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Greens Fear Consequences Of Inquiries Bill

A bill giving more powers to Government inquiries has completed its second reading though the Greens have raised their concerns it may compel MPs and journalists to hand over information to ministerial sparked investigation.

Green MP Holly Walker said the Inquiries Bill was generally a good bill, however recent events around the leaking of a report on the GCSB did raise concerns.

She said the bill needed to clarify whether MPs and journalists would be compelled to provide information such as their sources or face fines and contempt proceedings, and the Greens would be abstaining until this was done.

Speaking afterwards David Parker said his reading of the bill was witnesses had the same protections as witnesses in civil proceedings and their privileges protections in law. He felt if this was the case then the balance was about right.

National MP Simon O’Connor said the powers and protections were similar to those of the courts and did not give inquiries a free hand.

Earlier Nathan Guy opened the second reading debate saying the bill had been reported back from select committee in 2009, but had been put on hold in 2010 while the inquiries into the Canterbury earthquakes and Pike River disaster were held.

The bill has now been given a high priority as the Government wish to hold a quick, but full inquiry into the Fonterra botulism scare.

Ministers have indicated a Supplementary Order Paper will be introduced to incorporate lessons learned from the Pike River and Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commissions of Inquiry. The original Act was passed in 1908 and the bill follows a Law Commission review calling for an update.

Labour indicated it would support the bill which it introduced.

The bill completed its second reading by 105 to 1 with 14 abstentions. The Greens and Mana abstained with Brendon Horan opposed.

The House rose at 10pm after the second reading of the Insurance (Prudential Supervision) Amendment Bill was completed by 105 to 14 with the Greens and Mana opposed.

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