Last week I went to my first Select Committee hearing and therefore I’m now an expert. Here’s what I found out.
The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties sent in a submission about the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill to the Law and Order Select Comittee.
Current law says that prisoners given a sentence of longer than 3 years cannot vote; this bill extends that to all prisoners. The Council opposes this change and recommends that this provision should be removed from the law, not extended.
In our submission we asked to make an oral submission to the committee.
Subsequently we received an invitation to appear before them. We were allocated 10 minutes to make our submission. Kevin was to do the submission while I went to support him.
We turned up at Parliament 20 minutes before our time and went through the main visitor entrance. The receptionist asked us our business, gave us a sticker and then pointed us in the direction of the hearing rooms. The door was closed and a sign said that it was closed to the public. We sat down and chatted to the other submitters.
Eventually (they were late) the committee finished what they were doing, a whole bunch of people in suits filed out, and the sign on the door was changed to show that it was open to the public. We all filed in and sat in the public seats at one end of the room.
At the other end was a large U-shaped table with the various MPs around it, each with a computer terminal and a sign with their name in front of them.
The proceedings of the committee were fairly relaxed. The chair of the committee invited us up, quickly did introductions around the table and then asked us to speak.
Kevin gave his presentation and then the committee asked questions. The questions were generally quite good and showed that the committee members had listened to what he was saying – although some were obviously using our submission as a launch pad to put forward their own points of view. One committee member even asked for a copy of the statistics we had included in the presentation and then raced off to take copies.
Then the questions stopped and it was time for the next submitter to make their presentation, so we made our way out.
Thanks to Kevin McCormack of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties who wrote the original submission and then prepared and presented the oral submission.