Sunday, March 25, 2007

Govt faces uphill battle rushing bill through

this from
6:50PM Friday March 23, 2007

The Government may face an uphill battle in attempting to fast-track legislation that would restrict parents' right to smack their children.

Leader of the House Michael Cullen yesterday said the Government had not decided whether it would move urgency, which could see Green MP Sue Bradford's controversial bill passed into law next week.

Ms Bradford said the Government had sought its support for an urgency motion which requires a majority.

But the Government would still need others to back the move before it could take urgency to pass the bill through its remaining stages.

It would need the Maori Party, which supports Ms Bradford's bill, along with the six Green MPs, plus at least one other -- one of the two New Zealand First MPs who support the bill -- to get the 61 votes it needs to bring in urgency next week.

NZ First deputy leader Peter Brown said his party would discuss the issue at its caucus meeting on Tuesday.

Procedural matters such as for an urgency motion were usually issues for the caucus as a whole to decide but Mr Brown told NZPA he would not pre-empt any of the discussion by MPs ahead of the Tuesday caucus or rule out the possibility of a free vote on this issue.

"We're split on the bill itself, whether that's reflected in the urgency motion I don't know."

Mr Brown said he had been contacted by Dr Cullen last Friday afternoon and received a follow-up letter asking NZ First to consider the urgency motion.

He said one NZ First had already raised whether it was appropriate to have an urgency motion on a member's bill.

The Maori Party said it would also discuss the issue at its caucus meeting on Tuesday.

National leader John Key said Labour was acting arrogantly and was showing contempt for New Zealanders and the democratic process.

ACT's whip Heather Roy also said that to put Parliament into urgency to pass the bill would be unacceptable and anti-democratic.

It is already illegal to hit children but Ms Bradford's bill will remove the legal defence of "reasonable force" for parents who physically punish their children.

Opponents of the bill say it will outlaw smacking.

National managed to delay the bill at its committee stage, meaning that under normal parliamentary processes it would not face its third reading until late April or even May.

Debate on the bill's committee stage, when MPs can attempt to insert amendments, recommences on Wednesday and a protest is being staged that day against the bill.

Under urgency the bill could proceed to its third reading and be passed into law straight after its committee stage concluded.

Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki said he intended to stage a "mass gathering" at Parliament Grounds on Wednesday, May 2, to coincide with the final reading of the bill, should it carry over from Wednesday's session.

No comments: