Thursday, 8 April 2021

Higher lawmaking standards well overdue

“The Regulatory Standards Bill, drawn from the members’ bill ballot today, is a long overdue addition to New Zealand’s constitutional framework,” according to ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The first attempt to pass a similar bill was the introduction of the Regulatory Responsibility Bill in 2006. The Regulatory Standards Bill was first introduced and debated in 2011.

“These bills, and other regulatory reform initiatives, have failed for the simple reason that those in both traditional parties do not wish to be restrained when they win power. Given that politicians have a conflict of interest setting their own standards, the Regulatory Standards Bill requires confirmation by the people of New Zealand at referendum.

“I am not asking my fellow politicians to make a call on whether we should have to follow standards of good lawmaking. I am simply asking that the public be allowed to vote on this constitutional change. If the people vote yes, politicians and civil servants will have to follow new rules when making laws.

“The Regulatory Standards Bill would not stop the elected Parliament or the government of the day making laws and regulations, but it will shine sunlight on their activities. It would allow any citizen to get a declaration that a law or regulation is inconsistent with good lawmaking.

“At present, there is no penalty for poor lawmaking, and New Zealanders pay an enormous price as a result.

“We need to recognise that New Zealand has among the most anaemic constitutional protections in the world. Governments of all stripes can and do make rushed and poorly thought out laws that are divisive and chilling. Poor lawmaking impoverishes New Zealanders in the long term.

“One of the most important things we can do to improve productivity and New Zealanders’ quality of life is improve the quality of regulation and lawmaking. I constantly hear from people who are affected by badly crafted laws and regulations that sap their time and energy.

“Teachers say they want to help kids, but now find themselves drowning in paperwork. The housing problem is largely caused by regulatory failure pushing up the price of development and construction. Financial advisors tell me it takes longer to get permission to give advice than to give it.

“The Regulatory Standards Bill requires that any law or regulation be accompanied by a certificate declaring that the law is compatible with the principles of good lawmaking.

“Good lawmaking means that a law or regulation is consistent with the rule of law, does not unduly impair property rights, has benefits that outweigh its costs, does not duplicate existing laws, and solves a clearly defined problem. These are things people will probably be surprised to find are not already required. The Regulatory Standards Bill makes them mandatory.

“If a law or regulation is inconsistent with the principles of good lawmaking, then any citizen can go to court and have it declared to be so. This does not invalidate the law, but it does embarrass the makers of bad laws. I hope it would embarrass them into fixing their mistakes, or even stop poor laws being made in the first place.

“The Regulatory Standards Bill is part of a three part initiative for better lawmaking announced in my Waitangi Day State of the Nation Speech.