A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

New Zealand: Bill to make handheld laser possession in public illegal, passes first reading

A bill making it illegal to possess a handheld laser in a public place without reasonable excuse, unanimously passed its first reading on September 25 2013. Member’s Bill 88-1 would cover all handheld lasers and laser pointers, regardless of power. The full text is here.

The bill was originally introduced November 15 2012. The sponsor, National MP Dr Cam Calder, said the handheld laser pointers “have the potential to cause considerable harm, and put lives at risk when improperly used.” In addition to a penalty of up to three months in prison and up to a NZD $2000 fine (USD $1650), police also would be able to confiscate lasers.

Dr Calder told Parliament that the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association was “very much” in favor of the bill. In 2012, there were over 100 incidents where lasers were aimed at aircraft and moving vehicles.

According to NZ News, “Labor and the Greens supported the bill, although they had concerns the definitions in the bill might be too broad.” Below is the debate on the bill (after the “Read More…” link.) The bill was referred to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee; their report is due on or before March 25 2014.

In addition, the Ministry of Health is developing regulations addressing the importation and sale of handheld lasers. They are expected to be announced by the end of 2013.

Cam Calder New Zealand laser law
Dr Cam Calder says “thumbs down” on handheld lasers

From Scoop, Radio New Zealand, and NZ News. The bill text is online here.

The following is the September 25 2013 debate on the bill. Certain sections of interest have been boldfaced in blue by LaserPointerSafety.com. The full debate transcript is at the New Zealand Parliament website, currently at this page (scroll down to find debate on the laser bill). Note that news articles indicated this was the bill’s first reading, even though the debate transcript below says “Second Reading”. It is not known which is correct.


Second Reading

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): When this bill was last being debated in the House we had the honourable member Iain Lees-Galloway who was speaking. Mr Lees-Galloway has 1 minute and 30 seconds remaining to speak if he so wishes.


IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North): I will take that opportunity, Mr Assistant Speaker, I will. Well they say in life that the only constant is change and in the brief period of time since I began my call on this Summary Offences (Possession of Hand-held Lasers) Amendment Bill there have been some minor adjustments to the Labour line up and sadly I am no longer a member of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, which means I will not get to follow the intricate passage of this bill through the select committee process. I will not get to hear the dozens of submissions.

Hon Phil Goff: Oh, we could sub you on.

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Oh well, I could get subbed on. We could go talk to the whips about that. But it is a great pity because I do respect the member Cam Calder for bringing this bill to the House.

I know that the Airline Pilots’ Association will be very grateful, and I do anticipate that the Airline Pilots’ Association will come to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee and will make a very serious contribution to the bill. As I said when we were last debating this, we do agree with the thrust of the bill.

We think it is a little bit broad in its scope. If we could narrow down the scope of the bill to the high-powered lasers, such as the one that Cam Calder demonstrated during his first contribution on the bill, rather than the lower powered—the one that member is holding up right now—ones that are used with PowerPoint presentations or entertaining domestic cats. If we could get those ones out of the legislation, focus on the real causes of the problem then Labour will have no problem supporting this bill into—what did that bell mean, Sir?

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): That means your time is actually up.


DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East): I would just like to congratulate my good friend and colleague Dr Cam Calder on the excellent work he has done in progressing this Summary Offences (Possession of Hand-held Lasers) Amendment Bill to this House. I am sure it will be a very proud moment when he sees this pass through the House. Mr Calder is a member of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, along with other members of this House. I would just like to acknowledge the Labour members who have worked so diligently with us on these types of bills.

Hon Todd McClay: In the bill.

DAVID BENNETT: We will come to the bill, Mr McClay. Mr McClay is a good shooter and likes to play with guns so I am sure he will be interested in what this can be about as well.

John Hayes: That’s not all he plays with.

DAVID BENNETT: Yes. But thank you, Mr Iain Lees-Galloway, for your support of the bill and your involvement with the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee as well. But this is Mr Calder’s day, and well done to him. We look forward to this progressing through the House.

When we look at it, it is a preventive bill, and I think that is the nature of Mr Calder. He sees that we need to go out there and do things before they happen, and to be—[Interruption]—Yes, Mr McClay I am sure that is a very generous contribution. Mr Calder has looked at a problem that he has seen out there and done something about it before it actually ended in tragic circumstances, which it could—it very well could. It is one of those things that it is easy to dismiss and say that well this is not going to happen and in some bizarre circumstances it may well happen.

The reality is that is exactly the time that something does happen. As Mr Calder said there have been over 100 cases that have caused him to look at this bill and the measures he has taken here to assist. Mr Iain Lees-Galloway mentioned an issue around the degree, I guess, of laser capability. That is going to be very, very hard to actually identify and to make possible, and makes it difficult for the police in enforcing that as well. But I am sure the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee will look at that issue as we go through it.

Just from a general starting point there is an issue there around how you actually determine those different classes and nature of the instruments. Mr Calder will show you one of these later on in his speech. We look forward to that demonstration. I have been lucky to touch it. I was told I am not allowed to touch this but he has finally given it to me. It must have been all those good words I said about him. This is the instrument. That is the nature of what we are looking at. I will not shine it at anybody. But that is the kind of thing that can cause a terrible tragedy, and that could cause the loss of life. Nobody wants to see this happen, and this Parliament and this bill has the opportunity to take some steps to stop that happening.

I would just like to once again congratulate the proponent of the bill, and the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee looks forward to hearing and working with the bill’s proponent to make sure it is a reality. Thank you.


DARIEN FENTON (Labour): Well, it is a pleasure to take a call on the Summary Offences (Possession of Hand-held Lasers) Amendment Bill. In my introductory comments I want to congratulate Dr Cam Calder for bringing the bill to the House. I will be remaining on the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee. What is more, I am going to be flying the flag for Labour in the transport portfolio, which is fantastic. I am very excited about it. I am sure we will get round to talking about the Hamilton expressway at some stage, Mr Bennett.

I want to start first of all by acknowledging the pilots of these aircraft. You know the wonderful pilots who work for our wonderful national carrier called Air New Zealand. But they must be not only worrying about lasers at the moment they would probably be also dreadfully worried about the Government’s plans to partially privatise or further privatise Air New Zealand. That is probably a far greater risk to their sense of job security and safety than anything that some larrikins may do with lasers. So as I say I want to acknowledge them and acknowledge all the people, such as the flight crew, who fly on Air New Zealand who are feeling some uncertainty at this stage as this Government progresses its crazy asset sales programme.

Although I have congratulated Dr Cam Calder it is tempting to say that I have to wonder why we are doing this on a members’ day. I do. I really have to because I have gone back. In one of my previous portfolios I was the transport safety spokesperson so this is not something that is new. In 2010 someone said: “Larrikins shining lasers into the cock pits of aircraft might need to experience the full penalties of the law to remind them of the seriousness of their actions.” That was me. In 2010 I was calling on the Government to do something about it. In February 2012 someone else said: “The unlawful targeting of aircraft by reckless laser users is endangering the safety of both pilots and travellers.” Who said that? That was Iain Lees-Galloway. It was 2012 he was saying that. So that is 2 years after I started this crusade about lasers with genuine concern so I am really pleased that Dr Cam Calder has followed the lead of the Labour members on this side who have been calling for something to be done about this. We are very pleased to support the bill.

Although, as I have said, I believe it should be a Government bill. The Government really needs to not waste members’ days on things it could do itself. It could easily, easily put this into a transport bill—easily—or an omnibus bill. It could easily do that, and instead we could be dealing with some issues in this House that actually need to be addressed by members—particularly on this side of the House—who do not get the opportunity to put forward Government bills.

Having made those comments and congratulated the member and said he has done a good job in doing this, and we all know this is a growing problem, and it has been growing since 2010 at least—at least. We know it is a growing problem and it does need to be dealt with. We are talking about people’s lives. It is a highly dangerous situation. I feel very concerned, however, that the Minister of Transport has fobbed this off to a backbencher. He has fobbed it off to a backbencher to use up a members’ day. David Bennett is now threatening me with a laser. Forgive my croaky voice but I have got the lurgy. We accept this is a serious issue.

I am looking forward to discussing this in the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee and seeing more demonstrations. I am sure Dr Cam Calder, as I know him, the member really well, will have done his research and will have a variety of lasers to demonstrate to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee. I am also looking forward to hearing from the pilots and other members of the public because it is a serious issue. It is highly dangerous. It is madness, actually, to be shining lasers in the eyes of pilots who are bringing aircraft in to land or who are just flying over and above. It puts people’s lives at risk, so we will support the bill. I look forward to some interesting discussion on the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee.

I just wish that the Government was doing this rather than the member, but however, good on him for doing this.


DAVID CLENDON (Green): I am pleased to take a brief call on this Summary Offences (Possession of Hand-held Lasers) Amendment Bill.

I have to say when the Greens first cited this bill, we were somewhat ambivalent about it because of its inclusiveness. This point has been touched on—the fact that it does, indeed, make it an offence to possess any laser pointer means even people carrying them would have to rely on fairly thin defences based on reasonable grounds and reasonable cause. We found that slightly less than persuasive in terms of the way the bill is worded.

So, as I say, we are ambivalent about it. The inclusiveness is counting against it. It does, in some way, reflect Dr Calder’s personality—a very inclusive sort of fellow, not at all the prophylactic sort of nature that Mr Bennett referred to. I was rather surprised to hear that.

But, more seriously, I guess I was somewhat more persuaded to support this bill, albeit we see it as flawed, when I learnt that there are something like 100 incidents a year—twice a week, effectively—where aircraft are endangered by misuse of these instruments, these items.

I would not suggest for a minute that anybody in this House would vote according to self-interest, but it must be recognised that as MPs we all spend an awful lot of time at airports and in the air, so of all people we are quite sensitive to the safety of air travel in New Zealand.

If this is occurring twice a week—and, of course, I take Dr Calder at his word; I am sure it is well-grounded information—then that is a very serious problem. It is almost inevitable. If it is happening a couple of times a week, inevitably at some point a pilot will lose control through being blasted with light, losing his night vision, or whatever it might be, and we will see a tragedy occur.

So, having said that, we do, nevertheless, feel that clearly the regulations that are going to be put in place will be given some work through the Ministry of Health and elsewhere to restrict the import of the high-powered instruments that are, inevitably—well, they are invariably going to present some danger if they are in the wrong hands. That was part of our objection initially—that the bill was focused at the wrong place. We sought to restrict the import of these.

As I understand it, I could purchase myself online tonight a very high-powered laser, and wave it about willy-nilly with very little risk of being prosecuted unless I actively sought to disrupt an aircraft or a vehicle or whatever it might be. But I do think that now it seems that regulations will be in place perhaps this year to put some serious controls around the import of these things.

They do have legitimate uses, and astronomers are mentioned in this. I had the very fortunate experience about 2 years ago of visiting the Mount John Observatory in Tekapō on a very dark, very cold night. In the midst of an extraordinary experience, which I would recommend to anybody who has not done it, I saw those lasers being used appropriately by astronomers and people presenting to tourists and visitors to indicate constellations. They do have legitimate uses, and I see that researchers and the defence force also have a reason to use these high-powered things.

The notion, as the bill is drafted, is that anyone owning even a very, very low-powered, very inoffensive instrument could be liable to prosecution if they could not demonstrate reasonable cause. I think we have common ground with our Labour colleagues here. We would like to see some tightening up of the drafting, and I am sure that the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee will do some creative work.

I accept Dr Calder’s analogy about possessing knives. Nobody is offended by someone carrying a pocket knife, but walking through an urban environment with a large hunting knife in your pocket clearly would raise some questions about your purpose. But, essentially, we see that the intention of this bill is clear—and we respect that—to protect air travel, drivers, people who ought to be protected from the potential dangers inherent in these very, very high-powered instruments.

We do expect, and we would like to see, some redrafting of the bill, just to perhaps put some clarity about—class one lasers, for example, could be exempt perhaps, but I will leave that to the select committee. So for the moment, we are supporting this bill to the select committee. We look forward to being part of the debate about making it a better bill, but achieving the ultimate goal of it, which is about protecting people from the malicious use of these things. Kia ora.


RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First): I rise on behalf of New Zealand First to speak to the first reading of the Summary Offences (Possession of Hand-held Lasers) Amendment Bill.

New Zealand First supports this bill. I was discussing this bill with a colleague of mine last month, and my colleague remarked: “What a shame it is that we have to legislate, that we have to pass laws, because of people’s stupidity.” Yet that is what we are doing. It is a great thing that Dr Calder has brought this bill to the House and we are pleased to be able to support it, because it will address an issue of safety that is of genuine concern, but at the same time it is a very great shame that he has had to draft a bill to address the matter at hand, because the need for it has come about wholly and solely thanks to the stupidity of a few individuals.

Lasers are a fascinating invention. I have been fascinated by them since learning the theory and workings of them in physics in high school. Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation is what the acronym “LASER” stands for, and a truly wonderful process that is. The principle of wave particle duality, the fact that light can exist as either a wave form or a particle but not at the same time, has been employed by mankind to his great benefit since the invention of the laser in 1960.

Today lasers are common in industry, medicine, and science. Lasers are used for precise and accurate measuring, cutting, reading and recording, engraving, incising, excising, and aligning and levelling. Everything from dumpy levels to DVD players have lasers in them. Of course, they have other uses, such as the hunter using a laser sight to pinpoint the hapless bunny in his crosshairs, to a lecturer or presenter highlighting elements of his or her presentation on a screen or a whiteboard for the benefit of the audience, to driving one’s cat into a frenzy as it chases the impossible-to-catch little red dot all around the house.

Indeed, they have many practical and legitimate uses. They have less legitimate uses, as well, and it is one of these in particular that has been the reason for the good Dr Calder to bring this bill before us.

Laser pointers—hand-held lasers in particular—have evolved rapidly in recent years, and their availability has increased as prices have fallen exponentially. Once the preserve of fictional characters in futuristic movies and TV programmes, the hand-held laser has become an easily accessible reality, powered by ordinary torch batteries, capable of great feats such as igniting matches and bursting balloons over a great distance. I would have loved one as a boy, and with hindsight in some ways I think it is just as well that I never did. But boys today do have them, and some of those boys choose to do stupid things with them, which is why we are here debating this fine member’s bill from the very fine member indeed, if I may say so, with the intention of making it into an equally fine law.

I do own a laser pointer—I should confess that at this point. In one of my previous lives, I was involved with the manufacture of colloidal silver, which is a broad-spectrum germicide consisting of a suspension of microscopic silver particles in distilled water. One of the tools that is used to confirm the presence of the silver particles in colloidal suspension and solution is a laser beam. When it is shone through the brew, the laser produces what it known as the Tyndall effect, which is the scattering of light by very small particles diffused in suspension. The laser pointer that I used for this purpose is a very small device that I purchased from a well-known chain of red shops for the princely sum of $2. It has a power output of about point-zero-nothing of a milliwatt, but, that said, it will still illuminate a reflective road sign some 2 kilometres away.

The hand-held lasers that the silly boys I referred to earlier seek to own and misuse, however, are a different animal altogether. They are advertised online as being of great power and effect, many hundreds and even thousands of times more powerful than my own little key ring device, which, despite its utility, is really little more than a toy—a toy that could still blind somebody, mind. But these powerful lasers are in a different league, and use them to blind they do.

Foolish boys have taken to using these devices to blind the pilots of aircraft approaching our airports, putting literally hundreds of lives in the air and on the ground at risk. It is only a matter of time before some clown decides that drivers on the motorway are an equally hilarious target and fair game for their stupidity.

Dr Calder’s bill will remove these devices from temptation’s reach and that is why we are happy to stand alongside him, shoulder to shoulder, in support of it. We despair that this bill has become necessary and that, as my erstwhile colleague said, we have to legislate because of people’s stupidity. But it appears that we do, and here we are. New Zealand First congratulates Dr Calder on having his bill drawn. We thank him for his motivation and his reasoning. We support this bill and I commend it to the House.


MIKE SABIN (National—Northland): It is always a pleasure to follow the member Richard Prosser—

Hon Christopher Finlayson: Why?

MIKE SABIN: I have only got 5 minutes, Minister. I do not want to lose too much of it. I just want to commend Cam Calder for this member’s bill.

While there is obviously support across the House for it, I do not think we should underestimate how significant a risk these lasers actually do pose. If anyone has any doubts about that, it is actually not that hard to pull up some footage in some of the warring nations and in the Middle East. If we have a look, we will actually see that there are people trying to take down aircraft with laser lights. They are doing it by the hundreds. So it is actually used, in a sense, as a weapon of warfare.

While we can sort of jest, to some extent, about laser pointers that may be used in a classroom or used to—Mr Lees-Galloway plays with his cat, or something, with it as far as I can be aware there.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Try it. It’s hours of entertainment.

MIKE SABIN: Well, there you go—hours of entertainment with his pussy. We can make light of that, but the reality is that—

Iain Lees-Galloway: You’re all class.

MIKE SABIN:—these lasers have been used in an offensive manner. They have been used in a manner in which the lives of New Zealand citizens are actually put at risk. I do not want to get Mr Lees-Galloway too excited by that, but clearly it has.
It has been discussed that while the Labour Party would be supporting it, it is the Clayton style of support where the members will support it, but will ask many stern questions at the select committee. It raised the valid issue of whether or not we should measure the strength of the lasers and make it only an offence if they are over a certain strength. I think what we could do is we could draw a comparison to the unlawful possession of a knife.

That is a very similar type of offence, in the sense that a knife, in itself, is not an offensive weapon unless the context in which it is carried or possessed is one in which it has an unlawful intent. In that offence, it is not a case that the length of the knife is the issue, because if anyone has ever been confronted, as I was as a police officer, a knife that is the length of a finger can do just as much damage as one that is the length of an arm if it is used in the right place.

I would like, in the situation of this bill, to put it in the same category. It is not about the scale or the calibre of the weapon, or the laser in this case; it is about the purpose and the intention for which it is being carried and how it will be used.

I think that is where Mr Calder intends this conversation to be focused—[Interruption] Dr Calder—Dr Calder, absolutely. When all is said and done, most people will have lasers for various reasons and most of them will be lawful. But it is the ratbags—Mr Prosser alluded to the fact that if we could legislate for stupidity, or what was it, Mr Prosser? I cannot quite recall now.

Chris Auchinvole: Irresponsibility.

MIKE SABIN: Irresponsibility, stupidity, or what have you—well, this House would be a lot emptier, that is for sure.

If only we could legislate to make people more responsible, but the reality is legislation only goes to far when it comes to personal responsibility. What we have to get right is sending the right sort of message and creating the right boundaries where we do not penalise those who go about life in a lawful purpose, whether it be with a knife or with a laser, but we ensure that those who choose to use them for an unlawful purpose are actually deterred from that and are subject to some sort of criminal sanction or some sort of—[Bell rung] Does that give me a minute left, sir? One minute—there we go.

I think when we take this matter forward to select committee, as I say I want to commend Cam Calder because many a pilot in New Zealand has been subject to this. We have seen it with police helicopters, we have seen it with rescue helicopters, and we have seen it with planes landing at Wellington airport. There are some dangerous idiots out there and this legislation needs to send a very clear message that if you take something that has a lawful purpose and use it unlawfully, there will be a consequence. Actually, it is time to reflect on that stupidity and sheet it home to the people who are responsible, and the people who are responsible are those who, as I say, will take a lawful product and use it for an unlawful purpose.

Are you happy with that, sir? I am happy to sit down. I commend it to the House.


SUE MORONEY (Labour): Can I just say at the outset in this debate that we are talking about “lay-zurs”. I just had to get that out of my system because Austin Powers has forever made this bill, the Summary Offences (Possession of Hand-held Lasers) Amendment Bill, difficult to talk about without at least giving an attempt to honour the icon that Austin Powers movies have made lasers into.

But having got that out of my system, I will, of course, say that this is a very serious bill and I want to congratulate the member in charge of the bill, Dr Cam Calder, for the first reading of this bill. It is around a serious issue, however I do wonder, because of the serious nature of this, why we are debating this on a member’s day. Good on him. Good luck to Dr Cam Calder. I might take him to the races one day with that sort of luck—getting it out of the ballot.

But why did we have to wait for the magic number to come out of the tin for the member’s ballot, instead of this being a Government bill that actually could have been addressed and right through all of its processes by now? Instead, the Government did not take this issue seriously enough to put it forward on the Order Paper as a Government bill. Instead it left it up to the whim of the member’s ballot for it to be drawn out. Fortunately, it was drawn out, so congratulations, Dr Calder, on willing it out of the member’s ballot.

I say this is a serious issue because it has serious consequences. Of course the Labour Party will support this bill in its first reading to select committee because there have been incidents—I think some 120 incidents. Am I right about that? There were 120? There were 102, sorry—I have got a bit dyslexic with my numbers there.

There have been 102 reported cases in the last year where the high powered laser beams have been used from these hand-held lasers when pilots are landing planes at airports. I am not sure what type of mind gets an absolute kick out of that, but clearly that is what has occurred. There is no doubt that there is an issue here to be dealt with. Some of the issues, though, that the Labour Party will be interested in pursuing through at the select committee—and I heard the contribution from the last speaker, Mike Sabin. He seems to have a view that asking questions at the select committee is somehow idiocy. In fact, that is what the select committee process is for.

That is exactly what it is for, and we will be asking questions around ensuring that—this bill does not deal with the unlawful nature of it, because it is already unlawful. It is already illegal for anyone to take that action against those pilots and their passengers. Let us be clear about that. This is about making it unlawful to be in possession of a hand-held laser in certain vicinities.

We want to make sure that that is not going too far. We want to make sure that this has been done in a way where it is actually addressing the problem and the problem only and not going much wider than it needs to. So we will be interested in knowing what the problem is with someone being found in possession of a low—what would you call it?—density or low power laser if it is not even capable of causing the sort of catastrophe that we are concerned about in this bill.

What is the harm? Therefore, is this bill actually going too far in terms of having unintended consequences, I guess, is probably the way to put it. So those are the issues that we will be concerned about at the select committee.

Probably the final thing that I will say on this bill is that I will not be on the select committee as a permanent member to hear the submissions on this bill. That is probably a good thing, because whenever I think about this bill I am inclined to want to say “laSER!”, and that might get a bit on the nerves of a select committee, so it is probably a good thing that I will not be there for the submissions, but I wish the select committee all the best in its deliberations.


CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National): I too would like to congratulate Dr Cam Calder on a thoughtful, considered, concerned piece of very serious legislation. Good legislation can often be identified early on in good speeches, and this bill, I think, has generated a number already. It is a compliment to all those who have given their speeches—

Sue Moroney: Oh, thank you.

CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: —I am not sure about Iain Lees-Galloway’s speech; no, it was all right, it was all right—but also it is a compliment to the author of the bill.

David Bennett: And the select committee.

CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: All right, and the select committee, and the chairman of the select committee—we will get it right. But this one has produced some interesting speeches from all around the House.

I thought that Mike Sabin introduced a very interesting perspective from his earlier career as a law enforcer in that he sort of emphasized that it is not enough to have just a law that risks making people more inventive than more honest; there have to be consequences attached to their not staying within the law. That is why I worry a little bit about Labour thinking that this is perhaps going a little bit too far and asking whether we could weaken it down a bit, and I think that should be discussed properly within the select committee—

Iain Lees-Galloway: It’s already illegal to do it.

CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: —and I look forward to that. Say that again?

Iain Lees-Galloway:
It’s already illegal to actually point a laser at an aircraft. This is about possession.

CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: Well, yes, but I will cover that, because I might have thought that was a little bit late, if you were thinking of stopping things by law. “No, you shouldn’t have done that. That’s no good.”—that was, I think, Mike Sabin’s point of view. You cannot leave it that late.

The misuse of these instruments puts New Zealand lives at risk. National is committed to ensuring the safety of New Zealanders using the transport system, so that it is not compromised. This bill, the Summary Offences (Possession of Hand-held Lasers) Amendment Bill, ensures the proper regulation of devices that pose a threat to the safety of New Zealanders, and it is the threat that you are required to deal with.

It is not just larrikins, is it? It is not just larrikins. There can be really disturbed people—

David Bennett: Like New Zealand First members!

There can be really disturbed people, and there are those—and we live in a country that is relatively free from it—who are inclined towards terrorism. So, is it over the top? I do not think so—I do not think so.

Hand-held lasers can be used at football matches or any crowd scene. Darien Fenton called it madness. Yes, it is. It is madness, and we cannot presume sanity on the basis of who might use these things.

Let us think back to some of the crazy things that have happened in the past, such as stones or bricks being chucked off overbridges on motorways, presumably just for laughs. Dreadful things can happen, and you have to have consequences attached to breaking the law.

I am particularly glad to see that the Greens have seen sense through the voice of Mr Clendon recognising that there are dangers and that they cannot pursue their normal standpoint, which I respect, of liberty for all. Well, this is not liberty for all. This is liberty for some without this law and dangers for others. There are dangers, and there is no such thing as an inoffensive laser light.

There will be inoffensive proper uses, and these are the things that select committees are there to consider. I do not doubt that we will have people whose eyesight perhaps is not as good as that of our current presiding officer in the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker, who might have better shooting with a laser-assisted target selection thing, but I am quite sure that the Deputy Speaker does not require that. [Bell rung] Indeed, he is bringing me to a sharp stop in case I carry on.

But there should be no place for the casual recreational use of these instruments. I thought that New Zealand First’s Mr Prosser gave a wonderful dissertation on the physics of laser lights. One could almost call it illuminating.

Hon Members: Oh!

CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: Ha, ha! The availability of the price, the lack of responsibility, powerful equipment, and irresponsible hands and minds—all these things have to be taken into account. I would like to join with the others and just express congratulations to Dr Cam Calder on his thoughtful, considered, concerned and serious piece of legislation. Thank you.


Dr CAM CALDER (National): Well, it is a huge pleasure, and I must say that I do appreciate the speeches from around the House in support of this bill, the Summary Offences (Possession of Hand-held Lasers) Amendment Bill . It is one of the privileges of being an MP to craft a member’s bill , and this is not the first one I have crafted. I have brought one together on low-ball share offers and another one on changing the right-hand rule, which was presented to the various Ministers concerned and, in fact, was rolled into the regulations or the legislation of the Government.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Why wasn’t this one?

Dr CAM CALDER: So I am taking up the point that Sue Moroney and Iain Lees-Galloway, my colleagues across the House, have made. Of course the Government is working on this, and it has done in the area of importation and sale. Regulations around those areas have been promoted and will likely come into force, as was pointed out by one of the earlier speakers, later on this year. I was working in Manurewa.

Sue Moroney: “Manu-ray-wa”.

Dr CAM CALDER: I have my office in the vibrant and diverse community of Manurewa. There are 140,000 flights—

Iain Lees-Galloway: “Manu-ray-wa”.

Dr CAM CALDER: —each year that over-fly Manurewa. My colleague William Sio across the Chamber there, in “Mon-gere”, would have the same experience, of 140,000 flights across that urban area. So this bill has relevance not only for those who fly in aircraft but also those who are residents of communities around airports and on the approaches to airports.

This is a simple bill, but one that could potentially impact on all members in this House, as was pointed out by David Clendon. I thank the Greens for their support in referring this bill to a select committee. It could impact on all members of this House and, indeed, on all New Zealanders who travel by air. As was pointed out by, I think, Sue Moroney and others—by Mr Richard Prosser, also speaking in favour of the bill, and possibly by my colleague Chris Auchinvole, who gave a very learned dissertation on this bill—over 100 cases each year—

H V Ross Robertson: What do you mean “possibly”? He’s going to support you.

Dr CAM CALDER: Mr Robertson would agree with this. Mr Robertson, from Manukau East, is also over-flown by 140,000 flights each year. The residents of the electorate that you currently represent are going to be safer when this bill is passed.

What does this bill do? Can I just address a point made about the size of the laser device. I will not go down the line of what you do with your laser with your cat, Mr Lees-Galloway—and maybe we can look at that in the select committee—but what is the relevance of the size or power of the laser? I think the learned exposition of Mike Sabin, a police officer who has been faced by potentially lethal weapons in the form of small knives, was actually a very valid point, and that, Mr Clendon, is why I did not restrict the power of these lasers.

As Mr Prosser pointed out, his very small device hanging on the end of a key ring—I understood you to say in the House a few minutes ago that you could illuminate a road sign at 2 kilometres. That is a very small, supposedly underpowered, safe device.

The point I would be making, and the reason why we have not restricted the size or the power of these devices, is simply this: in the hands of miscreants and malcontents, these devices can cause problems, whatever their power. I have the proof here in these documents.

As we have said, the Airline Pilots Association is very much in favour of this bill. It has sent me a huge amount of information, including the various ratings of lasers. Even class 2 lasers—I should say that class 1 lasers, of course, are unlikely to cause problems, because they are the sorts of lasers that you see in CD players or possibly laser printers. I do not imagine someone going along with a CD player pointing it at someone is going to cause a problem in the street—so no problem with those.

Class 2, however, which are those with a power of less than 1 milliwatt, and I presume was what Mr Prosser had in his key ring, can in the wrong hands with prolonged exposure cause problems. My feeling was that just as with knives where no size is determined the same should apply with lasers. I thank all those around the House for their support of this bill. It is a very serious problem that this House needs to address. We will address it and I look forward to further discussion in the select committee but in the meantime I thank members of the House for their support.


Bill read a first time.

Bill referred to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee.