HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Proposed amendments to the Judicature Act - Political suicide?

The Cook Islands Party (CIP) came into power in November 2010 with a healthy majority and rather than using that advantage strategically, it seems hell bent on putting a noose around its neck and committing political suicide.
It has been one fumble after another of the political football and come the next election, the voters may just show the CIP the Red Card.
There was the highly unpopular withholding tax now it’s a proposal sponsored by the Banking Association to amend the Judicature Act.
It is unknown why government allowed such a proposal to get as far as it did.
Any group can make a submission to government to amend legislation but that does not mean government has to entertain the proposals especially a government with a healthy majority that wishes to maintain its popularity.
In this case the proposals have, presumably with the Minister’s and Cabinet’s approval, got as far as a Parliamentary Select Committee. And that is without any prior consultations with affected groups, the community and the wider body of lawyers. Why was this allowed to happen?
It reveals a government lacking in due process, in checks and balances and most worrying of all, experience in the basic business of democratic government. Government must be reminded that it was elected by the people. Government represents the people not a Banker’s Association or a Law Society.
The Minister should not have allowed these proposals to get as far as the Select Committee stage without undergoing a thorough and vigorous public consultation process first. Where were the public meetings in the Vakas? Where was the media publicity? Where are the Maori translations of the proposals? What consultations took place in the sister islands or do they not count?
The people out in the sister islands are Cook Islanders. They are entitled to be consulted on proposed changes to laws that affect them.
To its credit, the Select Committee has at least if not somewhat late, called for further, wider consultations.
It could be hugely damaging politically for a government to pass laws requiring persons to settle their debts in a climate of economic downturn when the money is simply not there.
Government’s first duty to its citizens is to get the economy back on track so persons can pay their bills, can get a job, can afford the cost of living and bank interest rates.
The CIP has until 2014 to accomplish this and until then government should seriously consider assigning the proposed amendments to the back burner.

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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