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MMP Review Committee Abuse Spirit Of MMP

An Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party candidate says that MPs on Parliament’s MMP review committee made a serious blunder and abused their public duty by denying him an opportunity to present at their Christchurch hearing yesterday afternoon.

Kevin O’Connell said that it was "with indecent haste" that the hearing ended 25 minutes before the scheduled completion time of 5:30 pm, without the “single issue” sentiment being aired. While his written submissions were accepted, the candidate expected that the committee’s refusal to allow him speaking rights meant that the MPs were “maintaining a silence that grossly resembled complicity”.

Mr O’Connell believes that the committee excluded him “at its discretion”, in order to avoid facing a collective responsibility to mitigate the toxic effect prohibition has on New Zealand electoral processes.

Despite words of concern for Maori representation and participation, the committee was clearly unwilling to engender discussion on the participatory benefits of implementing the solution - full decriminalisation of the demograph - and evidential disintegration of the matrix of dysfunction.

“Repressed and unjustifiably outlawed people have never felt represented by politicians”, said Mr O’Connell. Even under the relatively civilised system of MMP, hundreds of thousands see little hope in bothering to enroll or vote. Prohibition and the 5% threshold “psyches us all out”, he said.

The cannabis candidate said he had taken the exclusion personally and would not easily forgive the insult “- nor should other New Zealanders - they just trampled over the rights of every last one of us”. O’Connell is particularly unimpressed that submissions were called for with committee chair and Speaker of the House (the Honourable Jonathan Hunt) welcoming “free and frank discussion” and “full public participation” in the democratic process.

Blair Anderson, who was also present at the hearing at Christchurch’s Airport Plaza Hotel, said there was no excuse for adjourning early. The apparent self-serving and hypocritical exclusion “casts serious doubts upon the integrity of the MMP review process”, he said.

“MPs Rod Donald and Tim Barnett have been welcomed at ALCP forums in the past, and have used the opportunity to glean support for their campaigns - these two had a particular responsibility to acknowledge the Cannabis Party sentiment which helped put them in power last November”, said Mr Anderson. “Instead they washed their hands of the injustice, and pretended they didn’t know us.”

The whole committee’s attitude is an apparent abrigation in light of the previous and pending Parliamentary Inquiries into Cannabis.

Ironically, one issue the reformers had sought to bring to the table, was the negative human rights implication at pre-election electorate meetings where certain minor party candidates were denied speaking rights, under an apparent “vested interest syndrome”.

Committee staff had last week indicated that time would be allocated for an ALCP presentation at the end of the hearing, if possible. However the committee, technically under no obligation to accept Mr O’Connell’s submission (purportedly lost over email on July 31st), did not wish to hear the submission orally. And while the committee intelligently engaged the views of two University of Canterbury academics, it strangely sought to minimise discussion with the other submitter, Christian Heritage leader Graham Capill, apparently lest the MPs miss their precious flights to Wellington.

Jonathan Hunt praised the technical brilliance of political scientist, Alan McRobie. However the cannabis reformers say McRobie was an order of magnitude out in evaluating the social consequence of a lower threshold, as recommended originally by the electoral Royal Commission. There was nevertheless an apparent recognition of the validity of arguments for introducing a system of preferential voting in electorates, “beyond FPP”.

The Reverend Capill, who had clearly taken pains in preparing his party’s submission, argued primarily for abolition of the 5% threshold for party list vote representation, a position the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party also supports, as the threshold serves “no valid purpose”. However, sitting MPs are conspicuously disinterested in giving their competition a fully equitable voice, it would seem.

“The seeds of good ideas deserve fertile soil”, say Anderson and O’Connell. “It is imperative that elected representatives PUT ALL PERSONAL INTEREST ASIDE, abide by their duty of care and do justice to all the people they are paid to serve.

Mr O’Connell’s submission summary may be viewed at http://www.alcp.org.nz/reports/mmpsumry.htm

MPs present were: Jonathan Hunt, Peter Dunne (deputy chair), Georgina Beyer, Tim Barnett, Grant Gillon, Rod Donald, Marie Hasler, David Carter, and Gerry Eckhoff

Mr O’Connell was seeking a public reconvening, and suggested that the MMP committee was likely to find itself under the scrutiny of the Human Rights Commisssion - for discriminating on the basis of political opinion.

Kevin O’Connell, Blair Anderson (++643) 389 4065

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