Worser and worser

So, it turns out that we don't just have Nuk Korako to thank for wasting Parliament's time on debating how best to advertise lost property auctions that never get held. National Party MP Jono Naylor and Transport Minister Simon Bridges played their part, too.

In my various comments on the frankly abysmal Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill, I've been pouring scorn on Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako for its palpable inadequacies and obvious cynicism. And fair enough, too - it is in the members' ballot under his name, so he has to own it.

But thanks to another set of documents on how this Bill came into being, released today under the OIA, we can see that there's a couple of other folk who deserve to wear some of that opprobrium. Because these documents appear to show that the idea for this Bill wasn't Mr Korako's at all - instead, they began with a proposal for a members bill from National's Palmerston North based list MP Jono Naylor

Not only is this somewhat surprising, given Mr Korako's claim to be so "passionate" about the issue, but Mr Naylor appears not to have understood just what he was suggesting happen. Here's how he begins his member's bill proposal to the National Party caucus:

The Airport Authorities Act sets out the process a local or airport authority must go through before selling lost property. 

The purpose of these sections of law are sound; provide the public with information about lost prop0erty (sic!), to allow the owner a chance to recover their property before the authority begins the process of sale. 

As I've repeatedly noted, this simply isn't correct. However, you might think I'm an idiot who doesn't know what he's talking about - so here's Graeme Edgeler instead:

But wouldn’t an advertisement that some property is going to be auctioned help someone looking for something know that it is missing, and where they could find it?

It might, but the advertising is about the holding of the auction, even when all of this applies, there is no requirement to actually list what found property is to be sold off. The requirements are about the advertising of the auction itself.

Well, if it’s not about connecting people with their property, what is it about?

It’s an anti-corruption measure, designed to protect the public interest. Airport Authorities are local authorites, and if they are going to be selling stuff, we want them be able to get as much money for it as possible. If the auctions aren’t advertised, then someone involved in the process could let a mate know when the auction was, and they could buy up what’s for sale cheaply when no-one else turned up. They’d get a bargain, and the airport authority would get ripped off.

The section is largely based on the old Police Act, dealing with the auctioning of lost property handed in to police. Police auctions have always had to be publicised as well, because if they weren’t taxpayers would miss out. The money from Airport Authority auctions doesn’t go directly to the government in the same way as money from police auctions does, but the principle is similar.

So right from the outset, it appears that the Bill was sold on false pretences. Then, according to the released documents, something quite odd happened. For you may remember from my post yesterday that the Government has been holding a review as to whether the Airport Authorities Act needs amending. Now, no-one who contributed to that review called for change to this particular aspect of the law. But when the official in charge of it heard that Mr Naylor was now proposing an alteration to the Act, they suggested something quite sensible:

It was not proposed [in the review], but this is something that could be included in the Act amendments if it was considered necessary. We agree that there should be a degree of flexibility in these type of arrangements.

Then, a week later, another email from that official:

I've spoken to [my boss at the Ministry of Transport] about this and he has agreed that we should include it in the review. He'll let the Minister know on Monday at the Official's meeting.

So that's great! The Ministry officials agree that they will include the change in the Government's larger overhaul of the legislation governing airport authorities!! There's no need to tie Parliament up considering, debating and voting on this one incredibly minor, technical change to that enactment (which won't even do what the person proposing it says it will)!!!

Except ... then the released email trail tells us that this happened:

At the official's meeting today the Minister [Simon Bridges] decided against proactively including Mr Naylor's proposals in the [Amendment] Bill. So we can leave it to run its course in the Private Members lottery.

WTF? Why on earth would the Minister decide this? Unless, of course, the whole point of Mr Naylor's Bill from the beginning wasn't to bring about a desirable change in the law, but rather act as spam in the member's bill lottery to reduce the chance of one of the opposition MP's proposals being drawn instead.

Meaning that when (now) Mr Korako's Bill comes before the House and has some hours of your elected representatives' time (along with the extensively funded institutional resources devoted to supporting them) wasted on it, just remember that it was Simon Bridges who decided that this should happen, simply to block some other more politically troublesome member's bill from getting debated.

One last little observation here. An email sent by the Ministry of Transport official to his colleagues the day after the Minister made his decision has been redacted in order to "maintain the effective conduct of affairs through free and frank expression of opinions". But I think I can recreate an approximate tenor of the remarks in it:

What the hell is going on here? This is a completely stupid thing to do! If we're going to the trouble of having an entire review of the legislation with an Amendment Act to follow, why on earth wouldn't we include this incredibly trivial, easily made change in it? Honest to God - sometimes I despair of the morons who run this place and the petty political games that they are always playing. If this ever comes out in public, they are going to look like a bunch of right royal nitwits who deserve all the ridicule that will follow.

Or something like that, anyway.