Opposition can make a difference

My NZ Herald column:

Yesterday the Opposition showed that you can make a difference, despite not being in Government. Parliament voted for four members’ bills to pass their first readings and to proceed to select committee.

One, by Government backbencher and Tamaki MP Simon O’Connor was to repeal to the Joint Family Homes Bill, and is uncontroversial.

The Opposition managed to get Parliament to vote for three of its bills, despite the opposition of National (and ACT) to two of them. This was a real reminder of MMP in action where single parties may form the Government, but will not win every vote in Parliament.

A brief snippet on each bill:

The first of the three opposition bills was by Labour’s Dunedin North MP, David Clark. It seeks to Mondayise ANZAC Day and Waitangi Day, if they fall on the weekend. It was supported by Labour, Greens, NZ First, Maori, Mana and United Future.

Personally I’m somewhat bemused by the fact National decided to oppose this bill. Yes one has to be careful of imposing additional costs on businesses, because doing so destroys jobs and reduces international competitiveness, unless there are productivity gains to compensate.

However two extra days of public holidays every seven years is relatively insignificant.

On paid parental leave:

This bill I think fails to take account of the ongoing crisis of debt ripping apart the European Union, and affecting the world economy. When fully implemented, after three years, it would cost taxpayers an extra $170 million a year. This extra spending would almost inevitable have to be borrowed from China or some other foreign lender. I don’t think Labour truly appreciates the nature of our fiscal challenges. Even if we manage to get back into surplus by 2014/15, we then need to grow that surplus to at least $2 billion a year, to cover the cost of contributions to the NZ Super Fund. That is probably around 2017 or 2018, if we are lucky and the Eurozone doesn’t disintegrate as Greece, Spain, and even Italy get declared bankrupt.

We should be grateful I suppose that Labour are only proposing an extra $170m a year for 26 weeks paid parental leave. Their policy is to eventually increase it to 52 weeks, which would cost half a billion dollars a year.

And the lobbyists bill:

It’s one of those thinsg no political party will want to be against. However getting an agreement on how it should work, is likely to be problematic. Will Labour want a law that requires it to disclose every and all meetings with union officials and what was discussed? Will the Greens want a law that requires very environmental group that talks to them on an issue to have to register with the Auditor-General? However, if you exclude unions and NGOs from the bill, it then becomes very unbalanced. So it is far from certain what form the bill will emerge from select committee on.

But overall a good day for the Opposition to get three bills through a first reading.


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