Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is Darren Hughes still getting paid – and can the Speaker do something about it?

When a list MP leaves parliament prior to an election, the next MP on the party list usually takes his or her place. But there is a process to follow.

As most know, Labour list MP Darren Hughes has left parliament, and in order for Judith Tizard, the next on the list, to take his place in Parliament, the Electoral Commission has to supply the vacancy. Prior to that, the Governor General has to notify the Electoral Commission of the vacancy. The Governor General is advised of the vacancy by the Speaker. The Speaker is usually advised in writing by the party or member that has the vacant seat, and publishes that vacancy in the Gazette.

In the case of Darren Hughes, apparently, none of this has happened yet*.

From what I can gather, nobody has written to the Speaker telling him of the vacancy. Hughes may be gone, but if his seat has not been declared vacant,no one else can take it. If Hughes has not resigned, he may still getting paid by parliamentary services notwithstanding this statement indicating a decision to resign. What’s more, there is no time limit in the Electoral Act to determine a replacement for a list MP.

However, if the Speaker is satisfied that the seat of an elected member has become vacant, that Speaker must, without delay, publish a notice of the vacancy and its cause in the Gazette.

Could it be that the Speaker does not have to have a letter advising him of the vacancy. What is stopping Lockwood Smith publishing a notice in the Gazette accordingly if he is satisfied that Hughes' seat has become vacant, sans letter of resignation. Or does this satisfaction not occur until a letter is produced.Perhaps that's it - [update Yep, and it's stated in Section 55 of the Electoral Act. Missed that.Thanks Graeme Edgeler for that comment below]

So while the media wants to imply that Tizard is giving Labour the runaround by not making her mind up, she has every right not to reveal whether she wants the seat if the Speaker hasn’t written to the Governor General to advise of a vacancy.

If nothing changes, and Hughes hasn't formally resigned,he could get paid, and could even sit in his parliamentary seat until the election.

Of course that will cause another media firestorm. It would also displease Labour as it will have one less MP on the taxpayer tit to campaign in the election, which is why Labour wants Louisa Wall, a 2011 candidate, to take Hughes' place. However Wall's selection will be a better deal for the taxpayer. Tizard, if she takes a list place, would cost the country more as she would get three month’s salary after being booted out at the election. Louisa Wall, should she be selected may well be an MP after the election.

Either way someone who is not wanted or is of no use to Labour is likely to be paid. And you’re paying.

Update Apparently he is resigning next week. I guess this will be be backdated to the date that Goff accepted the resignation.
* if Hughes has (since) resigned, this post is purely academic

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Blogger Graeme Edgeler said...

1. A person not seeking re-election at an election, and a person who loses at an election and isn't returned to Parliament both get three months severance.

2. A resignation must be in writing. When the Speaker is aware of a vacancy he must notify it in the Gazette, but what is a vacancy? Section 55 of the Electoral Act tells us: The seat of any member of Parliament shall become vacant... if he or she resigns his or her seat by signing a written notice that is addressed and delivered to the Speaker.

March 31, 2011 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger Swimming said...

cheers, Graeme. Post amended to reflect that. You didn't happen to go to law school by any chance?

March 31, 2011 at 9:59 AM  

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