SkyCity Deal And Legal Highs Bill Provokes Anger

by Desk Editor on Thursday, July 11, 2013 — 6:37 PM

A bill legislating for a deal between the Government and SkyCity for the casino operator to build a National Convention Centre in exchange for an expansion of its gambling business has completed its first reading and been sent to select committee.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill was about jobs and growth.

There was a need for a large world class convention centre in Auckland which would inject money into the economy and create jobs for its construction and for hosting conferences once it was built.

The bill would ensure this was done by the private sector and was similar to a deal done by the last Labour Government to build a smaller convention centre.

The concessions given to the Auckland Casino permit holder (SkyCity) in exchange would need to be changed by an Act of Parliament to be reversed.

SkyCity would also run the convention centre and get an extension of its casino licence and the size of its business. There would also be harm minimisation tools put in place to deal with problem gambling, Joyce said.

The deal was of benefit to both parties and it was questionable whether it was cause any increase in gambling harm.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Grant Robertson said the bill was disgraceful, backing a “dodgy deal” and cronyism.

New Zealand was not a corporation that could be played around with, it was a democracy and should not be used as “John Key’s plaything”.

SkyCity had been given a preferential deal which gave them many concessions which would increase gambling harm.

The Speaker ruled the vote would be personal one, but parties voted along party lines.

The vote on whether the bill be read a first time was agreed 61 to 59.

The procedural votes on which select committee it would go to and the report back time were cast as party votes.

This was debated by Trevor Mallard, but Lindsay Tisch in the Speaker’s chair did not agree.

The bill was sent to the Commerce Committee by 61 to 59 with National, ACT and Peter Dunne in favour.

The motion the bill reported by November 17 was amended by Trevor Mallard to read December saying the Government was trying to rush through the legislation without proper consideration. The amendment was defeated by 61 to 58 with National, ACT and Peter Dunne opposed. The report back date was then agreed by the same margin.

There had been indications from the Government that it would use Urgency to complete the third reading of the Psychoactive Substances Bill. Instead the Government sought leave for the House to sit this evening until the bill was passed.

This was declined by Mallard. Later Mallard sought leave for the House to go into Urgency to complete the third reading, but this was declined by an MP.

MPs began the third reading debate with the Minister responsible Todd McClay taking a shortened speech as the Government tried to complete the debate ahead of the 6pm adjournment and a two week break.

A very angry Labour’s Iain Lees-Galloway said it was outrageous the Government was making such a hash of the process of what was world class legislation.

After a truncated debate a party vote was held and all parties voted for it with the exception of ACT for it to pass into law by 119 to 1.

MPs began the third reading of the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Amendment Bill and debate was interrupted when the House rose at 6pm for a two week adjournment.

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