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Private Bills test democratic strength

Private Bills test- Dr Rajen Prasad 1.jpgPrivate Member’s Bill is an extremely valuable tool that Opposition Members of Parliament use to propose changes to statutes.

While a Member can advance only one Bill at a time, all Bills are balloted and debated in the order in which they are drawn.

Special Days are set aside for this process in the Parliamentary Calendar, during which a Member can introduce Bill previously drawn from the ballot.

This is an opportunity to test the will of Parliament on a matter that is of special interest to the concerned Member.

Laws affecting Children

A Private Member’s Bill is an important mechanism to debate matters that are not on the Government’s agenda. If Parliament is convinced that a proposal has merit, the Bill is then sent to a Select Committee for consideration.

Currently, I have a Bill in the ballot on Child Impact Reporting.

It requires the Minister responsible for a Bill that might have an impact on children to refer it to the Children’s Commissioner for a report on the issue.

The report is then made available to Parliament when it is considering the Bill during the Second Reading and Select Committee stages.

This provides a safeguard for Parliament not to legislate matters that might have a negative or unintended impact on children without proper consideration.

Since the time my Parliamentary career began (November 2008), the Government has introduced several pieces of legislation that will impact on children.

Among the most notable of these is The Children Young Persons and Their Families Act, which has already been passed. Parliament considered this important piece of legislation without the benefit of a report on their impact on children. This Bill will make it compulsory for such a report to be available so that Parliament can consider these impacts seriously and fully.

Another Bill, on Welfare Reform, is currently before the Social Services Select Committee.

As s society, we often talk about the importance of children and the need to provide them with a good start in life. However, sometimes we compromise their interests by not considering the impact of a piece of legislation on them.

Changes are imperative

In New Zealand, we do not have a strong tradition of evaluating the impact of policies affecting children in matters like the design of space, buildings and transport.

I am hopeful that the requirement for all legislation that might have an impact on children would be examined by the Children’s Commissioner and develop a culture of due diligence and consideration.

My colleague Dr Ashraf Choudhary also has a Private Members Bill on Ethnic Broadcasting that has already been drawn out of the ballot (read separate story under Entertainmentlink in this issue)

Labour’s ethnic caucus members can make a difference for our communities.

We are able to use the Private Members Bill as a significant avenue to have Parliament consider and progress their interests.

We seek the support of Government Members, especially ethnic Government MPs in advancing these Bills.

Dr Rajen Prasad is Member of Parliament on Labour List and Associate Spokesman for Ethnic Affairs and Social Development (Child, Family & Youth). The above article is exclusive to Indian Newslink © Picture for Indian Newslink by Narendra Bedekar

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