Govt rushing prisoner voting law during COVID-19 crisis

Thu, 19 Mar, 2020

“The Government should pause and ask whether it’s necessary to rush certain laws that have nothing to do with COVID-19 during the current crisis”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“This afternoon, the Government has given the Justice Committee just over two months to consider a bill that will give some prisoners the right to vote. The Government is not only proceeding with non-essential legislation, but actually doing it at breakneck speed.

“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.

“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.

“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.

“The Government is also rushing vaping legislation through Parliament. The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill is being considered by the Social Services and Community Committee under a compressed timeframe.

“The Justice Minister will soon introduce a hate speech law. Will that be forced through before the election, too? The current rushed lawmaking is bad enough. Rushing laws relating to fundamental rights would be a betrayal of democracy and the voters whose system it is.

“The Government is right to move fast addressing COVID-19, however it should not be moving fast on unrelated lawmaking. The Government should pause its non-coronavirus legislative agenda until the worst of the COVID-19 is over.”