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Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3)

Second Reading

Wednesday 5 October 2011 (advance copy) Hansard source (external site)

PowerHon SIMON POWER (Minister of Justice) Link to this

I move, That the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3) be now read a second time. The bill confirms and validates 12 Orders in Council and one set of regulations made under eight separate Acts. The bill must be enacted by 31 December 2011 to avoid the subordinate legislation lapsing.

The bill was introduced and read a first time in July this year and referred to the Regulations Review Committee. The committee asked the six relevant Government agencies responsible for administering the legislation to explain why confirmation or validation of the orders is warranted. The committee was satisfied with the responses it received and presented its report on 18 August, recommending that the bill be passed without amendment.

I note the committee’s suggestion that the current process for considering subordinate legislation bills allows for only limited scrutiny, although I do not agree that passing the bill “takes up a substantial amount of House time”. I would suggest that the next Government could ask officials to bring forward its proposals for the bill earlier in the year to enable a fuller consideration by the committee. I thank the committee for its expeditious consideration of this bill and commend it to the House.

ChauvelCHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) Link to this

The Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3) is about scrutiny, and in this House we have all learnt to welcome scrutiny. It was an extraordinary spectacle to be present for the last speech that we heard from the Opposition member Tau Henare in the general debate—

QuinnPaul Quinn Link to this


ChauvelCHARLES CHAUVEL Link to this

Government. I beg Mr Quinn’s pardon; it is easy to make that mistake sometimes when Mr Quinn or his colleague are on their feet. From a person who was recently caught abusing a constituent while driving his Audi, it is a bit ironic to be mocked. My partner is a working class man who spent 15 years as a cop, started a business, and did well enough for himself to buy a nice car. I am very proud to sit in that car—in the back or the front. When my partner is driving his mum and needs to go into the pharmacy to get her some medication, I sit in the back, only to be snapped by some National Party spook lying in wait to do some dirty tricks in the election campaign. Well, you know, we have come to expect this, but we know that people will actually focus on the issues and not on this sort of nonsense and distraction that we get from Tau Henare and the rest of the cream of National.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

The brains trust up today.

ChauvelCHARLES CHAUVEL Link to this

And the brains trust. I will not even respond to the homophobic reference about Driving Miss Daisy that we heard in that speech, because the voters will judge the urban liberals—well, the old Tories who seeks to masquerade as urban liberals—opposite.

Turning to the substance of the bill, the Minister of Justice referred to the Regulations Review Committee report on this bill. These bills are an annual feature of our Parliament. They do take up House time. The Minister, as Acting Leader of the House, knows this, and I am surprised he does not think it is an issue, given his frank lack of progress in getting measures through the Order Paper in this Parliament.

PowerHon Simon Power Link to this

That’s right. I’ve done very little work—very little work!

ChauvelCHARLES CHAUVEL Link to this

Well, I would not measure the work by volume, I tell Mr Power, but I certainly would measure it by quality. If it is a question of trying to get quality time on the Order Paper, then we do have to ask ourselves going forward whether these annual Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) bills are the best use of the House’s time. I think not. The committee thinks not, and it reported unanimously, including its National members. So it would be useful if whoever is Leader of the House, from Labour or National, after the election has a good, hard look at the recommendations made, which the Minister so glibly brushed off.

The futility of this legislation is also pointed to by the procedure that will be adopted today for dealing with it. We are having a truncated second reading debate. There will not be a Committee stage or a third reading debate, as I understand it. So, really, this House is performing no effective scrutiny, except for that which the bill received from the Regulations Review Committee. As I pointed out in the report, that scrutiny consisted of writing six letters to the departments concerned asking them whether there was any need to continue the measures contained in the bill, receiving an assurance that that was the case, and, being unable to take it any further, reporting to the House accordingly. If members think that this House doing its job consists of that kind of scrutiny, then I have to question whether members have an accurate appreciation of what that job is.

Yes, it is important to have scrutiny of tax measures and levies. Yes, it is important to have scrutiny of delegated legislation that amends primary legislation. Those are the two types of measures in this bill. But I am sure that if the Standing Orders Committee had a good look at this question, got some expert advice, and looked at what other Parliaments do in these sorts of cases, we could find better-quality uses of House time. On that note, I will commend the bill to the House, to the extent that I can in light of the scrutiny it has received.

GrahamDr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) Link to this

I take the floor simply to reiterate what was said by my colleague Metiria Turei in the first reading of this bill: that although the Green Party supports virtually everything in the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3), we oppose the Hong Kong and China free-trade agreement. Because that is contained in this subordinate legislation, we have no option but to oppose the passage of this bill.

I just add parenthetically that the procedure of the House might be improved if we were able to make a division of these kinds of bills into separate individual votes such that we could record our vote for the overwhelming majority of legislation that we do support, while recording our opposition to free-trade agreements. As long as they are lumped into one, we will be voting against all of them, with some regret.

I do not want to take any more time of the House other than to say that if this is the last piece of legislation—unless I am wrong—before the House for which the Minister Simon Power is responsible, let me take the opportunity to pay tribute to the very singular contribution he has made to this House in the course of his career. I think it is hugely valuable. Even though we oppose quite a lot of the legislation, for various reasons, I none the less salute him for his capability and his hard work and determination, and I think the House is poorer for his departure. He goes with our best wishes.

FaafoiKRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana) Link to this

Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak to the second reading of the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3). I begin in the same tone as the previous speaker, Kennedy Graham, and wish the Minister in charge of this bill, the Minister of Justice, all the best. I understand he is giving his valedictory later today. Both as a member of Parliament and a former journalist, I thank him for his support and wish him all the best.

It is a pleasure to speak. I also reiterate what Charles Chauvel said earlier about this bill—that it is about scrutiny. We came into contact with this bill in the Regulations Review Committee, which I have had the pleasure of sitting on for the last 12 months. I also pass on my thanks to Charles Chauvel, and to Tim Macindoe, the deputy chair of that select committee, for their guidance over the last 12 months.

This bill looks at 12 orders and one lot of regulations, and although those at home might think that during an eventful day in Parliament this may be mundane, there are a number of issues of interest contained within this bill. [Interruption] Well, there are a number of them, I tell Dr Prasad, and I will go through them now if he gives me the chance. A lot of them concern levies for eggs and tamarillos—levies that we surely do not want to see lapse through the sunset clauses contained in the bill.

I say in all seriousness that there is a provision in the bill to make sure that excises on tobacco do not expire in the time we are here. If there is one thing I am proud of, during my time in Parliament so far, it is that this House has taken some serious action towards cutting down on the horrible effect that tobacco has on our community. I think about 21 percent of our population aged 15-plus smoke tobacco. It is responsible for thousands of deaths, and about $1.5 billion in costs to our health system. If this bill contains provisions so that we are putting price pressure on tobacco, I think that is a good thing.

There are also a number of other things that I think should be mentioned quickly. The bill has some provisions to prevent the export of pounamu, which I think is a good protection for a very precious stone that is relatively unique to New Zealand. There are also some provisions about the export and import of trout, which I am sure will be of much interest to the fishing industry. I also say that we have reservations about the process here, as Charles Chauvel pointed out, but we commend this bill to the House.

HuoRAYMOND HUO (Labour) Link to this

Much has been said about the purpose of the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3). I thank the Minister responsible for this bill, the Hon Simon Power, and I wish him good luck. I look forward to his valedictory.

As my colleague Charles Chauvel said earlier, this bill is about scrutiny. What is worth noting is one particular piece of legislation, an order made under the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001 and the Social Security Act 1964, which came into force on 1 April 2011. This particular order is validated and confirmed. It, amongst other things, increased most benefits, pensions, and allowances. Under this National Government there are more people on the benefit. The number of people receiving an unemployment benefit has increased by 10.6 percent, and the number of people receiving the student hardship grant was up by 234 percent from June 2011. Since June 2009, 40,481 more people are now recipients of New Zealand superannuation, and this number will undoubtedly only go up in the coming years.

Talking about superannuation, I wish to bring to the attention of this House two important and meaningful articles by Brian Gaynor. The first one was published in the New Zealand Herald in 2007. It is entitled “How Muldoon threw away NZ’s wealth”. The second one, “Key’s compulsory super talk music to ears”, was published in August 2010, also in the New Zealand Herald. Both articles touched upon very important issues concerning our superannuation funds and schemes. Let us look at Australian and New Zealand figures on a per capita basis. Australians have A$56,000 of superannuation funds, whereas New Zealanders have just NZ$5,500 of superannuation funds. Australians have A$29,200 of net overseas debt, while we have NZ$35,900 worth of debt. The irony of this is that we once had a fantastic and better superannuation scheme, which was terminated by a National Government in 1975. I quote from that article. This was the worst economic decision by any New Zealand Government in the past 50 years and turned the country from being “the potential Switzerland of the Southern Hemisphere into a low-ranking OECD economy [that is falling further and further behind its next-door neighbour].”

If the New Zealand superannuation scheme was still in place, I believe that New Zealand would be much better placed in this modern and ever-changing world. Since coming to office, this National Government has borrowed NZ$37 billion in less than 3 years and has delivered nil growth to show for it. In fact, it has repeatedly failed to meet its growth projections and GDP per capita has fallen. That failure has now resulted in the credit rating agencies downgrading our credit rating. I would like to quote what Prime Minister said before the Budget. Prime Minister John Key confidently predicated that the political humiliation of a downgrade would be avoided. I quote: “It would add 1-2% of interest on the amount the government borrows, which is around $600 million each year. … ‘That’s every homeowner, every business, everybody paying 2% more. That would be irresponsible in my view for the government not to act,’ Key says.”

This is the last sitting week of this forty-ninth Parliament. Reflecting on what the ever-popular National Government has achieved, it is fair for me to list the following facts: the National Government has borrowed more debt, it has created fewer jobs, it has frozen the superannuation fund, it has no real plan to grow our economy, and the only answer it has is to resort to selling the family silver. Thank you.

FlavellTE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) Link to this

Tēnā koe, Mr Deputy Speaker. Kia ora tātou katoa. I te tuatahi, hei wāwāhi i te āhuatanga o taku kōrero, e hāngai tonu taku kōrero ki te Minita, ki a Hōnore Simon Power, ko ia tēnei ka riro i tana tūranga i te rā nei. Ko tāku, ko te mihi ki a ia nā runga i te āhuatanga o tana kōrero ka puta ā kō ake nei, me te mihi ki a ia mō te mahitahi, me te aro mai o ōna taringa ki ngā kōrero a Te Pāti Māori. Nō reira, koia nei te mihi ki a ia me te tūmanako ia, ka riro mā te wāhi ngaro ia e manaaki, e tiaki tae atu ki ngā mema ka puta i te Whare Pāremata āpōpō. Ka nui te mihi ki a koutou katoa, me kī, haere, e hoki ki te wā kāinga kia rongo koutou i te mahana o te whānau, ā, ka mutu, kia mōhio anō hoki kua ea te wāhi ki a koutou. Nō reira, e te Minita, tēnā koe, ka nui te mihi ki a koe e mahitahi me mātou, ka mutu, mā te wāhi ngaro koe e manaaki.

[Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Greetings to us all. Firstly, and as an opener to my address, I direct these remarks to the honourable Minister Simon Power in his move to other things today. I pay tribute to him ahead of his valedictory statement, which he will make later on, and to his ability to collaborate and to take into account statements made by the Māori Party. Thus I pay this tribute to him with the genuine desire that the origins from which all things come protect and look after him, including members who exit the House of Parliament tomorrow. I wish you all good tidings. Return home to the warmth of the family knowing full well that the part you have played here as a collective has been satisfied. So salutations to you, Minister. We very much appreciate you working together with us. Finally, may the origins from which all things come protect you.]

I just acknowledge the Minister Simon Power, I wish him well, as I said in Māori, in his move on into other things. I also wish the same to the other speakers this afternoon, but I just pay tribute to Simon Power for the work he has done with the Māori Party not only at the Business Committee, I might add, but also on legislation that has been pretty important to us. I wish him well.

I will take just a brief call to look at the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3), which basically validates and confirms Acts that might otherwise become obsolete. As others have said, the purpose of the bill is to prevent the expiry of certain subordinate legislation that lapses at a stated time unless it is earlier confirmed or validated by an Act of Parliament. Again, others have said that the bill contains 13 items of subordinate legislation that would lapse unless they are validated and/or confirmed, and they have also given time to the detail of the bill, talking about the intricacies of the Customs and Excise Act, the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act, the War Pensions Act, and the Wine Act, as I am told it is called.

My small and humble contribution is really intended to step back a little bit and question the power vested in Parliament to revisit legislation—which is a pretty important issue, actually; it will be an issue tomorrow—the ability of Parliament to confirm, to validate, and to otherwise authorise Acts on a retrospective basis, and, indeed, the ability to make the unlawful lawful. The classic recent case of this was the Appropriation (Parliamentary Expenditure Validation) Bill, which was moved through Parliament under urgency in October 2006. For those who have forgotten this shady past, following the 2005 election there was widespread debate about the dubious practice by political parties of breaching election or parliamentary spending rules in some respects. So legislation was introduced to validate the invalid—to rectify the expenditure that the Auditor-General had concluded went beyond the appropriations and was deemed unlawful.

Legislation to confirm, to validate, and to redress unlawful practice is not just a contemporary thing. I was fortunate to get some information about another piece of legislation, so that the history of this has some whakapapa, dating back to legislation called the Indemnity Act of the 1860s. For those members who do not know, it basically rendered military officers and others immune from prosecution for anything done by them while they were acting under the authority of the proclamation of martial law back in the 1860s. Basically, the Government of the day passed the Indemnity Act to prevent itself from being taken to court for its illegal actions in Taranaki in around the 1860s. Taranaki is where my wife and my in-laws come from.

The tragic story of this bill can be traced through the Hansard of 29 October 1860. It describes the events surrounding the storming of Parihaka on 25 January 1860 against the people of Taranaki, who were gathered there in a state of peace. I particularly refer members to the Hansard record of the Hon Mr Swainson, who described in full the establishment of martial law in Taranaki and provided the House with this pretty eloquent conclusion. He said: “But Acts of Indemnity cannot bury our actions in oblivion, nor can they shield us from the judgment of posterity … It is hard to say, indeed, whether to Great Britain victory or defeat would be the more painful humiliation : either result would certainly be followed by a bitterness of feeling between the two races which in all probability would never be effaced, and which would too probably end in the extermination or oppression of the Maori people, a lamentable and humiliating fulfilment of the proud professions with which the colonization of New Zealand was commenced.” One always hopes that we learn from our experience, and that our history informs our present.

In this Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3) our focus is mainly on timeliness: ensuring we are keeping up with the time frames established on the 13 various pieces of legislation that would otherwise lapse or fall into oblivion. My point in taking us back to 2006 and even further to 1860 was to simply encourage us to all think about the power of the executive, and how we make the best use of the parliamentary authority vested in us as members of Parliament. It is a question that will no doubt, as I said, rise again tomorrow when urgency is once again called upon to basically make the unlawful lawful. We will see what rolls out tomorrow. Koinei tāku ki a tātou, kia ora tātou.

[This, then, is my tribute to us, so thanks.]

PrasadDr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour) Link to this

It is a pleasure to take a brief call just to make a couple of points, but before I do that, like everybody else can I acknowledge Minister Simon Power for his contributions. In the 3 years I have been a member it has been enjoyable working with Minister Power in the two or three bills he was responsible for that I have debated. I appreciated his acknowledgment that we have supported the kinds of legislation around children and families that he is so passionate about. So are we. I thank him for that and wish him all the best over the next period, and I look forward to seeing what transpires in his career next. I think we all do.

When the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3) was first introduced, it was the first Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill that I have taken a call on, so it was useful to try to understand the House’s procedure on it. Then, having a look at the 13 different areas that this bill addresses, I got into the debate quite a bit, because we were not aware of a lot of the provisions—I certainly was not—and we know there is a process to decide whether to confirm or validate some of them.

The bit that is disappointing—and my colleague Charles Chauvel talked about this earlier—is that in reading the report from the select committee we do not get an idea as to what level of examination there was of the necessity for the 13 pieces to be either validated or confirmed. The select committee has pointed out quite rightly that there is a problem, in that this is a ritualistic procedure that we are going through in the House, looking at subordinate legislation in this way. I hope the new Parliament looks at that anew to see whether there is a simpler and more efficient way of doing it, rather than taking up as much time of the House as this. With those comments, I commend the bill to the House.

Link to this

A party vote was called for on the question,

That the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3) be now read a second time.

Ayes 110

Noes 10

Bill read a second time.