Labour’s $400,000 an hour filibuster

Danya Levy at Stuff reports:

The ACT Party says moves by Labour to delay the passing of its volunteer student membership bill is costing taxpayers more than $453,000 every hour Parliament sits.

The member’s Bill sponsored by ACT MP Heather Roy ends compulsory student association membership, and passed its second reading last December.

Labour opposes the Bill and has stopped Parliament reaching the next stage of debate on it by putting up spurious amendments to other non-controversial legislation.

Roy said the delay tactics, known as filibustering, denied backbench MPs the right to have their issues debated and cost taxpayers the same amount an hour as Hone Harawira’s Te Tai Tokerau by-election.

”Hone Harawira has been rightly condemned for costing the taxpayer half a million dollars by forcing the Te Tai Tokerau by-election, yet Labour’s filibustering is costing taxpayers the equivalent of one such by-election every hour.

The staggering thing is that Labour have not just fillibustered this once or twice – they have filbustered it all year, so desperate are they to protect their future caucus intakes. As someone said, there is no limit to what a mother will do to protect her young.

Heather said:

“I’m not opposed to any party delaying a Bill they strongly disagree with but Labour MPs are delaying Bills they already support.  If Labour continue to debate each of the Royal Society Bill’s 23 clauses – which they openly support – in their entirety this could take 23 hours of the House’s time and cost taxpayers over $10 million.  It is this sort of churlish behaviour that demeans our nation’s Parliament.

This is a key difference. I will absolutely defend the right of a party to filibuster a bill they strongly oppose. Such filibusters normally last a few days. But here Labour is filbustering every single local, private and members bill there is, in a year long filibuster. This is I think literally without precedent in New Zealand. They are for example going to spend two dozen hours of time, on a totally non controversial bill about the Royal Society of NZ.

Trevor Mallard has blogged that the marginal cost is zero, as they are not forcing any extra costs onto Parliament. This misses the point as it ignores the fact that during all this time, Parliament is not passing laws as it is meant to be – it is having Labour MPs stand up and talk screeds of nonsense for hours on end.  An analogy would be having staff members in a retailer refuse to actually sell any goods, yet claim they are not costing any money as they haven’t imposed extra costs on the shop.

I have pinged the Government on their use of urgency this year – something which pissed off quite a few people within National. But filibustering is the flip side of urgency. If an Opposition continues with mindless sustained filbustering, then they can expect no-one to take them seriously if they complain about use of urgency in the future. If you turn yourself into a roadblock, don’t be surpised when a bulldozer is used.

Labour is also being incredibly selfish. Backbench Mps get only one day a fortnight to have their bills heard. Dozens of MPs from the Greens, Maori and National parties have members bills they would like to have debated. Labour has decided that no other members bill can be allowed to pass this year, just so they can try and allow their future MPs to keep forcing students to fund their political activism.

So next time a Labour MP complains about urgency, the response should be to buy themselves a mirror so they can find someone to blame.

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