You've seen MP Nuk Korako's time-wasting lost property bill? But wait, there's more

National Party list MP Nuk Korako is promoting a bill allowing airports to dispense with newspaper advertisements ...
CHARLOTTE CURD/FAIRFAX NZ

National Party list MP Nuk Korako is promoting a bill allowing airports to dispense with newspaper advertisements announcing lost property auctions.

OPINION: Ridicule has been heaped on list MP Nuk Korako's bill to exempt airports from having to advertise the auction of lost property in their local newspaper.

But it is just the standard bearer for a raft of other inconsequential members' bills put up mostly by National party backbenchers - and often not written by their MP sponsor but by colleagues or back office staff.

Many make only minor changes, that could be wrapped into one of the omnibus Statute Amendment bills used from time to time to make small adjustments to laws. Most are unobjectionable or fix small anomalies, and are of little public interest - or controversy.

Labour leader Andrew Little and MP Sue Moroney with backers of her bill extending paid parental leave.
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Labour leader Andrew Little and MP Sue Moroney with backers of her bill extending paid parental leave.

But using a separate bill to make each of the changes is the equivalent of a legislative sledgehammer to crack a very small nut.

READ MORE:
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Yet it allows National to dilute the odds that a measure drafted by the Opposition or minor party MPs will be drawn from the "biscuit tin" ballot and have its day in Parliaments' once-a-fortnight members' day debate.

It was a tactic advocated by National pollster and blogger David Farrar back in 2012 that has come into its own now National has only a slim majority. 

That is not an issue with key money supply and confidence votes, where National has the assured support of its minor party allies the Maori Party, ACT and United Future.

But on all other potential law changes National must cobble together a majority, and that can prove difficult - as it did with Sue Moroney's move to extend paid parental leave - with some popular or centrist measures opposed by the Government. Moroney's bill won a slim majority but Bill English defeated it using his powers as finance minister to veto bills that cost money.

So what "exciting" bills, along the lines of Korako's Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill, are waiting to be drawn from the "biscuit tin" to potentially soak up hours of Parliament's time that could have been devoted to debate important issues like ACT leader David Seymour's assisted dying bill?

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* National's Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey's Companies (Annual Report Notice Requirements) Amendment Bill. It removes the requirement for companies to provide a written notice of an annual report to shareholders.

* West Coast-based National MP Maureen Pugh's Celebrant Eligibility Expansion Bill. It allows former Justices of the Peace to use the title "JP Retired" if they leave the role for medical reasons before serving 10 years as a JP.

* Waikato MP Lindsay Tisch's Burial and Cremation (Removal of Audit Requirement for Cemetery Trusts) Amendment Bill. It excludes the 94 cemetery trusts with revenue of under $50,000 from having to be audited by the Auditor-General.

* Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean's Local Government (Customer Focus) Amendment Bill. It requires local authorities to promote a customer focus in the delivery of public services and regulatory functions, and makes chief executives responsible for ensuring it happens. 

* Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie's Sentencing (Livestock Rustling) Amendment Bill. It adds livestock rustling to the list of aggravating factors to be taken into account at sentencing - and usefully also defines livestock as "animals kept as part of an agricultural operation, whether for commercial purposes or for private use".

There are others that are more borderline, such as Paul Foster-Bell's Celebrant Eligibility Expansion Bill that would make it easier to become a marriage or civil union celebrant, or Tim McIndoe's Arbitration Amendment Bill that deals with the treatment of arbitration clauses in trust deeds.

Minor party and Opposition MPs are not completely immune from putting forward "niche" proposals - such as Green MP Gareth Hughes' Copyright (Parody and Satire) Amendment Bill that would allow the use of copyright work for parody or satire.

But they are more often than not in an MP's area of responsibility or at worst minor but worthy - rather than inconsequential like Korako's bill.

And in any case, with the rest of the sitting week's agenda set by the Government, members' day was traditionally seen mostly as the Opposition's time to waste if it wanted to - until Korako and his colleagues found their own way.

 - Stuff

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