A few minutes ago, Dr Jack Havill, the former President of End-of-Life Choice, when making his submission to members of the Justice Committee at a Hearing in Hamilton added these extraordinary and unconventional comments:-
"The second part of this submission may seem very unusual.
It is a complaint about the Deputy Chair of the Justice Select Committee. I have spoken to many New Zealanders and they cannot understand why, as the Deputy Chair of the Selection Committee, hearing oral submissions on the (End of Life Choice) Bill, the Honourable Maggie Barry should show her bias so publicly and indeed spend much of her time campaigning at public meetings against medical aid in dying.
This seems to the average member of the public as totally unfair, especially as she has also been aggressive to actual submitters while giving (their) oral submission.
We do not maintain that she should not have opinions against the Bill, but we expect her to act impartially in her role as Deputy Chair, and to consider evidence which support MAID in a reasonable manner.
She has been bringing the process into dispute.
Our opinion is that she should resign from the position as Deputy Chair because she is heavily compromised."
I have already indicated in this blog that I was deeply concerned at Maggie Barry's attitude in the Hearing which I attended on 29 June. From this brief experience, and seeing her speaking publicly in opposition to the Bill I can only endorse Dr Havill's concern.
I observed submitters in favour of the Bill being subjected to aggressive questioning, to denials that their submissions could be true, and to lectures on the other side of the issue. One submitter was subjected to just plain rudeness while making a strongly felt submission; she suddenly found that the Chair of the Day had left her seat and walked some distance away to make herself a cup of tea.
I believe the Speaker of the House has been approached about the apparent conflict of interest. I understand he was given the astonishing reply that there is no Code of Conduct set down for the conduct of Parliamentary Hearings. Members are not, apparently, even expected to maintain a show of impartiality. That is certainly how the Auckland Hearing was conducted on Friday 29 June.
I suggest that in the interest of the “fair play” that we in this country pride ourselves upon that Ms Barry either immediately recuse herself as a Hearer or else cease offering her opinions on any public stage.
She cannot have it both ways. She must choose. Either decision could be a simple action that would restore some show of integrity to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Justice.
And I hope that she makes this choice before speaking against the Bill at a public meeting called by our MP Mark Mitchell, to be held in Orewa on Tuesday 21st. I will be there and I hope a good crowd of fair-minded locals will turn out – on both sides of the argument – to engage together in a congenial and democratic process of exploring the issues.