The difference between “committee” and “select committee”

Peter McCaffrey at ACT on Campus blogged last night:

I didn’t have a chance to blog about this before heading to the privileges committee to watch Winston Peters, but that story has been covered to (Winston’s) death.

Tonight there was perhaps an even bigger story down at Parliament.

At around 7:10pm – just after parliament had gone back from the dinner break – I was hanging around the office, with the parliament video stream playing in the background, when I heard Te Ururoa Flavell take a point of order to seek leave to send the ETS back to select committee. Surely just a little grandstanding, no? It would never actually get the support of the house…

But then I heard perhaps one of the craziest things i’ve heard in the last three years of parliament.

New Zealand Labour, 49 votes against, New Zealand National, 48 votes against, New Zealand First, 7 votes against, Greens, 6 votes in favour, Maori Party, 4 votes in favour, United Future, 2 votes in favour, ACT, 2 votes in favour, Progressives, 1 vote against.

I didn’t catch how TPF and GC voted, but by that stage my head was buzzing with the realisation that National just missed an opportunity to sink the ETS (and the party that was being thrown tonight too!).

Others got excited by this. So I decided to make some inquiries. I would be very concerned if National voted against sending it back to select committee.

However the motion was not to send the ETS Bill back to “select committee” but to “committee”, being the committee of the whole stage that had just concluded.

And the reason for the motion, was so that a Treaty of Waitangi clause could be inserted into the Bill. That is why the Greens voted for it and the Maori Party proposed it.

So National voting for the motion would not have delayed the ETS by week or months. It would not have given the public another chance to submit on the bill (something National has argued for). It would have merely delayed the ETS Bill by one day – and it would have passed into law today instead of yesterday.

And voting for it, might have led to one of those awful “principles of the Treaty of Waitangi clauses” that no-one understands being inserted into the Bill.

To be fair to Peter McC, and others, I can understand in the heat of the moment not realising the difference between sending the bill back to select committee, and to committee. They sound alike, but are massively different things.