Kris Faafoi has stopped Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako's frankly abysmal "lost luggage (but not really)" members bill eating up hours of Parliament's time. That's great ... but what will I do now for fun? 

So, according to this Act Party press release:

Parliament’s time will no longer be consumed debating Matt Doocey’s member’s bill, as a Supplementary Order Paper put forward by ACT Leader David Seymour has passed, adding Mr Doocey’s bill to the broader Statutes Amendment Bill. The infamous ‘lost luggage’ bill was felled by Labour’s Kris Faafoi using the same technique.

Kris Faafoi's SOP is here, while the debate on the issue is here. Somewhat amusingly, it appears that New Zealand First's Mahesh Bindra nearly upset the whole applecart by accidentally objecting to the SOP (which would have led to it being defeated) - he had to quickly withdraw that objection or else become known as the man who made Parliament have to keep debating this nonsense!

Anyway, the upshot of the House (finally) agreeing to it is that rather than Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako's frankly abysmal members bill - the Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill - having to go through the entire legislative process of three readings plus select committee hearings, it'll fly onto the statute books when the Statute Amendment Bill receives its third reading vote.

From the perspective of good parliamentary lawmaking and the efficient usage of both legislative time and public money, this obviously is a good thing. Korako's Bill was a transparent attempt to clog up the members bill ballot in order to try and prevent politically challenging or embarrassing measures coming before the House. It had no redeeming legislative qualities whatsoever. It was cynical politics at its second worst (behind Murray McCully's claim that the Auditor General's finding that he isn't a criminal makes him a victim who ought to deserve our heartfelt sympathy). 

Hooray for that, I guess. But by God was I going to have fun with my submission on this Bill, pointing out that not only did no-one involved in the airport business seem to see the issue as being a problem needing fixing, that airports already could do what Mr Korako claimed his bill would let them do, and that only one airport actually seems to hold the auctions the bill supposedly is meant to make easier to know about (and that airport isn't actually charged any money by the local newspaper for advertising it).

Now Kris Faafoi has taken that fun away from me. Meaning that I say, "boo Kris Faafoi. Boo to you!"

Comments (12)

by Graeme Edgeler on November 03, 2016
Graeme Edgeler

From the perspective of good parliamentary lawmaking and the efficient usage of both legislative time and public money, this obviously is a good thing. 

No it isn't. Good parliamentary lawmaking requires the possibility of public scrutiny, and this law change is not so urgent that it was appropriate to pass it without select committee scrutiny.

That scrutiny could be a cursory. Maybe no-one would have submitted. Parts of statutes amendment bills often don't any submissions. But the possibility should have been open.

I have no problem with this change being in a statutes amendment bill, but it should have been in the next one, so that people could still have had a say. I would have liked one. I could have said that while the Airports Authority Act could be updated to take account of the Internet, this was a bad way of doing it. Why not, for example, adopt the change in the Policing Act allowing the Police to conduct their lost property sales online (eg through TradeMe)? Surely that would be a better way to go, and a better way to meet the objectives of the Act, to require Airport Authorities to get the best value possible when selling lost property? Now, to achieve that end, the law will need to be amended yet again.

by Andrew Geddis on November 03, 2016
Andrew Geddis

Yes. It is.

In an ideal, parallel world this issue would never have been introduced as a member's bill. If ever even considered, it would have been a part of a Statutes Amendment Bill (or, more likely, part of whatever amending legislation may come out of the Government's review of the Civil Aviation Act and Airports Authority Act - as officials recommended, but Simon Bridges turned down). Then we could all have had our select committee say on the issue (if anyone cared enough to do so) as part and parcel of a wider set of legislative reforms (rather than as a stand-alone measure).

But we don't inhabit that ideal, parallel world. We instead inhabit a world in which Nuk Korako has put this bill into the member's ballot and it has been drawn and so it sits on the order paper waiting its time in the House. Further, National is not going to strong-arm him into withdrawing it, so it will have to be dealt with as if it is legislation that actually matters. Those facts then leave only two available options.

The first is for the measure to be dealt with under ordinary member's bill processes, eating up hours and hours of legislative time and (yes) with select committee hearings where we could all have had lots of fun at Nuk's expense and maybe suggest expressly allowing for creating bylaws that permit on-line sale of property (although it's not clear that airports can't do this already under the existing section 9 - why exactly isn't a Trade-Me sale an "auction" that they can make by-laws for?).

The second is for the trivial, pointless measure to be rolled into a Statutes Amendment Bill and expedited through the House and into law, thereby freeing up the legislative process for other measures which should have more point and purpose (and if they don't, then deserve the same opprobrium that Korako's measure received). It's a procedural means of correcting the initial failure involved in even allowing this matter on to the order paper.

So, I would argue that insisting on the principle that "the public ought to have had a say on this issue" both carries opportunity costs and assumes that the measure is worthy of legislative attention. And I would say the proposed law change was so de minimus - so inconsequential/trivial/pointless - that to accord it full legislative process is itself demeaning to the parliamentary process and we should just not do it. So before insisting on the principle we should ask the prior question - is this a matter to which such a principle ought to apply?

Of course, if you really believe that the first option is better than the second, you should publicly agitate for an MP to put up a members bill amending the amended s.9 to (say) expressly allow for bylaws to be made that permit online property sales (if s.9 really needs such amendment). If you really think the principle of the public always having a say on legislative change requires that we have a chance to submit on this issue, that is. I'm sure Chris Bishop would be more than happy to listen to you ... .

by Graeme Edgeler on November 03, 2016
Graeme Edgeler

The first is for the measure to be dealt with under ordinary member's bill processes, eating up hours and hours of legislative time and (yes) with select committee hearings where we could all have had lots of fun at Nuk's expense and maybe suggest expressly allowing for creating bylaws that permit on-line sale of property (although it's not clear that airports can't do this already under the existing section 9 - why exactly isn't a Trade-Me sale an "auction" that they can make by-laws for?).

Your first option is mistaken. The debate on a first reading of a member's bill is one 10 minute speech for the bill's sponsor, a 10 minute speech for the first speaker from the opposition, 8 five-minute speeches, and a 5 minute reply, assuming that every National speaker takes up all their time, and every Labour, Green and NZF speaker takes up all their time (an assumption I consider is flawed), the maximum length of the debate is 65 minutes. In reality, Labour would like not take all their slots, and the opposition speakers wouldn't use their full time, and I'd suggest the debate would probably be 45 minutes at most. It would then be put to a vote, which it would lose, ceasing to exist. It doesn't go to select committee, and it doesn't eat up hours and hours of time, so much as maybe, at the upper limit, one hour of time, and probably substantially less. 

The second is for the trivial, pointless measure to be rolled into a Statutes Amendment Bill and expedited through the House and into law, thereby freeing up the legislative process for other measures which should have more point and purpose (and if they don't, then deserve the same opprobrium that Korako's measure received). It's a procedural means of correcting the initial failure involved in even allowing this matter on to the order paper.

I agree this is the appropriate process. But it should wait for the next statutes amendment bill.

Also, the greater concern isn't Korako's bill, it's Doocey's bill. Korako's bill has actually had a fair of public discussion, and we are both confident it does as little as we think it does. But it wasn't the only change added into the Statutes Amendment bill after select committee consideration. I've had a quick look at Doocey's bill, and cannot see any flaws, but it is not an area of the law with which I am particularly familiar, and I have also noted Chris Bishop's strong assertions that the bill is wholly inappropriate for a statutes amendment bill. I'm not sure I agree, but like I say, this isn't my area, and better safe than sorry.

What's the big deal? I encourage you to look at past select committee reports on statutes amendment bills. Most of the amendments go through without change, but there are still a surprising of amendments that either the law society, or officials, or someone, find some minor issue with which is fixed up by the select committee, and I'm betting that at the point at which they all voted in favour of Doocey's bill avoiding select committee consideration, our MPs were not certain that his bill would not be one of them, and probably, neither were you.

by Andrew Geddis on November 04, 2016
Andrew Geddis

It would then be put to a vote, which it would lose, ceasing to exist. It doesn't go to select committee, and it doesn't eat up hours and hours of time, so much as maybe, at the upper limit, one hour of time, and probably substantially less. 

You're assuming, of course, that Korako's bill would have lost at first reading ... which given the political mischief that could have been manufactured by (say) New Zealand First deciding to vote with National in support of it isn't a certainty. After all, Peters stymied Brownlee's attempt to have the bill debated through all stages, while another NZ First MP almost stopped Faafoi's SOP being adopted. So your critique of my first option relies on a predicate that may not be sound.

I'd also note that you yourself appear not to think the predicate of your claim is very sound, given this tweet:

I'd already started writing my submission on this bill, and now will not get a say.

Furthermore, there's a bigger picture at play here. National has adopted a tactic to spam the member's bill ballot with trivia. Faafoi's SOP represents an institutional means of defeating that undesirable political tactic, thereby reducing its value and so (potentially) stopping it in the future. That is to the net benefit of Parliament as an institution and so justifies the passage into law of a de minimus law change without the opportunity for public submissions.

Also, the greater concern isn't Korako's bill, it's Doocey's bill.

I didn't talk about Doocey's bill in my post. I only discussed Korako's bill. I accept that if a bill is not de minimus so inconsequential/trivial/pointless - that to accord it full legislative process is itself demeaning to the parliamentary process then my argument does not hold up (or, at least, isn't as strong). And I told the NBR here (paywall) that I thought Doocey's bill had some point and purpose to it. So my support for Faafoi's SOP does not necessarily translate into support for Seymour's SOP.

by Graeme Edgeler on November 04, 2016
Graeme Edgeler

I'd also note that you yourself appear not to think the predicate of your claim is very sound, given this tweet:

My concern was that I wanted a say before it passed into law. I don't need a say on it if it's not going to become law.

Faafoi's SOP represents an institutional means of defeating that undesirable political tactic, thereby reducing its value and so (potentially) stopping it in the future.

I guess this is agree to disagree time. Undermining the principle that law changes get debated at select committees, and the principle that oppositions do what they can to see that this happens is a bigger deal to me, I guess.

National's ballot spamming is a political problem with a political solution: bad publicity, attack lines, and retribution at the ballot box. If you want an institutional solution, it's voting them down after an embarrassing first reading debate.

I might agree that the risk is low enough that it might be worth it if part of the agreement to pass these laws was also an agreement to stop spamming the ballot, but if that is so, I've seen no evidence of it.

by Andrew Geddis on November 04, 2016
Andrew Geddis

My concern was that I wanted a say before it passed into law. I don't need a say on it if it's not going to become law.

Sure - and my point is that it is very odd to have claimed to have begun work on a submission to a select committee hearing that you now confidently claim would not actually take place (or, at least, will not take place until well into next year if (but only if) the Government chooses to adopt the measure into the next Statutes Amendment Bill). But maybe you just have unusual work habits.

Undermining the principle that law changes get debated at select committees, and the principle that oppositions do what they can to see that this happens is a bigger deal to me, I guess.

I guess I disagree that this really is a "law change" in anything but form, and I am happy to look beyond that form to make a judgment on substance. Having done so, I don't believe this to be a measure that on its own deserves the dignity of select committee scrutiny, and I am not as confident as you that this would not have happened in the absence of Faafoi's SOP.

I might agree that the risk is low enough that it might be worth it if part of the agreement to pass these laws was also an agreement to stop spamming the ballot, but if that is so, I've seen no evidence of it.

Why is an agreement needed? The opposition (and, indeed, government's support partners) have shown that if National does that, they'll do this (which robs the "that" of its point). I guess we now see what happens.

by Alan Johnstone on November 04, 2016
Alan Johnstone

Do we get another private members bill to take it's place instead?

by Graeme Edgeler on November 04, 2016
Graeme Edgeler

Why is an agreement needed? The opposition (and, indeed, government's support partners) have shown that if National does that, they'll do this (which robs the "that" of its point). I guess we now see what happens.

There is only one statutes amendment bill on the order paper, and it has just completed its committee stage. There are no further opportunities to use this solution until the next committee of the whole on the next statutes amendment bill, which hasn't even been introduced yet. The solution you posit to this issue is likely to be exercisable two or three times over the course of a Parliament. There aren't even statutes amendment bills every year (there wasn't one in 2008, 2010, or 2013). This is not a real solution to the problem you see. If National spams the next ballot, how will the opposition, or even National's support partners repeat their recent success?

Sure - and my point is that it is very odd to have claimed to have begun work on a submission to a select committee hearing that you now confidently claim would not actually take place (or, at least, will not take place until well into next year if (but only if) the Government chooses to adopt the measure into the next Statutes Amendment Bill). But maybe you just have unusual work habits.

It started out as a blog post, and I then realised I'd written far too much on Nuk Korako's bill, and what I was writing was kinda boring even in the realm of discussions of bills about lost property, so it morphed into a partial submission instead. Which I then stopped working on, but with it waiting should it be needed.

by Andrew Geddis on November 04, 2016
Andrew Geddis

Do we get another private members bill to take it's place instead?

Yes - once the Statutes Amendment Bill passes into law (which will be soon), both Korako and Doocey's bills will be discharged (removed from the order paper) and two new bills drawn in their place. You can see what might get drawn instead here.
by Antoine on November 05, 2016
Antoine

This is exciting watching you two argue, a bit like a courtroom drama on TV

A.

by Andrew Geddis on November 05, 2016
Andrew Geddis

@Antoine,

Oh! Oh! Can it be Suits? I'll be Jessica to Graeme's Louis Litt.

by Rich on November 08, 2016
Rich

My concern was that I wanted a say before it passed into law. I don't need a say on it if it's not going to become law.

What if you did want it to become law? Or want it to become law with changes, such as any bags with a purple ribbon on the handle have to be auctioned by open outcry in the departure lounge on the next Michaelmas Day.

BTW, I was thinking more Rumpole of the Bailey. Or This Life.

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