National needs more members’ bills

In the last ballot for members’ bills, Labour had four of the five bills drawn, Greens one and National none. The outcome was rather toxic for National.

National has 35 MPs who are not Ministers (I am assuming even the Speaker could do a members’ bill if he wanted to do so). This is one more than Labour’s 34MPs, so they should have near equal numbers in the ballot.

However in the last ballot just 63 out of 93 eligible MPs had a bill in the ballot. The breakdown is:

  • Greens – 14/14 – 100%
  • Maori – 1/1 – 100%
  • Labour – 33/34 – 97%
  • NZ First – 5/8 63%
  • National – 10/35 – 29%
  • Mana 0/1 – 0%

So you see why Labour is winning the ballot so much – they have more than three times as many bills in the ballot as National, despite one fewer eligible MP.

Interesting that Hone Harawira has no bill in the ballot. This reinforces my view that Hone is a very good politician, but somewhat inept parliamentarian.

Also I wonder who is the sole Labour MP with no bill in the ballot. Did not have time to work it out.

Anyway what can National do to improve its chances in the ballot, and hence reduce the number of bills getting drawn which are Labour and Greens? The simple solution is they need to make it easier for MPs to have their bills approved.

Pretty much all the parties require a caucus to agree to a bill, for it to be submitted by a member of that caucus. So National is not alone in requiring this. However National it seems is extremely risk averse with what it will approve. They think some bills may rouse opposition etc. The problem with such an approach is you have so few bills approved that Labour and Greens win all the ballots, which cause far greater problems for the Government.

National, in my opinion, should be far more permissive in authorising members’ bills by its MPs. There should be a simple ideological test that what is proposed is not inconsistent with National’s principles, and beyond that a fairly liberal approval regime. Backbenchers should be allowed to propose things the Government wouldn’t necessarily want to do (as opposed as be against). You can always water them down at select committee, rather than deny them the light of day at all.

If National doesn’t get more bills into the ballot, the problem will get worse for them. Many opposition bills get rejected at first reading. That means there are few bills needing second and third readings, which means you have ballots more often as more first readings get done. You need some members’ bills which get past first reading, as they slow the overall number of ballots down.

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