Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lucia The Electoral Finance Bill has passed

But then we are living in a democracy where as long as the majority of Parliament votes something in, it becomes law. I don't even think there are any limits on what Parliament can vote in - are there?

9 comment(s):

One of the local davids said...

Lucyna,

NZ is a bit odd in having very few limits to parliament's powers. There is no president or upper house to throw legislation back and no constitution that says what they are allowed to do. In the end you just get to through the whole lot out every three years.

Then, most of the contenders for controls aren't exactly favoured in conservative circles: Te tiriti, UN Conventions...

Lucyna said...

Hi David, so is there anything to stop Parliament from passing a law to not have an election next year?

Nigel Kearney said...

There is no constitutional limit.

A couple of statutes (the Electoral Act is one) have provisions that say other provisions can only be changed by a supermajority. But it's doubtful that a determined bare majority would be stopped by this.

After the law is voted in, in extreme circumstances the governor general might not sign it or the courts, police or prosecutors might refuse to enforce the law. Juries can also do as they please.

I.M Fletcher said...

I heard on the radio this morning that MPs will be attending a workshop so that they can understand the law that they just passed.

Something wrong with this picture?

One of the local davids said...

Lucyna,

Like Nigel says a bloc could probably decide to through out restrictions on extending a parliaments life (which is set at 3 years by the electoral act) with a simple majority because, although the electoral act calls for a 75% majority it is itself just a normal act of parliament.

I guess the only lever left if a government really did suspend democracy would be international pressure (like us and Fiji...). If we couldn't sell our milk anywhere a government would have a hard time running the country.

Anonymous said...

The passing of that insidious Bill was the last straw for some people.

OZ is going to have some extra expat Kiwis heading across the pond.

Two of my friends and their families are in the process of moving out. They said they would if the bill was passed.

Greg B said...

Interestingly, here in Palmy it seems the new mayor effectively bought the recent election.
He received 30k from a 'mystery' trust which meant that his campaign spent about 38-40k while the defeated incumbent spent only 10k.

What is peculiar about the 'mystery' trust is that the funding was delievered by a 3rd party go-between who kept the trustees anonymous to the mayor!

Fergus said...

There are strictly speaking no legal limits upon what New Zealand's Parliament can enact. Even constitutional statutes are not protected. The sections in the electoral act are supposedly entrenched but the section that provides for entrenchment is not, legal opinion seems to differ as to whether you could remove that section with a simple majority and undermine the entrenchment.

Practically there are a few limits, the GG might be one since a refusal to sign might provoke a constitutional crisis, refusal seems unlikely in all but the most extreme of situations. Then there's the Court's, the powers of interpretation that they have can at times effectively weaken or neuter an act. Interpretation is guided by the NZ Bill of Rights Act for example. There are also certain presumptions is interpretation, ie that Parliament can never mean to override certain fundamental principles or rights in common law unless it explicitly does so. In some cases even explicitness is no good, because the courts create a fictitious definition to avoid the legislation, clauses attempting to exclude judicial review are a good one and Parliamentary draftspeople have given up on those because they never achieve the desired effect.

There are also hints that the Courts would not let Parliament override certain fundamentals of common law (the late Lord Cooke was a proponent of this) but whether a Court do this at all and if so explicitly or by the above mechanism is uncertain.

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