Green MP Jan Logie is hitting back at NZ First for not supporting a law change she is championing to overhaul court processes for rape trials.
NZ First's decision not to back the Sexual Violence Legislation Bill before Parliament rises for the election campaign will hurt the victims and survivors of rape, says Logie, who is also Justice Under-Secretary.
It is the latest in a series of verbal jabs between governing parties as the election draws nearer; NZ First leader Winston Peters calling the Greens "away with the fairies" while Greens co-leader James Shaw described Peters as an agent of chaos, not moderation.
The bill aims to make the court process less traumatic and fairer for rape complainants, but defence lawyers have attacked it as crippling a defendant's right to a fair trial.
Logie had initially hoped that the bill would pass early this year, and two months ago told the Herald that governing parties supported the bill.
But yesterday NZ First Cabinet Minister Tracey Martin said that NZ First was "not comfortable", and would feel too rushed to back the bill in the last sitting block in Parliament before the election.
Martin added that information provided by Logie's office about pre-recorded cross-examination hadn't squared with what Logie had said about how commonly it was used overseas.
She suggested it might be better to trial the bill's cross-examination proposal with children and impaired adults, but Logie said Martin had never raised this with her.
"I cannot express how disappointing and strange it is to see these comments from Tracey Martin on this bill," Logie told the Herald.
She said Ministry of Justice advice was passed on to NZ First to address their questions about the bill five weeks ago.
"We received no specific questions or concerns from them.
"For New Zealand First to claim at the last minute that they feel 'rushed' and 'not comfortable' is at odds with their stated intention of wanting to see this resolved, and is failing the people who have been waiting for too long to see our system deliver real justice for victims and survivors of sexual violence."
Yesterday Martin said that NZ First knew how important the issues were that the bill seeks to address, but more time was needed to avoid "adverse impacts".
"I understand if she's upset but we are not their 'yes' people. We don't just stamp stuff through," Martin said yesterday.
Among the bill's more contentious provisions is an entitlement for complainants to be cross-examined via pre-recorded video, which would protect them from the potentially intimidating experience of giving evidence in front of a jury and the accused.
But critics say it would defeat the purpose of the bill; if new evidence emerged, the complainant could have to give evidence a second time, making it doubly traumatic.
Opponents are also against the higher threshold before evidence can be used about the complainant's sexual history with the accused.
This is meant to filter out irrelevant, intimate material, but defence lawyers argued that this history was often central to the defence's case, but under the bill it would be assumed to be irrelevant.
The defence could apply for a judge to review the intended evidence, but in trying to prove its importance, the defence would have to "show its hand" by telling the judge and the prosecution the nature and scope of its questions.
Justice Minister Andrew Little conceded that the bill's chances of passing before the election were "low".