Parliament at its best and worst

March 10th, 2011 at 2:39 pm by David Farrar

Just returned from making my third and fourth submission in the last fortnight to the Justice & Electoral Select Committee. As with the previous times, there was good questioning and discussion on the issue. Ths time it was about the name suppression clauses of the Criminal Procedure Bill.

As I was observing other submissions, I reflected it is a pity more people don’t get to see MPs at work like this. Unless the bill is a highly partisan one, they are genuinely engaging with submitters and looking for ways to improve the draft laws, before they are finalised. It’s an important part of our democracry, and one of the parts that works very very well. The absence of an upper house makes their role even more vital.

I hope that someday will broadcast (even just over the Internet) all public sessions of , as well as the House itself.

Sadly this week we also saw Parliament at its worst. Labour wasted four hours of the House’s time filibustering the Hamilton City Council (Parana Park) Land and Vesting Bill. This is a non controversial bill that is supported by all parties in Parliament and passed its 1st and 2nd readings without dissent.

Now I’m not against the Opposition being able to fillibuster. I blogged in 2009:

I do support the rights of the Opposition to – within reason. In fact I was the primary staffer who helped National delay the Employment Relations Act by a week in 2000.

But a filbuster is a blunt weapon for an Opposition to use, and if you get it wrong, it can hurt you.

I tend to think an Opposition should do a full filibuster only once per parliamentary term – it should be used against the piece of legislation that you think is most harmful to the country.

This was the test National used in 2000 with the then ERB. It gave all sorts of special favours to unions, and National decided it was the law they were most against.

Now some will say why filibuster at all? Well an Opposition can not defeat a law, so all they can do when it is a really really bad law, is delay it to show how bad they think it is.

But here Labour is filibustering a totally non-controversial bill. They wasted the entire four to four and a half hours allocated to local and private members bills on talking about how they like to go to the park.

Why? Well their real target is the next bill on the order paper – the bill.

It is interesting that Labour have decided that the VSM bill is so bad, thet they are going to try and oppose it with ore vigour than any other issue before Parliament – even more so than tax cuts, privatisation etc.

Why are Labour willing to risk a public backlash with their fillbuster, in the hope they can stop VSM (voluntary membership of student associations) occuring? Someone on Twitter provided the best answer – because there are no limits to what a parent will do to protect their young!

Compulsory membership student associations have been a major source of training and employment for future Labour Party MPs. So there are no big issues of principle involved.

What is even rarer is that Labour is willing to fillibuster private members day. Only one in six sitting days is given over to private member bills. And the vast majority of those sitting in line are from Labour or the Greens. They’re willing to stop all of those being debate, so long as they can delay VSM.

Of course they will fail. Even with fillibusters the VSM bill should pass into law in April or May. And the Government could always adopt it, and pass it as a Government measure. There is no way it won’t pass before the election.

Ironically the longer they delay it, the less time universities will have time to prepare their enrolment software.

It will be interesting to see how many weeks or months of fillibustering will Labour inflict on private members day, in their fight against VSM. It would be good to see on TV some of the inane filibustering speeches that were made yesterday on the Hamilton City Council (Parana Park) Land and Vesting Bill.

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14 Responses to “Parliament at its best and worst”

  1. dave (986 comments) says:

    It sounds like the Hamilton City Council (Parana Park) Land and Vesting Bill is about as controversial as the VSM bill is necessary. Bills that are non- controversial should be quickly passed, bills that are unnecessary should be quickly ditched.

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  2. Nick R (500 comments) says:

    “there are no limits to what a parent will do to protect their young” – Heh. I guess this tells us a lot about the motivation on both sides of the House :-)

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  3. ben (2,414 comments) says:

    VSM really is a big deal isn’t it. I am thrilled it is coming, but I fear one of the very first things the next Labour government will do is throw it out again. The entire VSM thing is bizarre: the freedom to associate that is important and close to sacred everywhere else, and obviously beneficial (if you’ll excuse me, CTU and EPMU) somehow missed the universities.

    [DPF: Students will be reminder strongly closer to the election that a vote for Labour is a vote to force them to rejoin a students association they don't want to]

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  4. BeaB (2,082 comments) says:

    I hated having to belong to my USA where a cosy elite and their mates had a whale of a time on our money and most of the best services were provided wholly or partly by the university in any case.
    What a lovely irony though – left-wing students pleading to be denied their freedom of choice! Just the ticket for future success in the Labour Party.

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  5. Pete George (23,326 comments) says:

    I hope that someday Parliament will broadcast (even just over the Internet) all public sessions of select committees

    That’s a good idea, at the moment we’re mostly fed the worst of the worst of politicians. They must realise this – are they worried what will happen if we see them working constructively together?

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  6. BlairM (2,306 comments) says:

    Labour will never make them compulsory again – they know the game is up once it goes through. They’ve had two votes since University of Auckland went voluntary in 1999. While the original referendum only passed by 98 votes, subsequent margins have been over two to one in favour. Once students taste freedom, they don’t want to be compelled again.

    I wonder if they think that they can delay it past the election, have ACT disappear, and find National unwilling to sponsor the bill?

    Ironically, I believe Labour’s pessimism is unfounded. I fully expect Student Unions to continue, and to continue to supply them with left wing politicians and unionists. One need look no further than someone like Len Brown’s buddy Conor Roberts, who cut his teeth in a voluntary union.

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  7. Philonz (91 comments) says:

    The worry with broadcasting select committee procedings is that the act of doing so might bring out the worst in MPs. If an MP realises that by some cheap grandstanding and some clever soundbites they might get on the evening news we end up with nothing but an extension of the house with submissions added into the mix. Submitters might also be less willing to appear if they face the added stress of appearing in front of cameras. It works so well now I’m just worried about fixing something that aint broken.

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  8. big bruv (13,558 comments) says:

    In some ways I am glad that the Labour scum decided on a filibuster, it stretches out the agony for the left and means that when it does come back before the house in April or May the full effect will not be lost in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.

    I want this to really get up the noses of the James Sleep’s of this world, I want it to be a big issue and one that is not lost amid other news, I want to enjoy this victory.

    The only other thing that will please me more this year (politically) will be the certain demise of the Greens come November.

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  9. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    PLEASE let the VSM bill be the last bill that Parliament passes prior to the election! It would be wonderful to remind voters of what Labour really think about freedom of association.

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  10. KH (694 comments) says:

    ha ha ha. “Protecting their young.” So absolutely true. good spotting. One of the big issues with politicians is their isolation from ordinary life. A rare environment that rapidly gets them out of touch.
    Especially scary is those who have lived the political life all of their lives. Including those who went from student politics to national politics with no break. A total worry those ones.
    Grant Robertson is one. He would always find me voting against him for that reason alone.
    Look at Darren Hughes. Lives on the public ticket in an apartment next to parliament. Very very tragic.
    We should have three term limit on being an MP. ( I wonder if we should make officeholder of an USA part of that limit)

    p.s. when asking Hone about mum. Ask Grant about dad.

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  11. noskire (835 comments) says:

    Labour appears to be a party completely polycephalic at the moment.

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  12. reid (16,110 comments) says:

    What a lovely irony though – left-wing students pleading to be denied their freedom of choice! Just the ticket for future success in the Labour Party.

    Possibly this is the reason why lefties are such accomplished hypocritical liars, having been borne into it from political birth which normally starts around 18-20. It’s a very good observation by that twitterer isn’t it. This is the lefty hatchery. Excellent. Now we know.

    Lets hope after the election, Key shreds it into a thousand pieces and scatters them to the four winds.

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  13. Clint Heine (1,568 comments) says:

    @ Dave. I take offence that you think the VSM bill is unnecessary as you know damn well this is a long awaited law that will end the bullshit that has been going on at our campuses for too long.

    What student association are you working for again? Once again, those with vested interests are doing all they can to milk as much money off students as they can – in the name of “representation”. Well your time is almost up and I intend on celebrating when the tap is turned off to these unionist scum.

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  14. Carolyn (1 comment) says:

    This one has flown under the radar a bit… what with all the other things going on in the world… BUT as a part time uni student in my 30′s, who also works for a living, it really gripes me that I am required to pay for a student union. It provides me with nothing I value, and I seem to be funding a political movement of sorts that I don’t even agree with. I can’t wait for it to go!!

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