Harawira: Lawyers and Conveyancers Amendment Bill
Lawyers and Conveyancers Amendment Bill (No 2); Third Reading
Hone Harawira, MP for Te Tai Tokerau
Thursday 31 July 2008; 3.45pm
When I first looked over this Bill with Angeline Greensill, Maori Party Member of the House of Hauraki-Waikato, she reminded me about one of the findings of the Waitangi Tribunal’s 1997 Muriwhenua Report WAI 45 – which mentioned the importance of “decision-makers giving equal weight to the Maori world-view, the Maori value system, and Maori law and policies”.
The Treaty of Waitangi of course, is based on the protection of Maori custom and cultural values, and indeed the guarantee of rangatiratanga, recognises the right of Maori to own and control their assets.
And those principles are always at the forefront of our thinking in the Maori Party whenever we consider any legislation, including this Lawyers and Conveyancers Amendment Bill.
So when we look at this Bill, introduced some five years ago to make the legal profession more accountable, give clients more protection, and enable lawyers employed by organisations to provide services to their members, Derek Fox, Maori Party Member of the House of Ikaroa-Rawhiti says that we should always look to see whether Maori are given the opportunity to actively participate in defining the law; whether Maori are encouraged to take responsibility for their own affairs, whether Maori will benefit from transparency in the legal profession, and whether this Bill will realise the promise of Article III, by enabling Maori to be as involved in the legal professions as any other Kiwi.
Madam Speaker, when the law was first changed, it meant that lawyers employed by unions or employer groups could only act for the organisations themselves, and not for the members, so this Bill is necessary to enable those lawyers to provide legal services to the members of those groups, and to allow members access to legal advice on issues such as liability, competency, and employment and industrial law.
In fact Madam Speaker, Rahui Katene, Maori Party Member of the House of Te Tai Tonga, tells me that everyone, no matter their background, should have access to good legal advice, and that this Bill will enable those who can ill afford it, to get access to quality advice - particularly workers in today’s increasingly difficult and legalised work environment.
But Ms Katene also pointed out a very serious flaw in the Bill relating to Maori - that it had been drafted specifically for individual members and not for claimant groups, and she insisted we record our concern that claimants before the Maori Land Court and the Waitangi Tribunal, not be disadvantaged by the passing of this Bill, and she also challenged the Minister to urgently review the legislation to ensure claimants are not disadvantaged.
Finally, I just can’t help notice how this Bill rocketed up the Order Paper, particularly during these turbulent times, with controversy swirling round the chamber, debates descending into nasty and vicious attacks, and questions about the Government’s credibility, one would have thought a vote on confidence and supply would immediately put an end to questions about the Government’s inability to deal with the financial shenanigans of coalition partners.
One would have thought that Government might settle this controversy once and for all, by calling for a vote of confidence in Government’s access to money by putting the Appropriations Bill up for a vote.
UNLESS of course, Madam Speaker, the Government was scared it might lose the confidence motion, and be forced to either call a snap election or turn power over to another coalition of parties.
Now that would be a very interesting day in politics indeed, but instead, this innocuous little bill just gets shunted up the programme.
This is the second amendment to the original Lawyers and Conveyancers Act of 2006, and we respectfully suggest that in future, Government gets greater consultation on its Bills so we don’t have to do paper-over jobs like this one.
The Maori Party will support this Bill at third reading, Madam Speaker, but with a challenge that claimants before the Maori Land Court and the Waitangi Tribunal, not be disadvantaged.