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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel): Thank you, Mr Chair. Unlike my colleague Ian McKelvie, I seem to have had the good fortune of a call on my first attempt to rise to my feet on this bill. I want to pick up, in this discussion on clause 3 relating to the principal Act, the Local Electoral Act 2001, points that my colleague the Hon Dr Nick Smith raised in a couple of speaking slots that he had and that go to the very heart of what is the basis of the principal Act, and that is primary democracy. It’s the democracy that we have based not just this nation but liberal democracies throughout the world on, and as New Zealanders we aspire to those principles of fairness, justice, and equity and equality in all matters. And yet this bill that seeks to amend the principal Act, the Local Electoral Act 2001, actually puts a skew on that basic premise of equality for all.

One of the things that we are taught in school at a very early age is that people are born equal, that they have equal rights to opportunity, to aspiration, to outcomes that are fair and on the basis not of race, not of creed, not of gender, and not of sexual orientation, and not on the basis of who your grandparents were or what their ethnicity or blood heritage might have been. But this bill that seeks to amend the Local Electoral Act 2001 actually raises the question that Dr Nick Smith asks, and that is: is it going further—further than the principles of the Treaty, further than the words of the Treaty—in terms of creating a status for some New Zealanders that is more equal than others? And I don’t accept that.

CHAIRPERSON (Adrian Rurawhe): That might be so, but we’re not debating that. We’re debating which Act does this bill amend, and that is it.

Hon SCOTT SIMPSON: Well, it amends, as I’ve been saying—

CHAIRPERSON (Adrian Rurawhe): Yes, but you are now giving an argument that would better be suited to clauses 4 and 5. So if you’ve got any—

Hon SCOTT SIMPSON: Yeah, well, Mr Chair, the principal Act is the Local Electoral Act, and that defines and sets out the basic premise that every vote should have the same weight—that a vote cast, no matter the ethnicity, the gender, the sexual orientation, or the heritage and background of that individual voter, should have the same weight. This is an amendment to that principal Act that skews that, and I think that the basis of this Act amending the principal Act in a way that puts a spin on the principal Act, that effectively gives a voter, based on the heritage, background, and ethnicity of their parents or their grandparents, a greater weight in terms of our local government democracies—I think that that is not a good thing to be doing in terms of amending the principal Act that this clause seeks to amend. And so my question is very similar to the question posed by my colleague the Hon Dr Nick Smith, and that is: what is the Minister’s view in terms of some New Zealanders, when it comes to local body elections, effectively being given, under the amendment that this clause seeks to impose on the principal Act, greater voting rights than others?

That is a fundamental question about democracy, and I notice that members on the Government side seem to think that even though we are sitting in urgency this is some kind of a matter that is of levity and jocularity. I don’t think it is. I think this is an important matter, and notwithstanding that we are debating it under urgency at 9.20 in the morning, I think that Minister Mahuta should take a call. She’s been silent so far. The purpose of this debate is to have an engagement to and fro between members of this Parliament, duly elected, and the Minister. That’s part of this legislative process. So far it’s been a one-sided conversation, and I invite the Minister to rise to her feet. She’s usually a good Minister who’s happy to engage. I think there have been legitimate questions asked about this particular clause and how it affects and impacts the Local Electoral Act 2001, and I’d invite the Minister to stand and take a call and answer the questions not only from Dr Nick Smith but from my colleague, a well-respected former mayor, who has lots of experience in these matters.