“While New Zealanders are distracted by the greatest public health emergency of our lives, the Government is sneaking its political agenda through Parliament”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“The Government has given the Justice Committee just two months to consider the Electoral (Registration of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill which will give some prisoners the right to vote. The Justice Minister has refused to extend the time available to for the Committee to consider the Bill. Officials from the Ministry of Justice won’t be able to provide the usual quality of support to the Committee. The Committee intends to hear submissions on the Bill remotely while on lockdown.
“The Government is not only proceeding with non-essential legislation during a crisis, but actually doing it at breakneck speed.
“Consider what needs to happen in those two months. The public needs to read the bill, then consider and write submissions. Some people will travel to Wellington to make submissions in person. MPs will need to read and consider the public’s views before reporting back to Parliament. If people can’t be heard when laws are made, public respect for the law is eroded, and it’s the height of irresponsibility for the Government erode respect for the law in a crisis.
“Two months isn’t enough time for a select committee to consider legislation under normal circumstances. We’re currently facing a public health emergency. This is the worst imaginable time to shorten public consultation on lawmaking. It amounts to making laws with no public consultation at all.
“The Government can't have it both ways. It can't say ‘we're in a state of emergency, Parliament's shut, and we have extraordinary new powers, but we're still going to push through our political agenda’. Either we're in a state of emergency where we suspend normal politics, or we're not.
“Times like this require leadership from Government. No government should attempt to avoid scrutiny when New Zealanders are dealing with the fallout of COVID-19. That is not the kind of leadership we need.
“The Government is also continuing to push vaping and urban development legislation through Parliament.
“Rushing laws through during a crisis is a betrayal of democracy and the voters whose system it is. The Government should pause its non-coronavirus legislative agenda until the worst of the COVID-19 is over.”