Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


Explanation of NZ's Treaty Making Process

In light of the reiteration of the incorrect assertion that Parliament that would ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement by Stephen Jacobi on Morning Report today, I am reissuing the following explanation and associated press release from December 2012. I note that the new processes for Regulatory Impact Assessments are now likely to be more robust than the old National Interest Analysis process, although this would only be prepared and published after the text is signed.

Prof Jane Kelsey

Explanation of NZ's Treaty Making Process

Past challenges to the effective exclusion of both Parliament and the public from such decisions include reviews of standing orders as well as private members bills on International Treaties promoted first by Ken Shirley from ACT and then by Keith Locke from the Greens in 2000.

The Cabinet manual spells out the powers and process for entering into international treaties. Paragraph 7.112 states that “In New Zealand, the power to take treaty action rests with the Executive.” In practice that means the Cabinet.

Cabinet decides whether to enter into negotiations, the negotiating mandate and any revisions to it, and what trade-offs are made to conclude a deal.

Cabinet then approves the signing of the agreed text by the Minister. This is a definitive step that binds the government to act in good faith towards its negotiating partners. The Cabinet manual makes it clear that by signing an agreement the executive indicates an intention for New Zealand to be bound to that text. This constitutes a good faith obligation under international law.

Parliament does not get to see the completed text until that stage. According to the Cabinet Manual, a signed TPPA would then be presented to Parliament, accompanied by a National Interest Analysis. These analyses have been widely criticised during the standing orders reviews and submissions on the International Treaties Bill for their lack of independence and balance, because they are prepared by the same Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade that negotiated the agreement.

The treaty is then referred to the foreign affairs, defence and trade select committee, which has the discretion whether or not to seek public submissions. But the select committee has no substantive power. The Cabinet Manual (para 7.119) makes it clear that the executive can move to ratify the TPPA while the select committee process is still underway.

Specifically, the government cannot ratify the treaty until the select committee has reported or 15 sitting days have elapsed since it was presented to Parliament, whichever is sooner. In other words, the maximum period for the select committee to report on the bill is 15 days after it is tabled. Within these 15 days submitters need to (a) access the document, (b) analyse its technical detail across a reported 29 chapters, (c) write an accurate and detailed submission, and (d) appear at a hearing before the select committee, and for the committee to prepare a considered report.


4 December 2012

For immediate release

‘Treaty-making 101’ for Ministers, bloggers and corporate lobbyists

“Recent statements by politicians, corporate lobbyists and pro-TPP commentators imply that Parliament gets the final say over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA). That shows woeful ignorance of New Zealand’s treaty making process”, says Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey.

“The Cabinet Manual could not be more clear: “7.112: In New Zealand, the power to take treaty action rests with the Executive.” In practice, that means the Cabinet.

“Any claim that this is a democratic process is disingenuous. Successive governments have blocked changes to standing orders and legislation proposed by ACT and the Greens that would have given Parliament a stronger role in approving treaties. In both cases the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade vigorously and successfully defended its turf.”

The text is not tabled in Parliament until it is signed, which means the Cabinet has already formally indicated its commitment to adopt the text. It is then referred to the foreign affairs, defence and trade select committee, which is required to report back within 15 sitting days, unless the government extends the time.

Professor Kelsey called for a reality check. “If the TPPA is completed it will be the size of two telephone books. Very few people can provide a comprehensive and informed submission within the available time.”

“From past experience, the select committee process is a cosmetic exercise anyway, because the government has a majority. Even if it wanted to propose changes, the committee has no power. The Cabinet can ratify the treaty while the hearings are still proceeding, as happened with New Zealand Thailand Closer Economic Partnership.”

Parliament might be invited to vote on the TPPA, if the government majority agrees, but the vote would be symbolic. Such votes were held on several recent free trade agreements – with the assurance of a bi-partisan National/Labour consensus. That consensus is no longer guaranteed, given the Labour Party’s policy remit adopted at the recent conference.

Even where implementing legislation is required, Parliament could refuse to pass the laws, but if the treaty were already ratified New Zealand would then be in breach of its new obligations. But the government could seek to bypass legislation. Controversial changes to Pharmac, for example, might be made by regulation.

“The sad truth is that our elected representatives, and we as citizens, are impotent to affect a process that the Cabinet effectively controls from start to finish. Those who claim it is not, from the Prime Minister down, are misleading the public deliberately or otherwise.”


ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Tokenism Of New Zealand's Role Against Islamic State

To date, the Opposition has continued to occupy itself with the marginalia of the issue. E.g. whether Key did or didn’t know whether Barack Obama would be present at the US briefing last week on IS, or whether New Zealand’s military involvement is or isn’t already a fait accompli.

It might be better to tackle the issue, head on. Our contribution against IS will be to send SAS forces to train the Iraqis? That’s like offering trainers to General Custer just as the 7th cavalry reached the Little Big Horn.
More>>

 

Parliament Today:

Scoop Business: Shell And Todd Caught Drilling Without Approval

Multi-national oil company Shell’s New Zealand arm and local energy giant Todd Energy have breached the new law governing New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the Environmental Protection Authority says in an Oct. 10 document released by the Green Party. More>>

ALSO:

Labour: Tea Breaks 'Gone By Lunch Time'

“How cynical that on the eve of Labour weekend, the National government is pushing through legislation that takes away the statutory right to tea and meal breaks along with collective bargaining protections, and makes vulnerable workers jobs even less secure." More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Pharmac, Gough Whitlam And Sleater-Kinney

We’re not at the outset of these negotiations. The outset was six years ago, and negotiators were hoping to have some sort of ‘framework’ deal finished in time for the APEC meeting in a few weeks’ time. These ‘extreme’ positions are what we’ve reached near the intended end of the negotiations… More>>

ALSO:

PM Of Many Hats: Questions, No Answers On Whale Oil

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader – Green) to the Prime Minister: How many times since November 2008 has he spoken with blogger Cameron Slater on the phone and how many times, if any, has he texted him?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): None in my capacity as Prime Minister. More>>

ALSO:

Aussie Investigation Dropped: Call On Minister McCully To Pursue The Case Of Balibo Five

West Papua Action is deeply concerned at the lack of any clear outcome from the Australian Federal Police inquiry into the 1975 deaths of the ‘Balibo Five’ including NZ journalist Gary Cunningham. More>>

ALSO:

'Feed The Kids' Bill: Metiria Turei To Lead Fight On Feeding Hungry Children

Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei is urging all political parties to support the Feed the Kids Bill which she inherited today from Mana leader Hone Harawira. More>>

ALSO:

Parliament Today: State Opening Of Parliament

The House sat at 10.30am on Tuesday before MPs were summoned to hear the Speech from the Throne in the Legislative Council Chamber. More>>

ALSO:

Tertiary Education: Students Doing It Tough As Fees Rise Again

The Government is making it increasingly difficult for Kiwis to gain tertiary education as fees continue to rise and access to student support becomes even more restricted, Labour’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. More>>

ALSO:

Housing, Iraq: PM Press Conference – 20 October 2014

Prime Minister John Key met with press today to discuss:
• Housing prices and redevelopment in Auckland
• Discussions with Tony Abbott on the governmental response to ISIS, and New Zealand’s election to the UN Security Council More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news