Changes to Constitution

Main Stories, National

The National, Monday July 1st, 2013

 THE government will introduce legislation aimed at making the no-confidence vote process more open and transparent.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill made the announcement at the People’s National Congress party convention in Lae, Morobe.

O’Neill also said among the changes, the number of days parliament can sit in a year would be clearly defined.

The proposed changes provide that the mover of a no-confidence motion in the prime minister must give three months’ notice containing the signatures of at least one-third of the members of parliament nominating a new prime minister.

This notice must be published in full in a national newspaper.

 “The proposals will significantly add to political stability and certainty, and strengthen investor and business confidence,” O’Neill said in a statement yesterday.

The proposed amendments to the Constitution are in two parts:

  • Amending section 124 of the Constitution in subsection 1 by removing the words “not less frequently than three times in each period of 12 months, and, in principle, for not less than nine weeks in each such period” and replacing them with the words “not less than 40 days in each period of 12 months”; and
  • Amending section 145 (1) of the Constitution by repealing the words “one week’s” and replacing them with “three months” and replacing the words “one tenth” with the words “one third”.

O’Neill said the amendment to section 124 simplified and would make clearer the number of days Parliament would sit every year.

“It removes the ambiguity individuals have capitalised on in the past to congest sittings, or prolong the adjournment of Parliament for political convenience and survival.

“By clearly defining the sitting days in a year, the government can plan its legislative programmes for parliament in an orderly manner, improves administration and helps to reduce costs,” he said.

O’Neill said the amendment to section 145 of the Constitution is a safeguard that makes the vote of no-confidence notice process in Parliament more transparent.

“This will make no-confidence motions more transparent and less susceptible to corruption. At the moment, deals to replace a sitting prime minister are done behind closed doors and in secret.

“Sometimes, members are offered inducements to change their allegiance. Now, those members who wish to change their allegiance must do so publicly so their electorate can hold them accountable.”  

“The amendment allows the vote of no-confidence process to occur in an open and transparent manner and allows more time for Parliament and the public to assess and debate whether the notice has merit. It ensures wider consultation.

“The performance of a prime minister must be given the scrutiny it deserves before Parliament decides his or her government’s fate: this provision ensures that, so that if change occurs, it occurs in the interest of the nation and not for the glory of one or two individuals.”