2 Jul 2020

Members' bills: Defying sad odds

From The House , 6:55 pm on 2 July 2020

Alternate Wednesdays at Parliament are set aside for debating legislation that isn't on the Government’s agenda. Mostly members' bills - those suggested by an MP that isn’t a Minister.

The life of a member’s bill is occasionally writ large (say, gay marriage, End of Life Choice, or Homosexual Law Reform), but most of their lives are brutish and short. 

Members' bills can languish for years at the bottom of the deep pile in the vain hope they will be picked in the biscuit tin ballot. Those plucked from obscurity usually flame but briefly before being promptly extinguished again after a few short speeches. It’s brutal. 

But not this week. 

National MP Nikki Kaye

National MP Nikki Kaye Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

This week four different members' bills had a brief turn in the gladiatorial spotlight and every single one of them survived to fight again.

First up was one from Darroch Ball, which had a second reading after returning from select committee hearings. He outlined what it seeks to do.

“There are two main things. The first is to create a new offence of injuring a first responder or a prison officer with intent, which has a mandatory minimum sentence of six months' imprisonment, and also to include emergency, health, and fire service staff in the offence of assault on police, prison, or traffic officers, currently provided for in the Summary Offences Act.”

It was followed by a first reading for a bill from Nikki Kaye which seeks to mandate resourcing for primary and intermediate schools to offer the learning of non-English languages. 

It too was successful, as was the next bill, from Mark Patterson. He seeks to extend the minimum residential qualification for NZ superannuation from 10 to 20 years.

And this one from Louise Upston. Her bill wants a change to sentencing so if an offender is found not guilty on the grounds of insanity courts make it clear that they acted grievously. 

The three latter bills (which had first readings) will now go to various select committees which will call for public submissions shortly. 

Labour MP and chair of the Health Committee Louisa Wall

Louisa Wall was also the sponsor of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, a member's bill that legalised gay marriage. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

And because three of those bills were having first outings, three more bills got to be plucked from the famed biscuit tin of destiny to take their place.

The bills chosen were from National MPs David Carter, and Judith Collins and from Labour’s Louisa Wall (who has a lucky touch in getting bills through the ballot). 

David Carter’s Bill would get rid of the waka jumping law which seeks to prevent MPs from changing party. Louisa Wall’s Bill would create a specific offence to upload revenge porn, and Judith Collins’ Bill would strengthen the law around the body corporate management of Unit Title property. 

There are still two member’s days left before the election (with an extra morning session having been added to make up for Covid's lost time) but it is unlikely these bills will get a moment in the sun before the next Parliament.