Keith Locke on the Statutes Amendment Bill (No.2) – first reading



I again add the Green Party’s congratulations to Mr Robertson’s promotion to Assistant Speaker. Thank you very much, Mr Assistant Speaker, for the work you have done in this House and will do in your new role. The Green Party is supporting this bill, the Statutes Amendment Bill (No 2). It is a tidy-up bill, as has been said by other speakers. It has consensus.

The Green Party has to make a little bit of a complaint—why is this bill being discussed under urgency? Surely urgency is for discussing the urgent business of the House. It does not appear to us that these tidy-up sections are urgent. They could be conducted in the normal business of the House. Statutes revision bills go through pretty quickly, anyhow. There is a misuse of urgency in general that we are involved in at the present time. It would have been quite easy for the Government, which has called urgency mainly to progress the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill, to just extend the state of emergency, which gives it all kinds of powers in the Canterbury area, for a few weeks more and then allow proper select committee consideration of that bill so that we get the legislation right, if that is possible. The Green Party has opposed that bill.

To get back to this bill and to follow on from Grant Robertson’s speech, I say that the domestic violence issue comes up in Part 8 of the bill in some small, technical amendments. The issue of domestic violence is also related to other problems in society. The more problems and tensions one has in society the more poverty there is, the more those frustrations within a family sometimes come out in the form of domestic violence, which has to be handled by social workers and by the courts. I think that is another reason why, to get back to the Canterbury situation—I have friends and relations down there and I have visited since the February 22 earthquake—what we notice is greater tensions within families, because of the uncertainty of their futures. They do not know where their jobs are going, where their businesses are going. They are in financial hardship. The insurance people have not come around to give a proper quote on their house in order to assess whether it can be repaired, how much it will cost, how much cover they have, etc., etc. All of those things are up in the air, let alone the provision of adequate water, sewerage, and all of those other things. That is the situation—ripe for more domestic tensions and, potentially, domestic violence. I think that is very relevant to the Government’s policy because at the moment a lot of workers and businesses that have been affected by the earthquake are not sure how long the Government will continue the income support system, which is due to run out in a week or two. There is uncertainty and nervousness amongst people in Christchurch who are affected in that way whether the Government will continue the support until they really get back on their feet in terms of full-time, fully-paid employment or in terms of their business operating properly, on the level it did before the earthquake.

Grant Robertson also talked about the charities issue and the inclusion of organisations dedicated to sport under that particular legislation. I think one of the problems with the Charities Act now is the prohibition in effect on advocacy by a number of charities. That is an issue that one sees in organisation after organisation. The Government has never properly recognised that it is often the charitable organisations at the coalface that are delivering social services, often with money they have got voluntarily from the community. They are at the coalface dealing with poor people, dealing with disadvantaged people, and dealing with people suffering all sorts of problems. They are in the best position of any organisation in our community to offer advice to the Government, to offer advice to the community, and to engage in informed advocacy. Under the Charities Act, as I said, if one is involved in too much advocacy then one is not really a charitable organisation; one has some political bias and therefore we are going to knock it off the list of organisations entitled to charitable status. I think that really needs to be looked at and corrected. We want real democracy in our society, which involves all the voluntary organisations contributing to the maximum in the debate on what the way forward is to overcome some of the social problems we face. With those few comments, the Green Party will support this bill.