Bills that come before Parliament are of four types. They are:
- a Government bill—a bill dealing with a matter of public policy introduced by a Minister
- a Member’s bill—a bill dealing with a matter of public policy introduced by a member who is not a Minister
- a local bill—a bill promoted by a local authority, which affects a particular locality only
- a private bill—a bill promoted by a person or body of persons (whether incorporated or not) for the particular interest or benefit of that person or body of persons
As you can see a private bill is for the benefit of a person or body of persons. A number of organisations in New Zealand have enabling legislation such as the Scout Association. Another example is the Royal Society of New Zealand – they needed their 1997 legislation updated to incorporate the humanities in their objects and make some governance changes.
Only an MP can introduce a bill into Parliament so a private body needs to find an MP to agree to promote their bill and steer it through the House. They will often ask the local MP, but it can be any MP. And if the MP agrees, they have basically a duty of care to that organisation to use their best efforts to get that law changed. This is normally very easy, as these changes are rarely controversial.
The Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill was introduced in September 2010. It should have passed into law in early 2011. but instead it remains stuck on committee stage and now can not pass before the election.
And the primary reason for this is the bill’s own sponsor, Grant Robertson, deliberately filibustered his own bill and used it as a weapon to try and stop the VSM bill from passing. Grant failed of course, but failed twice. He failed to stop the VSM bill from passing and failed to pass the Royal Society Bill because he spent months and months filibustering his own bill.
Grant will no doubt blame Heather Roy for moving that progress be reported on his bill, cutting off debate on it. But she only did this after months and months of Grant filibustering his own legislation. Grant could have had the bill passed by May. Even if it completed committee stage last night, it wouldn’t have been able under standing orders to have its third reading.
Now imagine how pissed off you would be if you were the Royal Society of NZ? Your own local MP has effectively fucked you over by using your bill as a political weapon in his ideological war against freedom of choice for students.
If you were another private organisation needing a private bill, would you go to Grant to promote it? You’d have to be mad to do so, not knowing whether it will be used as an effective hostage against other bills further down the order paper.
The Royal Society I imagine has no views on VSM. It is a shame they were an innocent casualty of Labour’s war against it.
They were not the only casualty. Labour MP Sue Moroney complained on Twitter (screen shot via Whale) that her bill extending paid parental leave never got debated. Well that was because of her colleagues filibustering. The filibustering meant there has been no ballots for bills for most of 2011. Labour managed to block all their own members bills, and all the Green ones also.