Please, please Sandra – tell us the professor has got it wrong in dismissing you as a dumb moral pygmy

Alf is a tad bewildered by party colleague Sandra Goudie’s indifference to what he regards as harsh criticism.

She seems remarkably unbothered that a university wallah with some credentials in the law racket is reported to have put the boot into the Law and Order Select Committee, which she chairs.

Otago University’s associate professor Andrew Geddis, the wallah in question, is saying National and Act Party members of the aforementioned committee have no regard for basic individual rights.

So far, so good. Having no regard for basic individual rights will probably go down well with most voters in this country.

But then comes the damaging bit: he also reckons they have come up with a bit of legislation that will give William Bell, Graeme Burton and Clayton Weatherston the vote.

More than that, the select committee’s recommendations to the House – if passed into law – would mean any other murderer, rapist or violent criminal currently serving a sentence of more than three years will get to vote at the next election.

The professor accordingly is saying the Nats and ACT members of the committee

… are not only moral pygmies, but they are really, really dumb.too

Alf’s impeccable performance as a member of Parliament, his wisdom, and his good judgement on all things, makes it unlikely he would be called a moral pygmy or really, really dumb, except by mischief-making political opponents.

But if someone did fling those accusations in his direction, and the accusations came to public attention through the news media, he would be apt to become a bit hot and bothered and inclined to try to sort things out real fast to vindicate himself and have his good name restored, preferably by besmirching the good name of the professor.

He would certainly want to make plain he was having nothing to do with legislation that would give the vote to William Bell, Graeme Burton and Clayton Weatherston, who – just in case you have forgotten their names and their crimes – rank among the country’s most notorious bad buggers.

So how does Goudie respond to the charge she is a moral pygmy and is really, really dumb?

She is reported as saying she hadn’t read the comments and couldn’t comment.

She said she might read them today.

Might read them today?

What’s wrong with the bloody woman?

Alf does not much care about the disparaging of the reputations of ACT MPs.

But he is highly indignant at any suggestion Goudie and her National colleagues on the committee might be morally bankrupt halfwits, because obviously he sits on the parliamentary benches with such people, which brings his own morality and intelligence into question.

He will be pleading with Goudie to publicly declare her committee has not done what the professor says it has done.

Until she clarifies things, the nation will be dining out on reports of a huge balls-up.

According to Stuff, the re-drafted bill which the professor says will give all prisoners the right to vote – the opposite of its original intention – appears to have confused the Cabinet as much as anyone else.

The member’s bill was drafted by National MP Paul Quinn to disqualify all prisoners from voting, even if they were in prison for just one day and that happened to be election day.

Current law disqualifies prisoners serving a sentence of three years or more.

The law and order select committee, which dealt with the legislation, changed it from its original form and decided the three year disqualification should be repealed and replaced with Mr Quinn’s version.

But it added a clause saying it would only affect people sentenced to prison after the bill became law.

That’s where Geddis comes into the picture.

He is saying the re-drafted bill means there will be nothing in law to stop anyone imprisoned before the bill is enacted from voting. It would even allow murderers William Bell, Graeme Burton and Clayton Weatherston to cast their ballots.

“The fact this sort of complete cock-up happened reveals a disgraceful lack of care on the part of our lawmakers,” he said.

Alf takes some comfort from The Boss, who said the professor might have got it wrong.

“We’ve had conflicting advice on that,” he said at his post-cabinet press conference.

“And we shouldn’t assume that professor Geddis is right, because we’ve had advice he might not be right.”

Key said there was no doubt about the intent of the bill, which was that no prisoners should be allowed to vote.

“In the event that professor Geddis is correct then we would send the bill back to the select committee for re-drafting, because it would be a drafting error,” he said.

Alf was curious enough to check out what the professor actually said at Pundit.

He learned that…

Parliament’s Law and Order committee has, by a majority consisting of National and Act members, recommended the enactment of Paul Quinn’s Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill – although they would change its name to the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill.

The professor had posted previously on the subject, but had thought the disenfranchising proposal would be quietly canned in the select committee process.

That didn’t happen.

So he has become more strident and says:

This proposal is downright wrong in its intent, outright stupid in its design and (if finally enacted) would be such an indelible stain on the parliamentary lawmaking process as to call into question that institution’s legitimacy to act as supreme lawmaker for our society.

I understand this is a pretty major accusation to level and needs a great deal of substance to back it up, so this post is going to be pretty lengthy. No apologies for that – the issue deserves serious attention and analysis … as opposed to the less than 2 – less than 2! – pages devoted to it by the majority members of the select committee in their report back to the House.

The professor seems especially riled that Quinn wants to turn back the clock to a time when anyone in jail could not vote, which means thousands of people will be stripped of one of the most basic rights, but the majority of the MPs on the select committee do not bother to set out their reasons for supporting this action.

What is more, their endorsement flies in the face of the Attorney-General’s advice that this measure is inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, which guarantees all New Zealand citizens the right to vote. It flies in the face of rulings by the UN Human Rights Committee, the Supreme Court of Canada, the European Court of Human Rights, the High Court of South Africa, and the High Court of Australia; all of which have decided that disenfranchising all prisoners is an unjustifiable breach of individual rights. And it flies in the face of 50-odd submissions – including ones from the Law Society and Human Rights Commission – saying it is a terrible, terrible idea; as opposed to only two submitters supporting it … one of whom was from Paul Quinn himself.

Alf will leave it to his constituents to check out the professor’s reasoning at Pundit.

He will head for Goudie’s office, to seek an explanation and – hopefully – an assurance that the professor is spouting nonsense, which professors often do. And if the professor is not spouting nonsense, then we must come up with a way of making it look as if he is.

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