the second reading of the Maritime Transport (Offshore Installations) Amendment Bill.

The Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2) takes action to protect New Zealand from foreign interference in our elections by banning donations to political parties and candidates. It’s an issue that is being faced around the world, and, of course, it is one that we will face next year in our election year. The Government believes it’s important that the measures in the bill are put in place as early as possible before election year gets under way, which is the reason that we are asking the House to pass it through all stages under urgency.

It’s likely that consideration of the Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2) will continue into tomorrow morning, meaning that select committees will not meet. In order to make optimum use of the House’s time, the third readings of the Farm Debt Mediation Bill (No 2) and the National Animal Identification and Tracing Amendment Bill (No 2) and the second reading of the Maritime Transport (Offshore Installations) Amendment Bill are also included in this motion. Both of the agriculture sector bills make important contributions to safeguard the future of the country’s most important industry.

The Farm Debt Mediation Bill (No 2) is scheduled to commence in part on 1 February next year, and the Maritime Transport (Offshore Installations) Amendment Bill also commences at the start of next year. It’s important that these bills complete their passage through the House this year, which may not be possible without the granting of urgency.

I do want to undertake it publicly, as I have given an undertaking to the shadow Leader of the House, that the Government does not intend to progress with urgency beyond 1 p.m. tomorrow, so that the House’s regular business of question time and members’ day can resume in the afternoon.


A party vote was called for on the question, That urgency be accorded.

Ayes 63

New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8.

Noes 57

New Zealand National 55; ACT New Zealand 1; Ross.

Motion agreed to.


National actually supports lowering the threshold, but not doing it under urgency. Nick Smith in the First reading:

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): This is an extraordinary situation where we have our Parliament in urgency being asked to rush through changes to our electoral law, where the Opposition party only received a copy of the bill at 11 a.m. this morning, after our caucus had even started, and where the bill is proposed to go through its first reading, its committee stage, its second reading, and become law by today. The question the Parliament has to ask is: why on earth is the Minister of Justice panicked into this sort of shoddy parliamentary process? The honest answer is this: firstly, the Government’s just had a bad poll, so they want to be looking like they’re doing something, and the second thing is they are behaving like a wounded bull in response to the very serious disclosures of the New Zealand First Foundation and what is going on within the Government.

National supports a reduction in that limit, but we should not pretend that, somehow, this is a magic solution to the inappropriate use of foreign donations. Everybody knows, and the Minister accepts, that all a foreigner needs to do is set up a New Zealand registered trust with a lawyer friend or set up a company in New Zealand, and that company could quite legitimately make donations under this bill. That is why this bill is all about politics and not really contributing to the improvements in the fairness of our democracy and ensuring that it is protected from some of the growing influences of foreign individuals.

So every single bill of an electoral nature under the nine years of the previous Key Government, introduced by justice Minister Amy Adams, Judith Collins, or Simon Power, involved extensive consultation with the Opposition and involved more than a majority, and that involved compromise. I contrast that with respect to the record of Mr Little. This is the fourth electoral amendment bill that he’s brought to this Parliament without any consultation with Opposition parties at all. We had it with the waka-hopping law, we had it with the law on referendums that’s just gone through its third reading, we had it with the Electoral Amendment Bill, and now we have it with the Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2). Andrew Little is on the public record saying that electoral bills should be consulted with the Opposition.


Pushing this through under urgency has raised some eyebrows about the Green Party involvement, given their history of supporting sound democratic processes.

Co-leader Marama Davidson in the First reading:

The Green Party are very clear that we need to fight strong and long for a democracy and a public decision making process that people with a connection to New Zealand can absolutely trust, that people can feel confident is here for the will of the people of our country. So the Green Party welcomes and supports the Electoral Amendment Bill; the changes that we are making to ban overseas donations in our electoral processes.

For some time now around the world, and, certainly, here in our own country, public confidence and trust in our democratic processes has been waning. We need to have the public interest of the people who are connected to this country at the heart of every decision that we are making, rather than any overseas interests or influence or advocacy, and so, again, really leaning into why the Greens are strong in our support of this bill.

So they support abusing one democratic process to tweak rules around another process.

I wanted to pick up on the time restraints that were identified by officials, that we need to start getting these changes put into place before the 2020 election, and that it is essential that we are giving parties, the electoral systems, the authorities involved, and our own political system enough time to be able to make sure that we have got these changes—that we’ve got the system set up to be able to take on board a ban on overseas donations and, again, a raft of other measures that need to be put into place as well. So I understand and accept and hear the justification that has been given to make sure that we get these changes through, to get us towards a better engagement, a better public confidence in our system.

Urgency gives no time for normaal democratic processes, making a mockery of “it is essential that we are giving parties, the electoral systems, the authorities involved, and our own political system enough time to be able to make sure that we have got these changes”.

It seems that the Greens don’t care about democratic processes if it gets them laws that they want.

So, once again, to close—it is of the utmost importance for us to be working together to address the big crises that are facing the future of our world, and the big issues that we are going to have to work together on. It is in the utmost interests for all of us to have a strong, transparent, and equal access democratic system.

Tweaking donation rules is addressing a big crisis?


But urgency wasn’t enough to get it through last night:

Part 1 Amendments relating to overseas donations

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): I look forward to this very important stage of the House and the extensive time we’ll have available for the remainder of this session. This bill is very important. It does a very important thing. It’s meaningful, it’s real, it deals with a serious risk, and it will make a serious difference for the conduct by parties and their general secretaries to make sure that our electoral system has integrity. It’s not called the electoral integrity bill; it is called the Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2), but it is about integrity. What is similar between this bill and that bill of the other name is the catastrophising that goes on by members opposite, and they do it every time there’s a very minor but important technical change to our law, as it is in this case. But this bill and this part of the bill—

CHAIRPERSON (Hon Ruth Dyson): I’m sorry to advise the Minister, but the time has come for me to leave the Chair.

Sitting suspended from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. (Wednesday)

Government puts House in urgency over fuel tax bill

This may be largely unnoticed as most attention is on Trump’s immigration fiasco and New Zealand media will likely be obsessed with a maternity hospital in Auckland.

URGENCY

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): I move, That urgency be accorded to the committee stage and third reading of the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill and to the committee stage and third reading of the Taxation (Neutralising Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) Bill. McGee says that “the use of urgency is expected to be confined to situations where an urgent approach is genuinely needed.” The passing of these two bills meets this criteria quite comfortably. The passing of the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill this week is essential so that the Order in Council in clause 5 under new section 65K of the Land Transport Management Act can be made in time to establish the Auckland regional fuel tax scheme from 1 July, as scheduled. A late delay in the start date would make that very difficult, if not impossible.

The Taxation (Neutralising Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) Bill must be assented by the end of this month to allow the commencement of most of its provisions on 1 July to apply in the income year that begins on that day. Any delay could create serious compliance issues for the IRD and for taxpayers. The bill has been supported by all parties at its first and second reading.

The scheduling of the remaining stages of these two bills this week was notified to all parties last Thursday, so there are no particular surprises here. The use of urgency today will prevent the disruption of the third readings of the Treaty settlement bills that are planned tomorrow and next Thursday, and it will stop the Government having to interrupt members’ day next Wednesday, which is an undertaking that I have given to members opposite—that we would avoid interrupting members’ days wherever possible.

Urgency will be used very rarely by this Government, as we showed last month when we became the first Government not to seek post-Budget urgency, and therefore I ask the House to support the motion.

  • [Party Vote—Ayes 63, Noes 55]

    Motion agreed to.

Scoop:  House goes into Urgency over tax bills

The Government moved to put the House into Urgency tonight after making slow progress on the committee stage of the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill.

The unusual step was taken to end the debate by reporting progress and then immediately afterwards the Leader of the House Chris Hipkins put the Urgency motion to complete all stages of the fuel tax bill and the Taxation (Neutralising Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) Bill.

Hipkins said Urgency was required as the two bills had to be enacted by July 1 and it would mean less disruption to the rest of the House’s sitting programme.

One could ask why the Government has left themselves with so little time to get these bills through in time.

National MPs disagreed saying Urgency was being given without notice due to the Government losing control of its parliamentary agenda.

National MP Jami-Lee Ross then put forward a motion that “it be an instruction to the Committee of the whole House on the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill that all members wishing to speak that have already spoken in Part 2 have the ability to have a full four calls reset to zero so each member is able to restart their speaking number”. This in effect would have extended the debate by some time.

Hipkins then moved an amendment to the motion that “the motion be amended to delete all the words after “That” and replace them with “That it be an instruction to the committee that the remaining questions on the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill be put without further debate”.

Debate will resume in Parliament at 9 am this morning.

The fuel tax was originally intended to help Auckland with it’s urgent need for more money for transport infrastructure, but it could spread around the country.

Newshub – Revealed: The number of councils considering a fuel tax

Newshub can reveal at least 14 councils across the country have discussed the possibility of implementing a regional fuel tax.

This time next month, Aucklanders will be paying an additional 11.5 cents a litre for their fuel through the regional fuel tax – and it seems other councils want in on the action.

In response to a number of local government Official Information and Meetings Act requests, numerous councils across the nation admitted they were considering a fuel tax.

Those councils are:

  • Christchurch City Council
  • Rangitikei District Council
  • Bay of Plenty Regional Council
  • Thames Coromandel District Council
  • Tauranga City Council
  • Gisborne District Council
  • Greater Wellington Regional Council
  • Hamilton City Council
  • Western Bay of Plenty
  • Waikato Regional Council
  • Waikato District Council
  • Westland District Council
  • Environment Canterbury
  • Hurunui District Council

Another eight lower North Island councils had discussed the policy at a Mayoral Forum.

The law is currently making its way through Parliament – and while it was drafted to address Auckland congestion, the legislation doesn’t specify that the tax should only be applied in the super city.

 

 

Parliament under urgency

The 52nd Parliament of new Zealand kicked off under urgency yesterday.

A party vote was called for on the question, That urgency be accorded.

Ayes 60

New Zealand Labour 45; Green Party 8; New Zealand First 7.

Noes 55

New Zealand National 55.

Motion agreed to.

No vote from ACT.

RNZ: Govt puts Parliament into urgency to start 100-day plan

The new government made a swift start on its 100-day plan, putting the house into urgency within hours of Parliament’s state opening.

Senior National MP Amy Adams told the House she was witnessing an incredible turnaround of principles by the parties now on the government benches.

“From parties who until now have derided, castigated, abused, got outraged over the use of urgency.

“When the National-led government took urgency it was very clear as the the need and the reasons for doing so.”

It is clear why urgency is being used here too – the new Government wants to get a lot through Parliament in their first 100n days, but it is questionable whether rushing things is good for democracy and whether the legislation will be sound or not.

Opposition parties tend to oppose urgency. Jacinda Ardern has done this in the past – this from Hansard in 2013:

I did just want to say that although Labour supports this bill, we have proactively engaged with the Minister to get to this point. We had some initial concerns that this might not have been the outcome and we were seeking this particular outcome for now. This process, I think it is fair to say, would have been smoother, Minister, if perhaps we were not debating this one in urgency.

I know that that may not have been what you were necessarily seeking when you took it to your esteemed colleague the Leader of the House, but given that we now have this in an urgency motion, that will bring with it some complications, just in terms of our continuing to make sure that we debate it in full, as we are entitled to do with this process.

But that does not lessen the degree to which we support the notion of what we are doing within this bill. A bit more time with the bill would have also been helpful and appreciated. Although, as I have said, we support the content, we have not seen the content in writing till just now. I am literally just opening this bill as we speak.

Sounds like a similar situation to last night.

 

 

 

National criticise urgency but support Paid Parental Leave bill

The first bill to be considered by the new Parliament was debated under urgency, a move criticised as hypocritical, but National also voted for the bill, saying they shared policy to increase paid parental leave.

RNZ: Govt puts Parliament into urgency to start 100-day plan

The new government made a swift start on its 100-day plan, putting the house into urgency within hours of Parliament’s state opening.

The first bill to be debated under the new government enacts the extension to paid parental leave announced by the Prime Minister on Monday.

Minister for Workplace Relations Iain Lees-Galloway told Parliament the bill was a straight-forward one.

“It provides for a an increase in the duration of paid parental leave from the current 18 weeks to 26 weeks.

“This is achieved in two stages, first an increase to 22 weeks in 1 July 2018, with a further increase to 26 weeks on 1 July 2020.”

Despite National’s objections to the bill, it voted in support – saying it was in fact its policy as well to extend paid parental leave.

ACT voted against it.

The bill has to pass further readings before becoming law.

The bill is being pushed through under urgency, meaning it will skip the committee (and public submission) stage.

That led to accusations of hypocrisy from the Opposition, arguing Labour had castigated the National-led goverment for using urgency.

The legislation was being pushed through without being sent to a select committee, as the government argued it had already been through that process twice under the previous National government.

The first time it was voted down at third reading and the second time it got there it was vetoed by National.

It was vetoed on fiscal grounds, with the National led government saying they had no funds available.

Senior National MP Amy Adams told the House she was witnessing an incredible turnaround of principles by the parties now on the government benches.

“From parties who until now have derided, castigated, abused, got outraged over the use of urgency.

“When the National-led government took urgency it was very clear as the the need and the reasons for doing so.”

Ms Adams said the rushed, hurried, seat-of-the-pants process by the Labour-led coalition meant the bill was very light on detail.

New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin, the Minister for Children, said the bill had twice been through select committee with more than 6000 submissions, 99 percent of which were in support.

She said the bill was going through under urgency, because it was urgent.

“Because our families need it, our babies need it, our mothers and fathers need it – they need the security to know that as soon as possible they can plan for this.

I think this bill was probably chosen to push through under urgency because it had been debated last term in Parliament as a Member’s Bill, and it was a safe one to start with, uncontroversial and assured of passing.

But it is highly debatable whether it can be called ‘urgent’.

And the planned implementation doesn’t seem urgent – an increase in four weeks next July, and an increase of another four weeks in 2020.

The first bill to be considered by the new Government may signal the approach by National – a mix of apposition, criticism and cooperation.

 

 

 

Urgency and select committee arguments

National MP Simon Bridges makes a fair (albeit possibly hypocritical) point about the use of urgency in Parliament.

In July Labour Party spoke in Parliament against the use of “urgency as a lazy approach to avoid proper scrutiny in select committees” and there are quite a number of times over the years when they’ve railed against the constitutional outrage of urgency in Parliament.

In their first week of Parliament their first Bill will be under urgency with no pesky select committee process.

Bridges is the national Opposition’s shadow leader of the House.

There is also a stoush over numbers of select committee members. Stuff: National calls Government’s plans for select committee ‘undemocratic’

National and Labour are exchanging blows over Labour’s plans to cut opposition MPs out of select committees, after Bill English threatened National will use its size to frustrate government progress.

Now National has accused Labour of eroding democratic rights, and attempting to limit the scrutiny of its government by changing the number of committee seats to 96, meaning 11 National MPs will miss out.

The committees are a crucial step in the legislative process.

The move to have 96 select committee seats comes after National leader Bill English last week warned the government to expect “tension” and “pressure” in Parliament, and through the select committee process where National would have a strong presence.

“And that is going to make a difference to how everything runs — it’s not our job to make this place run for an incoming Government that is a minority,” he said.

National shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges said the government was now trying to cut the number of opposition MPs from committees because it was short on numbers itself.

Traditionally, the number of positions on select committees had matched the number of MPs in Parliament, he said.

But Labour claim that National started it (a move to reduce numbers):

Labour has not yet responded to requests for comment but the party’s leader of the House Chris Hipkins told NZME the number of 96 was settled upon because that was the recommendation from the standing orders committee.

Earlier this year, the standing orders committee, which included National, recommended the number of select committee places be reduced to 96.

The committee met in March to consider different options for the make-up of the subject select committees. It recommended the 96-member option, saying 84 wasn’t enough and while the 108-seat model would “essentially maintain current arrangements” due to the number of subject committees being reduced from 13 to 12, committees were “generally larger than is necessary for them to be effective, and some members have too many committee commitments”.

“And ultimately Bill English was out there on Friday saying the National Opposition was going to use the select committee process to grind the Government’s legislation to a halt,” Hipkins said.

“It would be fair to say we are not of a mind to increase the numbers on select committee in order to make it easier for them to do that.”

It would be fair to say that parties do what they can to look after their own interests in Parliament.

If the Government does everything under urgency then the numbers on select committees won’t matter.

The Government has set ambitious targets for their first 100 days in office – after a long time in Opposition they are obviously keen to get things done but hasty lawmaking is risky.