Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: July 26

Greens MP Holly Walker. Photo / Supplied
Greens MP Holly Walker. Photo / Supplied

Sunlight is beginning to shine into the last dark corners of Parliament. Green MP Holly Walker's bill to bring transparency and public disclosure around lobbying directed at MPs and their staff progressed in Parliament yesterday - see: Lobbying Bill Progresses. Many MPs say they have concerns over the practicalities of how the law would work, so significant changes to the proposed legislation are likely before it could be passed. It has already had an impact, however, with Speaker Lockwood Smith bowing to pressure to disclose lobbyists who have been given parliamentary swipe cards (meaning they do not have to go through security each time they visit). The list itself contains no surprises, although we haven't been told the most interesting information - anyone who gave up their cards rather than allow their name to be made public - see Claire Trevett's Speaker names 15 who hold the cards. The NBR has a more detailed breakdown of those they label the 'Swiper-ati' - see Rob Hosking's Parliamentary swipe card list tears lid off secret society.

MPs' pay, perks and spending have always been of much public interest but the Speaker was still resisting full disclosure by insisting on giving evidence behind closed doors to a select committee hearing on MPs' perks and conditions, to the apparent annoyance of the Prime Minister - see Tracy Watkins' Lobbyists with free access to Parliament.

Some parliamentary spending still remains secret though with the Auditor-General, Office of the Clerk and Parliamentary Services all off-limits to Official Information requests. The Law Commission is recommending that this change -see Isaac Davison's Law commission: MP spending should be public. The logic that all publicly funded agencies should be open to scrutiny will be hard to resist. This is a bold proposal - and it would have significant ramifications for the parties and politicians surreptitiously using millions of dollars of taxpayer funding each year on partisan campaigning. David Farrar also likes the suggestion that public agencies should be more pro-active in releasing official information - see The OIA review.

A silly spat broke out yesterday during the first reading of the bill to extend paid parental leave. National MP Maggie Barry questioned Jacinda Adern's expertise on the subject by pointing out that Adern has no children. This prompted an outcry amongst Labour MPs and there were calls for an apology from Barry, which was refused- see Kate Shuttleworth's MP snipes at Labour rival's lack of children. Although the comment was irrelevant - all taxpayers will be footing the bill regardless of their parental status and MPs have to be able to speak on issues they may have no direct personal experience with - the response from some Labour MPs was a bit precious as Cathy Odgers writes in More Labour Faux Outrage. Keeping Stock has a list of insults that Labour has hurled at opponents over the years (see: Wethinks he doth protest too much) and Ardern herself probably has the most sensible response - see Ardern 'won't lose sleep' over child jibe. As the paid parental leave bill shows, Peter Dunne is sometimes a useful ally against the Government writes Claire Trevett - see: Opposition should use vote of 'rubber man' while it lasts.

Other important or interesting political items today include:

* John Banks won't be prosecuted over the Kim Dotcom and SkyCity donations, as he relied on assurances that the return was accurate by the volunteer who prepared it and the time period for prosecution had expired - see: Banks' donations: No charges laid. Expect calls for local body donation rules to be updated before next year's elections. Russell Brown observes that 'A law that cannot hold a candidate responsible for a document he has signed is a law that needs to be changed' - see: Hard News: John Banks: The volunteer did it. See also Graeme Edgeler's Johndotbanks - the law is over, let the politics commence.

* In contrast, the movie industry is not interested in such legal niceties where Mr Dotcom himself is concerned - see: Dotcom labelled 'career criminal' by MPAA.

* Marriage equality will be voted on as Louisa Wall's 'Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill' has been drawn from the ballot today, along with a bill seeking to raise the minimum wage to $15 - see Isaac Davison and Kate Shuttleworth's MPs to vote on gay marriage. If you want the follow the debate in detail, the Listener's Toby Manhire has set up NZ's marriage equality bill - a longblog.

* The Herald devotes several articles looking at results from its 'Mood of the Boardroom' survey of over 100 CEOs. The politics reflected by the sample are no surprise, with general support for the Government's economic policy, although only 40% favoured further government spending cuts, 86% thought the retirement age needs to go up to 67, and there is growing concern over the trans-Tasman talent drain. There were also some strong criticisms of the John key's political management this year - see: Adam Bennett's Mood of the Boardroom 2012: SMEs share 'Big End' of town's concerns, Fran O'Sullivan's Nation's CEOs: Raise super age and Goodbye to Smiling John.

* Should MPs be allowed to read prepared written speeches in the Debating Chamber? This is an issue at the heart of yesterday's parliamentary debate - see the coverage of this by John Armstrong (Lockwood lets MPs sing from hymn sheet) and Jane Clifton (Tensions flare over MP speech ban).

* Winston Peters still shares something with his former NZ First colleague Tau Henare - a willingness to defend smokers. Also, like Peters at times, Henare didn't seem to have any actual evidence to back up his views - see: Henare disputes risks of pregnant women smoking.

* Maori children are being denied their basic human rights according to Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres who says 'One-third' of Maori children in poverty.

* The news isn't any better for all young children with half of child assault hospitalisations being less than 1 years old - see: Jamie Morton's Babies make up half of abuse cases. Labour says agencies simply cannot cope with the 70 per cent increase in notifications to CYF over the past four years - see: Newswire's Child protection service in crisis - Labour.

* Apart from inventing a new word ('misgloating'), is tempted to indulge in 'I told you so' for predicting that 'King Gerry' would run into trouble with using his earthquake related powers to deal with non-earthquake related issues - see Sic semper tyrannis. Despite employing 156 people in 'communication', Christchurch City Council has been criticised in a report that found 'there is a reluctance at all levels of the organisation to foster relations with stakeholders'. The Press is not amused: Audit's damning conclusion.

* Chris Trotter is once again pointing out some contradictions in the Labour Party, suggesting that its opposition to asset sales is somewhat hollow: 'their hearts are not truly in the fight'. His main evidence is 'Labour's refusal to endorse renationalisation' of the partially privatised SOEs. Those in Labour will take particular offense at Trotter's following statement: 'Ideologically-speaking, the views of the party's current MPs are little changed from those of the men and women who introduced and supported Rogernomics'. See: Doing The Right Thing For The Wrong Reasons. Labours "Unprincipled" Opposition To Asset Sales.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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