Green Party MP Keith Locke says he will persist with attempts to get an extension to the deadline for public submissions on the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 6) – with its attached "anti-hacking" supplementary order paper - when he returns to Parliament on February 13.
The law and order select committee has set the deadline for submissions at February 9.
Locke accuses the bill's sponsor, IT Minister Paul Swain, of betraying “a commitment [he] made when introducing the bill [on November 16 last year], that there would be 'about six months for people to have their say'," says Locke, the Green Party's police spokesperson.
He says he has had discussions with Swain and select committee head Janet Mackie on extending the date, without success. The date is set by the committee, which does not include Swain.
Locke interprets Swain's comment as at least implying that there would be a six-month period for public submissions. The May 31 deadline is for the committee to report the bill back to Parliament, following its own discussions, with input from members of the public who have already lodged submissions.
What Swain actually said, according to Hansard, is: “there will be about six months for people to have their say, and for the select committee to do its work.
“We are giving an extraordinary long period of time for debate and discussion", Swain added. "We are doing it in the most public way. There is no more public debate than a select committee process.”
Locke acknowledges that one interpretation of these words does not conflict with the dates now given. “But it could certainly be interpreted as the public having their say [for six months] rather than the select committee," he says.
“You could say we’ve been given three months,” he says. “But in December and early January, a lot of people – particularly those involved in community groups – are not working or holding meetings.”
The period for submissions will close before Parliamentary debate resumes on the 13th, but there have been cases of bills being re-opened for submissions after closing.
Swain says through a spokeswoman that he always said the maximum time would be allowed for comment and discussion of this bill, and the usual maximum is three months for public submissions and three months for select committee debate.