David Seymour's Guide to Select Committee Submissions
Arms Legislation Submissions Called For
The Finance and Expenditure Committee at Parliament is calling for submissions on the Arms Legislation Bill (the ‘second tranche’ of gun laws). It’s important that we who oppose this legislation are heard by the Committee. You’ve got until Midnight on October 23, I hope this guide will help you write an effective submission.
Over five years I’ve spent around 300 hours sitting on select committees and heard hundreds of submissions over that time. I have a fair idea about what works and below are my suggestions for making effective submissions on the Arms Legislation Bill.
The Critical Dates
The Arms Legislation Bill passed First Reading in the House on Tuesday, September 24th. It was referred to the Finance and Expenditure Committee, who must seek public input then report back to the House by February 10th next year. Within that time frame they must call for and hear public submissions on the Bill. The Committee called for public submissions on Wednesday September 25th. Most importantly, submissions must be received by MidnightWednesday 23rd October, 2019. After that date, the Committee will call on submitters to appear in person.
The Practical Details
The best and easiest way to submit is online. The webpage is here. You can put in your text or attach a document. The Committee has refused to receive submissions by email. This is not a conspiracy but designed to make the processing of submissions more efficient. We actually want to make sure public input is efficient so this is not a bad thing. You are also entitled to submit paper copies. You must send 2 copies of your submission to: Finance and Expenditure Committee, Select Committee Services, Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6160. The official guide to making submissions is here.
To Appear or not to Appear?
If you make a written submission, you can ask to present it in person. If you would like to appear in front of the Committee to submit in person, you should indicate this at the top of your paper submission, or using the button on the website. In my experience Committee Members will not understand submissions unless they are explained in person (and even then it’s far from guaranteed!). At this point the Committee has not committed to travel outside of Wellington but ACT will be advocating for it to do so.
Number One Principle
Select Committee Submissions are not a numbers game. The purpose of submissions is to inform the Committee with information they cannot ignore. The objective of submitters is to have the bill dismissed but, more realistically, changed. Our goal should be to force the Committee to say ‘this can’t work, we must make changes.’
Why Quality Trumps Quantity
10,000 people can send in a pro-forma submissions but it will have little effect. 10,000 sounds impressive but professional politicians know it is about 0.4 per cent of voters. So if you just want to make a submission to add your number you have every right to, good on you. But what will be effective is material the Committee can’t ignore.
You Must DIY!
Quality trumps quantity is why you must write your own submission. Take other people’s ideas, sure (we have suggestions below) but write it yourself. Simply getting lots of people to go to the website and put in EXACTLY the same thing will not sway the committee. Even better, provide original objections that will give Government MP’s that ‘oh, crap’ feeling about their legislation!
What Can’t the Committee Ignore?
The majority of the Committee are members of Labour or New Zealand First (at present the Greens are not represented on the Finance and Expenditure Committee). Because their parties are publicly committed to the law, there is nothing you can say that will make them say ‘oh, now you put it like that, maybe we should abandon this stupid law.’ What they can’t ignore is you pointing out the law won’t do what they think it will do, or will offend other values they have. The goal is to force changes.
An Example of Cutting Across the Government’s Other Values
This Government is heavily and rightly committed to improving mental health advocates. They just committed $1.9 billion (about $400 for every person in New Zealand each year) to the cause. Added to that, community leaders such as Sir John Kirwin have spent the last 15 years telling people it’s ok to ask for help. What is the Arms Legislation doing? S91 violates the doctor-patient relationship. It says that “the health practitioner must consider notifying the Police as soon as practicable” if they feel someone is unsafe to have a firearm.
An Example of Self Contradiction in the Law
Much has been made of the new bill saying it should be a privilege not a right to own a firearm. Interestingly, most dictionaries define a privilege as a special form of right, particularly in the legal context. The Government appears to want to say that firearm ownership is a special form of right, not a right!
The Government would like to believe, and would like the public to believe, that LFOs are just terrorists in waiting who must be disarmed before it’s too late. In reality LFOs are from all walks of life. They run businesses, raise families, participate in conservation, train and upskill each other, and contribute to the community. People, including the media who will be there, need to see that LFOs are people. Don’t be afraid to say who you are and tell your story.
Act is opposed to the legislation for multiple reasons. 1) it is not the Government’s job to define our ‘privileges.’ 2) it is wrong to undermine the doctor-patient relationship 3) The bill makes it harder to follow the law but doesn’t punish actual criminals 4) The register won’t work and creates its own security risks 5) greater regulations on clubs will actually reduce the amount of community support and surveillance for firearm use 6) The timing is wrong. It is being rushed (even if not as rushed as the April law) so that it can be passed in time for the March 15 Anniversary. The image of the law matters more to this Government than making an effective law. Altogether we’ll be less safe.
The Best Advice
In our view the best advice is actually from COLFO. Michael, Nicole and the team have done a great job analyzing the situation so far. Their advice from ‘the firearm lawyer’ Nicholas Taylor can be found here: ACT’s advice is to look to COLFO for technical advice, we have found them to be very knowledgeable.
Even Better Advice
Perhaps even better is your own knowledge. I am constantly amazed by COLFO’s pointing out things that no politician or bureaucrat would be likely to think of. This is an opportunity to bring your own knowledge on the bill.
Join Our Campaign
You are receiving this email as part of ACT’s Fair Firearm Laws campaign. Please share it and encourage your friends to sign up to the campaign. https://fairfirearmlaws.act.org.nz
What follows is a summary of some questions and answers we’ve had lately.
Why is it going to the Finance and Expenditure Committee (FEC)?
A bill can go to any Committee that the House votes for. We believe the Government chose Finance and Expenditure because it has a majority on this Committee. The April Bill also went to FEC for the same reason. Normally these bills should go to the Justice Committee but the Government does have a right to send it to FEC.
Why the compressed timeframe?
Normally a bill goes to Select Committee for six months. This bill will be reported back on February 10. That is just under five months, which doesn’t sound too bad, but when you consider that Parliament is won’t sit from December 18th to February 11, it is really only three months. We think this is outrageous, clearly the image of the process matters more than public safety.
Why are email submissions banned?
The Committee has banned email submissions for administrative reasons. It is easier to organize submissions sent through a portal such as the one on the Parliament website. People will see this as some grand conspiracy against democracy but it is really providing more efficient consultation. It is important we do not get sidetracked here.
Can Submissions Make a Difference?
Yes and no. As we saw in April, a determined Government (and National Party opposition) will steamroll democratic processes. We believe that in this case there is the potential for changes to some of the worst parts of the bill if intelligent submitters show up in numbers.
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