Flavell: Subordinate Legislation Bill

Speech – The Maori Party

I want to firstly mihi to Simon Power – the departing member – who has worked so hard with the Maori Party; not just in the Business Committee; but also on issues of mutual interest.Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill No.3
Te Ururoa Flavell; MP for Waiariki
Wednesday 5 October 2011; 4.40pm

I want to firstly mihi to Simon Power – the departing member – who has worked so hard with the Maori Party; not just in the Business Committee; but also on issues of mutual interest.

And indeed I want to mihi to all the members who are departing today – and to acknowledge their contribution.

I rise to take a brief call in this rather curious piece of legislation to validate and confirm Acts which might otherwise become obsolete

The purpose of the Bill is to prevent the expiry of certain subordinate legislation that lapses at a stated time unless earlier confirmed or validated by Act of Parliament.

The Bill contains thirteen items of subordinate legislation that would otherwise lapse unless validated and/or confirmed by an Act of Parliament.

Other speakers have given time to the detail of the bill – delving into the intricacies of the customs and excise act; the superannuation and retirement income act; the War Pensions Act or the Wine Act.

My humble contribution is really to step back and question the power vested in Parliament to revisit legislation; – it will certainly be an issue tomorrow – to confirm, to validate or the otherwise authorize acts in a retrospective basis; indeed to make the unlawful lawful.

The classic recent case of this was the the Appropriation (Parliamentary Expenditure Validation) Bill which was moved through Parliament under urgency in October 2006.

For those who have forgotten this shady past, following the 2005 election, there was widespread debate about dubious practice by political parties in breaching election or parliamentary spending rules in some respect.

And so legislation was introduced to validate the invalid – to rectify the expenditure which the Auditor General had concluded went beyond the appropriations and was deemed unlawful.

Of course legislation to confirm; to validate; to redress unlawful practice is not just a contemporary thing.

The House may be interested to trace the whakapapa of this legislative trick back to the Indemnity Act of 1860 which rendered military officers and others immune from prosecution for anything done by them while they were acting under the authority of a proclamation of martial law.

Basically the Government of the day passed the Indemnity Act to prevent itself from being taken to court for its illegal
operation in Taranaki in the 1860s where my wife and my inlaws come from.

The tragic story of this Bill can be traced through the Hansard of 29 October 1860; and describes the events surrounding the storming of Parihaka on 25 January 1860, against the people of Taranaki gathered together in a state of peace.

I would particularly refer members to the Hansard record of the Hon Mr Swainson, who described in full the establishment of martial law in Taranaki; and provided the House with this most eloquent conclusion:

“But Acts of Indemnity cannot bury our actions in oblivion nor can they shield us from the judgement of posterity…..

It is hard to say, indeed, whether to Great Britain victory or defeat would be the more painful humiliation: either result would certainly be followed by a bitterness of feeling between the two races which in all probability would ever be effaced; and which would too probably end in the extermination or oppression of the Maori people; a lamentable and humiliating fulfilment of the proud professions with which the colonisation in New Zealand was commenced”.

Mr Speaker, one always hopes that we learn from our experience; that our history informs our present.

In this Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill our focus is mainly on timeliness – on ensuring we are keeping up with the timeframes established on the thirteen various pieces of legislation that would otherwise lapse or fall into oblivion.

My point in taking us back to 2006 and even further to 1860 was simply to encourage us all to think about the power of the executive; and how we make the best use of the parliamentary authority vested in us as members of this House.

It is a question that will no doubt rise again tomorrow when urgency is once again called upon to make the unlawful lawful.

ENDS

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