Our parliamentary system tends to be adversorial and we see a lot more of MPs at odds than in agreement.
However, yesterday there was unaninimity on two important pieces of legislation.
The first was the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2)
The Bill, introduced by Justice Minister Simon Power, establishes a new Electoral Commission, which will be a one-stop shop for electoral matters.
“I’m pleased that the Government’s electoral law reform programme, including the rewrite of controversial electoral finance laws, has attracted the wide support of Parliament,” Mr Power said.
“Such cross-party support will help to ensure New Zealand’s electoral laws are enduring.”
Unlike the Electoral Finance Act which was driven by ideology, caused division and was dumped when the government changed, this one is driven by common sense, has cross party support and so will endure.
The second piece of legislation which passed unanimously was the Child and Family Protection Bill.
This was also introduced by the Justice Minister and is to protect child victims of family violence. It:
• Clarifies that when a protected person dies, their children will remain protected. This will avoid any legal confusion at a time when a grieving family is already under stress.
• Makes it clear that protecting children from all forms of violence – a principle of the Care of Children Act 2004 – includes protection from psychological abuse and direct and indirect abuse.
• Ensures that a child of a protection-order applicant will continue to be protected if they live at home past the age of 17.
• Ensures a focus on the best interests of the child by giving parents an opportunity to review care and contact arrangements soon after a temporary protection order is made.
• Avoids any opportunity for a lapse between a temporary order and a final protection order coming into effect which could have resulted in a victim having no protection.
• Makes it easier to obtain protection for children at risk of unlawful removal from New Zealand.
• Creates a new offence in the Adoption Act 1955 for improper inducement of consent to an adoption, punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment. This enables New Zealand to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and ensures New Zealand is meeting its international obligations to protect children from economic and sexual exploitation.
This is very different from electoral reform but it is also too important for political posturing.
If only there was similar agreement on what caused the 3,867 domestic violence cases in the Family Court which each involved at least one child in the 2009/10 year and how to solve them.