Nuk Korako's Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill doesn't do what it says it is intended to do, doesn't need to be in the form that it is, and is intended purely to prevent other more worthy pieces of legislation from being debated. National's 50th ranked list MP is really proving his worth here.

So the very professional Rosanna Price rang me up about Tutehounuku (NukKorako's frankly abysmal members bill, the Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill, and accurately quoted me in the resulting story as follows:

Otago University professor of public law Andrew Geddis says not only is the bill "disrespectful to New Zealand", but he found it personally insulting.

Oh dear. In print, that comes across as a little bit precious. All I can say is that I cannot deny that I said those words and yet I do not recognise that man. It is me, and yet, it is another, and for that I am truly sorry.

But here's what so got my dander up about the proposal. First, it is a waste of parliamentary time that could (and should) be spent on debating (and maybe enacting)  more important measures. Second, there is already an obvious, easy and quicker way to change this law (if it really needs changed). And third, the Bill doesn't even do what Mr Korako claims that it is meant to do.

Let me work backwards from that third point. Here's what the explanatory note to Mr Korako's Bill - which he claims to be "passionate" (yes, this is the word he uses) about - says it is intended to achieve:

This Bill keeps in place the intent of the [Airport Authorities] Act, which is to inform passengers of lost property before the airport authority proceeds with the sale of or disposing of the lost property. This Bill expands the way an authority can communicate with passengers to more relevant methods.

This Bill will modernise the Airport Authorities Act 1966 to take into account changes in how people receive and search for information. This Bill would allow authorities to use modern means of communication as well as future, unforeseen, means of communications as the airport authority may determine fit. 

So how does Mr Korako's Bill do this? Well, it would amend the existing 9(1)(ff) of the existing legislation: 

Any local authority or airport authority may, in respect of the airport which it operates, make such bylaws as it thinks fit for all or any of the following purposes:

...

providing for the establishing and maintaining of facilities at the airport for the reception and storage of lost property, and, after the insertion of suitable advertisements in a newspaper circulating in the district where the airport is situated, providing for the sale by way of auction of any such property that is unclaimed after being held by the authority for not less than 3 months

Under Mr Korako's proposal, instead of having to place advertisements in newspapers, airports instead would have to "publicis[e] the sale in what the authority considers to be a fair and reasonable manner." 

But note what the existing s.9(1)(ff) doesn't do. It doesn't stop airports from "publicising the sale in what the authority considers to be a fair and reasonable manner"! It simply says that one of these forms of publication has to be an advertisement in the local paper. So Mr Korako's bill actually doesn't "expand the way an authority can communicate with passengers to more relevant methods" (as he claims). Rather, it removes the existing obligation for the airport to communicate to the public in a particular way (while still being able to communicate in any other way it wants).

[Update: The explanatory note to Mr Korako's bill also gets something else quite wrong. He claims that "the intent of the [Airport Authorities] Act ... is to inform passengers of lost property before the airport authority proceeds with the sale of or disposing of the lost property". That's not true. The Act's intent is to just alert the public that there will be an auction of lost property, so that members of the public can come along and bid on it. There is no intention that the authority list precisely what property will be sold, and so airports don't have to do this when advertising auctions. See, for instance, these regulations for Queenstown airport. So Mr Korako's bill won't help inform passengers at all.]

Nevertheless, maybe that change is justified. Maybe it is a bit silly that airports in this day and age have to pay to put notices in the local paper before they can auction off property that travellers have lost (and then never reclaimed). After all, the Police can sell off unclaimed lost property that they hold after "a notice of its proposed sale has earlier been published in a newspaper circulating in the district in which the sale is to be held, or on a website authorised for the purpose by the Commissioner."

So even if Mr Korako misstates the effect of his bill, let's posit that taking this obligation off airports makes some sense today. Doesn't that mean his members bill is a good one - that it's a worthwhile legislative measure?

Well, no. Because there's already a legislative vehicle to quickly and cleanly make such "technical, short, and non-controversial amendments to a range of Acts" (as the Cabinet Manual puts it). It takes the form of the annual Statutes Amendment Bill, one of which presently is before the House. So why on earth isn't this change to the Airport Authorities Act, if it is needed and desirable, included in that omnibus piece of legislation? Why devote an entire separate bill to it, then take up valuable and limited parliamentary time to debate and vote on it? 

Which brings us to the first reason for my raised dander. This is such a clearly cynical and transparently negative measure that it sucks even by the standards of politics-as-usual. Here's why.

The drawing of members bills provides the opposition (and government support parties) with their only opportunity to get legislation before the House that the government does not like. It thus threatens the government's otherwise almost complete stranglehold on the House's legislative programme. That can lead to opposition MPs getting policy wins at the government's expense (like David Clark's "mondayisation of public holidays" bill); or even where they don't finally win, embarrassing the government (as when it had to veto Sue Maroney's "more paid parental leave" bill).

So in order to limit the chance of such losses/embarrassments, the government gets its backbenchers to put members bills into the ballot to dilute the odds of one of the oppositions getting drawn whenever there is space on the order paper. Because you can be sure that none of those bills from government MPs will be contrary to the government's interests.

Some government backbench MPs respond to this in a quite noble fashion, by drafting bills that nevertheless are well considered and respond to real and pressing matters of social importance. Step forwards Chris Bishop or Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi.  

But other MPs simply find some trivial matter - such as the fact that airports have to put notices in papers before selling lost property - and draft a bill around it so as to take up a spot on the order paper. And then the matter will get dragged out in the House, eating up parliamentary time that could be spent on discussing and voting on issues that actually could do some good for us as a society; issues such as Alfred Ngaro's proposal that children under 15 in small boats must wear lifejackets [Update: see comments below], or Marama Fox's proposal that November 5 become a public holiday in commemoration of Parihaka.

So, yeah, now that I think about it again, I am pretty insulted as a citizen of New Zealand that my Parliament is being treated in this way. We deserve better, I think. 

Comments (28)

by Peter Grant on August 11, 2016
Peter Grant

Don't the Australians have a word for this ---- Gerrymandering ?

by Murray Grimwood on August 11, 2016
Murray Grimwood

In the States it's a filibuster, from memory.

Brings Monty Python to mind - I'm so worried about.....

But Andrew is right. There are bigger things afoot. In his own Staff Club, some years ago now, I watched visiting Professor Ellen Moseley-Thompson swipe the microphone to answer the question 'How many people can the planet support?' 'That's not the question' she replied. 'You tell me the level of consumption you want to indulge in, and I'll tell you the population you can sustain'.

For the record, it's about 2 billion, depending.

Never reported, never followed up by Andrew's institution, and certainly never debated in Parliament (although Cullen tried to avoid it re Peak Oil from Fitzsimmons). I find it farcical that our leaders are wasting what time is left, and farcical that we are wasting time too by reacting. It's several orders of magnitude out of proportion.

There is no point worrying about the wet carpets on Titanic's B deck. Any chance the legal fraternity can assist society to discuss the sinking before the event, Andrew?

by Phil Lyth on August 12, 2016
Phil Lyth

Alfred Ngaro's bill re is also an utter waste of the ballot.

 

It would make changes to the Maritime Rules (akin to regulations) and as such, those changes can be made by the Government through an Order in Council. The change could be achieved immediately instead of the unnecessary and time-consuming Members Bill route.

 

 

by Andrew Geddis on August 12, 2016
Andrew Geddis

Huh.

Thanks, Phil. Got suckered in by the explanatory note without looking at the actual content. Sorry.

by Phil Lyth on August 12, 2016
Phil Lyth

No worries Andrew. I went through Nats' members bills earlier this year and compiled a little list.

Pleased to see the media is giving some scrutiny to the proposed bills. I suspect the next ballot may see a number of them withdrawn.


by Rich on August 12, 2016
Rich

I have this nightmare where Murray Grimfuture pops up on every single interaction I have with the interwebz to point out that the subject of discussion is irrelevant because the earth's about to explode and destroy us all under the weight of overpopulation... 

by Tim Watkin on August 12, 2016
Tim Watkin

Good job on calling that cynicism Andrew. It's not something I've paid much attention to; is it an old standard that governments have done for decades or a newer trick?

And Rich, I know. I have asked Murray in the past to stick to the topic at hand in the post rather than turning every thread into his dissertation of over-population. It seems he's not listening.

by Andrew Geddis on August 12, 2016
Andrew Geddis

Good job on calling that cynicism Andrew. It's not something I've paid much attention to; is it an old standard that governments have done for decades or a newer trick?

I'm happy to be proven wrong on this, but it seems to be a relatively recent development.. Here's David Farrar back in 2012 lamenting the fact National MPs only had 10 bills out of 63 in the ballot (thus allowing opposition bills to be drawn more frequently). Now National has 26 out of 79 - at least 2 of which are nonsense filler (thanks, Phil!).

I note DPF didn't recommend this tactic - he said National "should be far more permissive in authorising members’ bills by its MPs" and allow any measure not inconsistent with National's governing principles (sic) - it seems that the party hierarchy interpreted his call in a particularly cynical way.

But perhaps Phil knows more, seeing as he's actually looked at what each of them say?

by Murray Grimwood on August 12, 2016
Murray Grimwood

Silencing the messenger, Tim, won't silence the message. How did you react to my comments re your un-researched comments re infrastructure? It would appear you did a good impression of avoidance - prove me wrong.

For the legal profession - particularly the teaching ones, I ask a much bigger question, again relativity is pretty huge in scale.

They teach the RMA, right? And droves of graduates go out and make money in and around it.

Can we agree that you can only be sustainable or not sustainable - is that OK with even the avoiders? We can't be just a bit sustainable, agreed?

The RMA is based on the Brundtland definition of sustainability. Which unfortunately isn't.

http://www.albartlett.org/articles/art_reflections_part_1.html

So it's a definition of unsustainability, by default - made worse by the Bolger-years inclusion of the word 'economic'.

I have yet to hear a legal-eagle point out this fatal flaw - which essentially means that the society said legal-eagles preside (much of the law seems to be about property-rights, ownership of parts of a finite planet/nation) over won't continue - despite the fact that the truth is but a google away.

And I'd have said that the problem the flaw reveals is so happening-now (zero and below-zero interest rates are but one indicator) that unless we do something about it, worrying about yin-yang politics is pointless. Churchill mentioned something about a period of consequences.

But I look forward to researched rebuttal Tim. Not 'I wish he'd just go away - so inconvenient'.

 

by Graeme Edgeler on August 12, 2016
Graeme Edgeler

Oh dear. In print, that comes across as a little bit precious. All I can say is that I cannot deny that I said those words and yet I do not recognise that man. It is me, and yet, it is another, and for that I am truly sorry.

I did think it was rather odd. Reminded me of the thing David Cameron said about the ECtHR decision on prisoner voting making him "physically ill".

And is this bill really worse than Winston's abolition of Treaty of Waitangi references bill, or Keith Locke's republic bill? First, do no harm, at least.

by Nick R on August 12, 2016
Nick R

Murray, we have got it.  We're all doomed.  Doomed!  

Now, be a good chap and go away.  Tell someone who gives a damn while the rest pontificate on the intricacies of Parliamentary procedure and the virtues of members' bills.  Because believe it or not, that's what we come here for.  Not sermons about the impending annihilation of the human race.

Pip pip!

 

by Nick R on August 12, 2016
Nick R

Andrew - while accepting entirely your comment about this being an insult, it also poses a quandary for the opposition: how do you respond to such nonsense?  The Roundhead's response would be to eschew all Parliamentary debate - just vote on it and be done to avoid wasting any more sitting time than is strictly necessary.  And yet I can't help but feel that would be a missed opportunity.  There would be a lot of fun to be had at the expense of Mr Korako, and the Government caucus which has apparently sanctioned this ill-camouflaged excuse for a filibuster.  

by Andrew Geddis on August 12, 2016
Andrew Geddis

@ Murray,

You're a guest here. The ground rules for commenting include relevance to the topic at hand. Repeated long, off topic comments will simply disappear. Regard this as a friendly warning.

@Graeme,

In my comments to the reporter, it was meant as a playful, self-depreciating . In print, it comes across as insufferably pompous. My bad.

On your other contenders, I'd argue they were at least genuinely meant as contributions to parliamentary debate and public discussion over NZ's future. They may have been bad policy, or horribly written (see also Jacinda Ahdern's adoption bill), but at least they were consistent with the fundamental purpose of members bills. This one is the antithesis of that purpose, designed purely to stop other things being discussed. 

@ Nick,

I see Labour is going to try to get this added to the Statutes Amendment Bill by way of an SOP. If that fails, then I'd be tempted (if them) to milk the publicity this seems to be getting by mocking it at every opportunity in the House.

by Rich on August 12, 2016
Rich

added to the Statutes Amendment Bill by way of an SOP

If that happened, would Mr Korako's bill be automatically dropped?


by Phil Lyth on August 12, 2016
Phil Lyth

added to the Statutes Amendment Bill by way of an SOP

If that happened, would Mr Korako's bill be automatically dropped?

 Not automatically,  but the Korako bill could be discharged ( = dropped) if he agrees. That's happened recently with two Nat members' bills for various reasons.
by Phil Lyth on August 12, 2016
Phil Lyth

I'm happy to be proven wrong on this, but it seems to be a relatively recent development.  ...  But perhaps Phil knows more, seeing as he's actually looked at what each of them say?


Indeed it is a recent development. As recently as late 2009 there were only 35 bills at most in the ballot - the Greens 'ballot mojo' stemmed from them having one in the ballot for each MP. Currently there are over 75 bills in each ballot.


I'll confess to having played a small part in 2009-2011 to help get Labour in particular to the point of having a full slate of bills in the ballot, one per MP. As Standing Orders allow one and only one bill per (non-Minister) MP, there is an strong incentive to maximise the number of bills for a party - and we're now close to that saturation point.


There is one first-term Nat who has played a role in a large number of bills into the ballot for caucus colleagues. The quality may have suffered.

It may be (I live in hope) that two things may happen:

  -  that Nats may withdraw some of the more risible bills from the next ballot

  -  that there may be some discussion through the usual channels at the time of the Standing Orders Review as to whether the current form of the ballot could be improved (I don't have a specific suggestion.)

by Phil Lyth on August 12, 2016
Phil Lyth

Some drafting of Members Bills is particularly kludgy.

I hope I will be forgiven for what my part in creating the Underground Coal Mining Safety Bill - it was not pretty. However, it was sufficient that it went into the ballot post-Pike River, was drawn, and debated.

by mudfish on August 12, 2016
mudfish

As much as Murray's comments are often off-topic, they do nonetheless try and get us to raise our eyes beyond the here-and-now issue of the day. I do sigh when they appear, they are more pessimistic than many others would believe, but perhaps too many put those issues in the not-in-my-lifetime-so-why-should-I-care-or-think-about-it box. Murray's saying these things are imminent, so there's an issue of timing there. I wonder what the steps along our future pathway will be, how long they will take, how far from sustainable we are.

Maybe the editors think this isn't the place for those discussions or else we need another Claire Browning to frame the discussion? Perhaps lack of response to Murray (although I see from some of Tim's comments you say you've tried, I haven't followed every thread...) means this isn't the right audience? But Murray, if you do persevere, and the editors allow you to continue, can we have just a wee bit about short term, next steps on the journey to sustainability on the topic please. We all agree filibustering is bad - how can it be avoided so our representatives eyes can be raised to answer your more important, longer term issues?

 

by Graeme Edgeler on August 12, 2016
Graeme Edgeler

that there may be some discussion through the usual channels at the time of the Standing Orders Review as to whether the current form of the ballot could be improved (I don't have a specific suggestion.)

Allow multiple MPs to submit the same bill. Then all the MPs who think eg end of life choice is an important matter that should be discussed can put it in, increasing its chance of being drawn.

by mudfish on August 13, 2016
mudfish

Ok, it's not technically a filibuster, but equally time wasting, deserves a yellow card. 

I like Graeme's suggestion.

Or at least have a common sense check before anything is allowed into the ballot. Who by? Don' t know. Committee of mp's wouldn't work well, too political. Independent commissioner, judge or ombudsman type? Governor General??? Random member of public, jury?

by Antoine on August 14, 2016
Antoine

@Graeme

Surely this end can already be achieved, by each such MP submitting a near-identical bill?

But for whatever reason they choose not to do so.

A.

by Andrew Geddis on August 14, 2016
Andrew Geddis

Surely this end can already be achieved, by each such MP submitting a near-identical bill?

No, it can't. Standing Order 281(2) states:

Only one notice of proposal [for a Members Bill] is to be entered [into the ballot] in respect of any bills that are the same or substantially the same in substance. 

As the Speaker ruled on Andrew Little's "Healthy Homes" Bill (albeit in a slightly different context), a "near identical" bill will breach Standing Orders.

by Antoine on August 14, 2016
Antoine

Oh, I see. Thanks,

A.

by Antoine on August 14, 2016
Antoine

(giggles) So if there are two apparently unrelated bills, each of which has no substantive effect (due to poor drafting), then can it be said that they are "substantially the same in substance", and therefore that only one can be entered?

0=0

A.

by Antoine on August 15, 2016
Antoine

Also: Could the problem of dilution not be mitigated, by drawing three times as many bills from the ballot as is currently the case?

A.

by Andrew Geddis on August 15, 2016
Andrew Geddis

Could the problem of dilution not be mitigated, by drawing three times as many bills from the ballot as is currently the case?

Not really. Let's say 1/4 of the bills in the ballot are filler nonsense like Korako's is. Drawing three times as many bills simply means three times as many of these sorts of bills get included in the queue for parliamentary debate time, rather than remaining in the ballot for future draws.

The additional problem then would be that you'd have queue of drawn members bills sitting on the order paper/waiting to go on the order paper that would take over a year to work through. 

by Antoine on August 17, 2016
Antoine

I see, thanks

A.

by Claire Browning on September 10, 2016
Claire Browning

"Maybe the editors think this isn't the place for those discussions or else we need another Claire Browning to frame the discussion?"

You called, @mudfish? ;-)

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