Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett: Lost luggage bill off conveyor belt and into fire

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National MP Nuk Korako.
National MP Nuk Korako.

No man is an island according to John Donne, but poor old National MP Nuk Korako must have felt that way as he stood to defend his member's bill in Parliament this week.

The contents of Korako's bill are barely longer than its title: the Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill. Yet it has already cost the taxpayer $3875 before even getting its first reading in Parliament. That is for the 12 minutes and 24 seconds it took for Labour to try to ridicule Korako in a series of questions about his bill this week. The bill removes the requirement for airports to advertise lost and found property in a local newspaper before it sells it off. Instead, the airports will have to advertise it at a place of their discretion.

Korako stood undaunted in the face of Labour's derision. He pulled out Maori proverbs, noting his bill was "he iti, he pounamu" - [very small, but quality].

He spoke about a victim of lost luggage. That victim was Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove who lost his luggage on a ministerial trip to Canada in 2010.

Of course, the real victim there was the taxpayer who had to fork out $1569 for a replacement suit, $56 for a tie and $61 for a shirt and socks so Cosgrove didn't go to his meetings dressed in airline business-class pyjamas.

Korako insisted Cosgrove may well have recovered his original suit if only there had been a better means of drawing attention to the lost and found bin.

That is complete nonsense, but so is his entire bill and it was all very entertaining.

On the bright side for Korako, his bill has got more attention in one week than most bills get in their usually short lifetimes.

Like others before it, it had to run the gauntlet of chance involved in the biscuit tin from which the member's bill ballot is drawn.

Labour's attacks are partly motivated by envy - some MPs have had the same bill in that biscuit tin through entire evolutionary ages without their number coming up.

Some bills have changed history, such as Labour MP Louisa Wall's bill to legalise same-sex marriage.

David Seymour's bill to legalise euthanasia is an exception, as is Damien O'Connor's to make it easier for the sick to obtain medicinal marijuana.

Others are not so major. NZ First MP Clayton Mitchell's bill would set out specific sporting events deemed of such national significance they have to be shown live on free-to-air television.

Green MP Gareth Hughes' bill will do little other than to facilitate comedy: it allows the use of a copyright work for the purpose of parody or satire.

Other bills address foreign drivers (yes, NZ First), making November 5 "Parihaka Day" and livestock rustling.

Many National MPs' bills have been allocated by the Minister of Dull but slightly Worthy Members' Bills - Chris Finlayson. Finlayson has a stockpile of laws that need tidying up which are doled out as members' bills to MPs. Thus Matt Doocey gets to front a seismic shift of a bill which would remove a requirement on companies to provide a written notice of the annual report to shareholders.

Tim McIndoe's is a spicy little number which will "ensure arbitration clauses in trust deeds are given effect to extend the presumption of confidentiality in arbitration to a rebuttable presumption of confidentiality in related court proceedings under the Act" among various other things with big words.

Maureen Pugh's does nothing bar allow a former Justice of the Peace to apply to use "JP (retired)" in their title if they had retired for medical reasons before having served as a JP for 10 years.

Loading up the members' ballot is a legitimate political tactic for a Government that cannot be certain of a majority. Labour's ire over Korako's bill is some retribution for National after it was put in the embarrassing position of vetoing Sue Moroney's bill to increase paid parental leave. But Korako can get some small solace from knowing he gets the last laugh at all those journalists scoffing at his efforts.

The only problem his bill will solve is that of airports having to pay to advertise lost and found property in their local newspapers. That is the same advertising that pays journalists' salaries. He who laughs last, laughs longest.

- NZ Herald

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Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor and joined the Press Gallery in 2007. She began with the Herald in 2003 as the Northland reporter before moving to Auckland where her rounds included education and media. A graduate of AUT's post-graduate diploma in journalism, Claire began her journalism career in 2002 at the Northern Advocate in Whangarei. Claire has conjoint Bachelor of Law/ Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Canterbury.

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