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Made a submission yet?

Thu 11 Oct 2012 In: Features View at Wayback View at NDHA

With just over two weeks to go until submissions close for the marriage equality bill, the importance of having your say and sharing how marriage rights would impact you is being highlighted by two MPs from opposite sides of the House, who are both passionate about equality. Bill author Louisa Wall, from Labour, and National’s Central Auckland MP Nikki Kaye have plenty of advice on how to make an effective submission to the Government Administration Select Committee before the closing date of 26 October. Who can make a submission? Anyone, of any age, from anywhere in the world can make a submission. Nikki Kaye says the rules are liberal because the Select Committee process is an information gathering exercise - and it’s up to the select committee itself to decide what it accepts, based on the submission’s relevance to the issue at hand. “There will only be a certain number of bills that go through our Parliament that would have significant international interest. This is probably one of them. I think other people’s experiences around the world may be very relevant,” Kaye says. Why should I make a submission? Nikki Kaye says it’s simple: the more people whose voices are heard, the better. “So if you know people around the place that maybe just want to put in a half page this is why I want the marriage equality bill to pass, then encourage them to do that!” Louisa Wall points the last time the rainbow community was able to make submissions on such a huge issue was on civil unions in 2004, when there were around 6,000 submissions, only ten per cent in support (However it was a Government bill and passed). “We’re in the context of it being a member’s bill and we do want to make sure that as many as you as possible do have a say,” Wall adds. What do I write? The very basics of making a submission are that you need to have your contact details on your submission – and it needs to relevant to the issue at hand! “As a Chair of a select committee who has sat in on many pieces of legislation, it’s a pretty liberal test as to what that is,” Nikki Kaye says. “So as long as you mention the marriage equality bill and generally touch on the policies that are being introduced within that bill, generally we will accept submissions.” Louisa Wall says REAL and PERSONAL stories are crucial: “What we’d love to see is the voice of young New Zealanders showing through. Because this is actually about your future. This is actually about choices that you will make in the future. “And for me this bill is about love, it’s about commitment, it’s about family. It’s about when you find that one person you want to share your life’s journey with. It’s about your right to actually get married. And at the moment there are some New Zealanders who can’t.” Kaye agrees it’s incredibly powerful to hear personal stories. “So if you do know someone who is a bit scared maybe of the political process, if you can just communicate to them the power of Members of Parliament hearing their personal story.” So how do I do it? You can send your submission online at the Parliament site here, or even more easily at the Marriage Equality NZ site here, or through post: Committee Secretariat Government Administration Parliament Buildings Wellington (you need to send TWO copies if doing so by post) The closing date is 26 October. Those wishing to appear before the committee to speak to their submissions should state this clearly and provide a daytime telephone contact number. Should I ask to speak in person? Everyone who makes a submission has the right to be heard, in person, by the Select Committee. Kaye says if thousands of people want to be heard, then the process will obviously take longer and people with similar submissions will be grouped together. There will also be less time to speak. “I guess for some people, when it comes to marriage equality, they will say ‘we want this bill to go through as quickly as possible’. But as a Parliamentarian I will also support your right to be heard. And if you feel strongly about this bill, then you should ask to be heard,” she says. What should I say? You will get about five minutes to make an oral presentation and Wall urges people to make three key points. Kaye agrees, saying people should make their strongest points and leave time to be asked questions. What if my submission is sensitive? All submissions become public, however people can ask for their names to blanked out. People can also request to be heard in private. You need to get in touch with the Clerk of the Committee and let them know – you can find contact details here Will I have to travel to Wellington? The Government Administration Select Committee has a rule that it only meets when Parliament is sitting, and only meets in Wellington. However Wall says it’s likely it will travel to other centres on this issue due to the number of submissions. Who is on the committee? Ruth Dyson will Chair the select committee and gay Labour MP Charles Chauvel will “sub in”, as will gay Green MP Kevin Hague – so there will be plenty of our friends on the panel! National MP Chris Auchivinvole, who voted for the Bill in its first reading is also a sitting member of the Select Committee, as are his colleagues Eric Roy and Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, who voted against it. Where to from here? After the submissions, the Select Committee writes a report, which will include any amendments it thinks should be made. The bill can then go back into the House for the second reading, where there will be another vote and debate. If it passes it goes to a third and final reading. How long the whole process takes depends on how look the Select Committee process takes. The final word? “Democracy is now in all of your hands. So it’s up to you now to act,” Louisa Wall says! staff - 11th October 2012    

Credit: staff

First published: Thursday, 11th October 2012 - 11:55am

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