Speaker Audits A Personal Vote
Speaker Trevor Mallard has taken the unusual step of making a spot check audit on a personal vote in the House.
Mallard expressed some concerns during debate on the Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Renewal of Licences) Amendment Bill (No 2) about being misinformed by whips.
The Bill in the name of Louisa Wall seeks for alcohol off-license renewals to be assessed against a local alcohol policy.
The Bill had been set to be defeated with MPs indicating they would be voting along party lines and NZ First set to vote against until Wall offered a last minute amendment for the Bill to at least get it to select committee
Bills involving alcohol can often be treated as a personal vote (or a conscience vote as it is more popularly known). During the debate Mallard said Labour’s whips had informed him of who would be speaking and whether they would be in favour or not, but it appeared this information appeared to be incorrect.
“I just want to make it very clear that, in a conscience vote, it is my expectation that communications that I receive should be relied on, and if there is a change of view, that I should be informed,” Mallard said.
At the end of the debate Mallard said “if members want a personal vote I am prepared to accept one. This is the process we're going to follow: I'm going to put the question, I'm going to announce a result, and at any stage, any member can ask for a personal vote. I will say, however, that I have listened very carefully to the debate and, notwithstanding advice I have received previously, the debate has appeared to be upon party lines. So it will be for members to decide whether, in the end, a personal vote is called for.”
A personal vote was called for and the bill was given its first reading by 63 votes to 56.
Mallard said “I am going to do is something that is slightly unusual. It won't affect the result, but it is something that I want to see because I've been informed in two different ways as to the vote of a particular member.
“Therefore, I am going to ask for a sample of members', including that member's, proxy forms to be shown to me at some stage later on. I will ask for the Hon Chris Hipkins' proxy form, the Hon Winston Peters' proxy form, the Hon James Shaw's proxy form, and the Hon Bill English's proxy form all to be given to me or to my office at the conclusion of this exercise, because I want to be absolutely certain—though, clearly, one of them is more of concern than others, but to be fair to all parties I don't want to single out any particular set of whips at this point.
“I think it is important the proxies have to be
relied on, and when I'm informed in two different ways for
one member, that is something that is important and I do