Wednesday, March 21, 2007



ACT not voting again

The Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill passed its first reading today, 109 - 10. The parties voting against were the Greens and the Maori Party.

Meanwhile, some of you may be wondering why only 119 votes were cast when we have 121 MPs. The answer is that ACT isn't turning up to vote again. Looking back through Hansard for the last month, it seems that while Rodney Hide have been turning up for Question Time and Member's Days, when it comes to the actual business of Parliament - debating and voting on legislation - they've been rather slack. Of the eight formal votes on readings of government legislation since the beginning of the Parliamentary year, they've missed four of them - including the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Amendment Bill (something you'd expect them to be interested in, as it affects the ACC premiums paid by the self-employed), and the Appropriation (2005/06 Financial Review) Bill - a confidence vote. Though to be fair, they did show up to vote on the Budget Policy Statement 2007 and to protect the "right" of spammers to fill your mailbox with junk. They've also shown a distinct lack of interest in committee stages, having spoken in only one of seven so far this year (and that being the anti-smacking bill; they've remained absolutely silent on government legislation)

By any measure, this is a party which is failing in its most basic duty: representing the interests of its constituents in Parliament. And yet they continue to collect their full salaries. If a public servant was failing to do their job in so obvious and egregious a fashion, Rodney would be all over them - but I guess the rules are rather different when you are an MP.

I should also note that ACT no longer has any excuse. Standing Orders 144 (4) and 156 (3) allow small parties like ACT to vote by proxy provided one of their members is within the Parliamentary precinct. Given that MPs are generally supposed to be within the precinct when the House is sitting (and that being elsewhere on official Parliamentary business e.g. attending a select committee meeting in another city counts as being within the precinct), then the only reason for failing to vote is being too slack to arrange a proxy.

20 comments:

For the curious, this was based on Hansard from February 13 to March 14; today's missed vote is not included in the totals, as there is no Hansard up yet. I have counted only final (first, second, and third) readings; votes on amendments within committee stages have not been included. It is also worth noting that a fair whack of final votes were passed on a voice vote, so there is no solid data on whether ACT was present for those.

And for some particular irony: during the initial stages of the second reading debate on the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Amendment Bill, Rodney declared

"I feel so bad about this bill, I’m going to vote against it twice."

He didn't even manage once; in fact, he seems not to have turned up to speak or vote on the bill after that.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/21/2007 01:21:00 AM

And in case anyone is curious, United Future and the Progressives haven't missed a vote. The Maori party has had a single MP absent on 3 or 4 occassions, though some of them are votes during committee stages. It realy does seem to be a problem unique to ACT.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/21/2007 01:28:00 AM

Rodneys web site contains a couple of clues as to how he spends his time . . .

Just completed the Motatapu Icebreaker mountain bike race. It was great scenery, a great race but very grueling. There was a fair bit of mountain walking as well as biking.
March 10, 2007

Just completed the Corsair Bay 2.8 ocean swim in about one hour nine minutes.
February 15, 2007

I want to complete today’s swim in Wellington’s harbour after not making it across Auckland harbour back in November. I have certainly improved my technique and fitness.
January 25, 2007

Posted by danyl : 3/21/2007 06:24:00 AM

turning up to votes you know you will loose (or win) and much of the other aspcts of parliment seems lihke so much beureaucracy. If not turning up saves us some money maybe its a good thing.
Having said that I expect Rodney just has 'better' stuff to do
GNZ

Posted by Anonymous : 3/21/2007 06:55:00 AM

Danyl,
March 10 (Motatapu race) was a Saturday. NOBODY was in Parliament.
January 5 (Wellington swim) was recess. NOBODY was in Parliament.

I/S,
The Progressives don't have a whip, as part of the Government they have their vote cast by the Labour whip.
Isn't their (Act's) lack of speaking slots down to their pitiful numbers rather than any lack of attendance?

Posted by jameswilkes : 3/21/2007 07:25:00 AM

I did say it suggested what Rodney has been up to. With the exception of the day of the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Amendment Bill (Feb 28th) when he appears to have been out buying a new laptop, Rodneys blog doesn't really tell us what he's been doing while he was meant to be in the House. But swimming marathons and mountain biking races do require a huge amount of training and time invested in them so it seems reasonable that some of the lacunae in Rodneys diary can be accounted for by his fitness regime.

Posted by danyl : 3/21/2007 09:36:00 AM

Surprised ACT don't just give the Nats their proxy. Then they could concentrate on playing at being Private Benjamin or Rudolf Nureyev all they want.

Posted by Rich : 3/21/2007 09:41:00 AM

Surprised ACT don't just give the Nats their proxy.

Well, given Rodney was at the front of the queue to complain about Taito Phillip Field's vote being exercised when he couldn't be confirmed to be on Parliamentary business, I'm sure that would end in hilarity.

Posted by Lyndon : 3/21/2007 10:19:00 AM

GNZ: ACT's absenteeism doesn't save us money; rather, it means they are being paid when they are not doing their job. In any other workplace, this would result in disciplinary action (and ACT would scream bloody murder if it found public servants were doing this). In ACT's case? It's just part of the way they "represent" Epsom.

James: While general debate slots and Parliamentary questions are assigned strictly on the numbers, the general practice of th ebusiness committee has been to assign every party at least one speaking slot on a first, second or third reading (the parties then trade among themselves depending on whether they feel like speaking), and on committee stages it is open season. And of course even if they can't speak, they can still vote, even if only by proxy. This is about slackness, pure and simple. While I don't like ACT or what it stands for, their supporters deserve better than this.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/21/2007 10:41:00 AM

Rich - parties can't give another party their proxy unless they only have one MP. Otherwise, an MP has to be in the House all the time.

Posted by G7 : 3/21/2007 01:46:00 PM

G7: Wrong. Here's the relevant parts of the Standing Orders:

SO 144 (4)
Subject to Standing Order 156, any party consisting of three or fewer members, and any Independent member, may cast their votes by proxy, otherwise a party may have votes cast on its behalf only if it has a member in the House at the time of the vote.

SO 156 (3)
In the case of a party vote, proxy votes may be exercised for a party consisting of two or three members only if at least one of the members of that party is within the parliamentary precincts at the time.

You may recall that when the Maori Party said they would be willing to exercise Taito Phillip Field's proxy, they also said that they had exercised ACT's on past occasions. Really, ACT are just slack.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/21/2007 02:04:00 PM

Interestingly the Brits have never allowed proxies - warm bodies are required in the division lobby to vote. They don't have any requirement for MPs to attend Parliament - Sinn Fein MPs refuse to take up their Westminster seats on principle.

What happens if an NZ MP never attends parliament or does any parliamentary work (apart from their getting voted out?)

Posted by Rich : 3/21/2007 06:15:00 PM

I/S

>GNZ: ACT's absenteeism doesn't save us money

first I think it might (what will they do? stand up and say somthing inane about how labour sux? that will waste money).

Second - I'm not the vindictive sort. If act has nothing better to do than sit on their asses then I'm happy for them to do it somwhere they actually want to be. Any reasonable boss would react the same way (not that there are all that many reasonable bosses).

GNZ

Posted by Anonymous : 3/21/2007 09:08:00 PM

Rich: if they do not attend for a whole session (which is a year, I think), then their seat is declared vacant under s55 (a) of the Electoral Act.

I don't think we've had such a vacancy since Paddy Webb was jailed in WWI.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/21/2007 10:34:00 PM

It could be saving us money - s 20 of the Civil List Act states:

"If during any session a member is absent for any number of sitting days exceeding 14, there shall be deducted from the payment to be made to the member the sum of $10 for every sitting day (exclusive of those 14 sitting days) during which the member was absent"

Posted by Graeme : 3/21/2007 11:14:00 PM

Actually, I was wrong. A session is now the full three years. So you only get unseated if you literally never turn up. One for the Electoral Amendment Bill, perhaps?

And it would be very difficult to dock MP's pay, as the Serjeant at Arms hasn't checked attendance in years.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/22/2007 06:54:00 PM

ACT PARTY LEADER SEEMS TO HAVE SPENT HIS ENTIRE LIFE BEING SUBSIDIZED BY THE TAXPAYER - STATE HOSPITAL WHERE HE WAS BORN; STATE SCHOOLS HE ATTENDED; STATE UNIVERSITY IN N.Z. WHEN THERE WERE NO FEES; THEN STUDIED AT STATE UNIVERSITY IN THE U.S.; THEN WAS A TEACHER AT A STATE UNIVERSITY IN NZ; THEN TO TOP IT ALL OFF TAXPAYER FUNDED JOB OF M.P.

WHEN YOU SPEND YOUR ENTIRE LIFE ON THE TAXPAYER, YOU CAN BEGIN TO THINK YOU DON'T ACTUALLY NEED TO TURN UP AND DO THE JOB AT HAND - IN THIS CASE, LAW-MAKING FOR LAW-MAKERS

Posted by Anonymous : 3/22/2007 07:41:00 PM

Anon: Firstly, your claim that Hide has spent his entire life being paid by the NZ taxpayer is not true. If you check out Rodney's official bio, you'll see that he has also been a consultant, a rig worker on a North Sea oil rig, and a truck driver. And secondly, your final section is grossly insulting to the NZ public service, who do turn up and earn their pay. The problem is with Rodney, not public servants.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/22/2007 09:20:00 PM

It seems a bit like a bad sort of work for the benefit schemes.

Imagine if you could force all beneficiaries to sit in a hall for half the day every day (with, for the sake of argumnent, no actual benefit and just the cost of monitoring them) in order to earn their benefit.

GNZ

Posted by Anonymous : 3/23/2007 07:15:00 AM

Arguably the people to pass judgment on the diligence of MPs should be the electorate, not parliament.

On a lighter note:
Rodney worked on the rigs? I'm glad I never sat next to him on a helo! I wonder if his firm got charged double for the transfers?

Posted by Rich : 3/23/2007 05:01:00 PM