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Dunne criticises conscience vote system

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Peter Dunne
Peter Dunne

Wellington, June 25 NZPA - Conscience votes in Parliament on liquor legislation often produce "perverse and unworkable" results and should only be used for important matters of principle like the minimum purchase age, says Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

Law Commission president Sir Geoffrey Palmer has voiced similar criticism of the conscience vote system, and today Mr Dunne said he had been involved in every major change to alcohol laws for more than 20 years.

"The common thread to all of the debates that I can recall has been the conscience vote which has often produced perverse, unworkable results, on occasion, completely contrary to what Parliament thought it was doing," he said in a speech to Environment Canterbury's Regional Road Safety Forum.

"Well-meaning amendments dreamed up on the floor of the House, or someone's bright idea or pet hobby horse, are seldom a solid basis on which to make law and so it has proved on a number of occasions."

When Parliament uses conscience votes, MPs are not bound by any party positions or rules and make their own decisions.

Mr Dunne said he strongly supported MPs being able to vote according to their consciences on important issues like the minimum purchase age "but I find it hard to justify why it should also apply to more regulatory matters such as the nature and type of licences".

He said the Government would soon announce its detailed response to the Law Commission's review of the sale and supply of liquor.

"You can rest assured that the Government's focus will be on workable, rather than feel-good solutions," he said.

"We will be looking to uphold the balance between the rights of the majority of New Zealanders who enjoy a drink without any prospect of personal or social harm, and dealing with the specific problems associated with problem drinking by a minority."

Mr Dunne said more effective ways were needed to address the harm alcohol caused through the road toll.

"While substantial progress was made throughout the 1990s to reduce alcohol and drug-related deaths and injuries, since the year 2000 we have made no further progress," he said.

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