Trust us we know what we are doing, was the message from the majority National and Act Party members of the Law and Order Select Committee in declining the request for an inquiry into the unacceptably high rates of recidivism in New Zealand.
One of the benefits of MMP over the previous First Past the Post system was to be to slackening the shackles of the executive branch of government held over the select committee process facilitating more independence, more scrutiny and to enable the select committee’s to undertake inquiries. The phrase Washminster was coined by Sir Geoffrey Palmer to reflect a mix of Washington and the Westminster systems, but this is an illusion as the management of the Law and Order select committee demonstrates.
With no work of any significance next year planned other than the required financial reviews, no bills to scrutinise and ample time to undertake some fresh work, the government National and Act members have used their majority to squash the proposal to inquire into what might be done to reduce recidivism.
Presumably they believe that either; the Government has all the ideas and we are going to lead the world in best practice with world best results, better than Ireland 39% rate of reoffending compared to New Zealand’s rate of 57%; or alternatively they are apprehensive that the Select Committee’s inquiry could show up their plans as inadequate, causing some embarrassment.
This is the same committee that by majority of National and Act parties refused to allow Labour to make minority report, censorship that a Soviet Presidium would have been proud of; refused Labour’s request to have Ministry of Justice officials advise on Paul Quinn’s bill changing electoral law, they were the experts, with disastrous results by drafting that was to allow serious offenders to vote, the exact opposite of what was intended; the committee regularly cuts down time for questioning officials restricting opposition questions and regularly rejects opposition questions as part of the financial review.
Muldoonism is alive and well in this government.
Members of Parliament are elected with the expectation that they use the resources and opportunities at hand to make better law and improve the administration of government activities. With the second highest rate of incarceration and world leading rates of recidivism New Zealand has an intractable problem. Despite being faced with the obvious and an opportunity to canvas the best advice available, to engage with those who understand the issues and to bring this distilled knowledge and experience forward as much needed cross party plans for improvements to reduce reoffending, this government by majority has slammed the door on opportunity.
This is not representative democracy in action.