Monday, July 21, 2014


The Standing Orders Committee has reported back on the triennial Review of Standing Orders. The big news: they think the trial of broadcasting select committee hearings ahs gone well, and want it made standard practice. It's a welcome boost to the transparency of the House. There's also a mild improvement around BORA reporting, in that reports of inconsistency from the Attorney-General will automatically be referred to select committee, so there will be some sort of formal response from the House.

As for the rest, its not good news. Picking a few topics:

  • Question Time will not be held automatically when urgency is called, because "the holding of question time is a significant element of negotiations about the expected progress of business under urgency". So, the government holds the ability to hold it to account hostage in order to let it ram through laws without proper scrutiny.
  • The Attorney-General won't be required to report on amendments to bills which are inconsistent with the BORA, despite a recognition that the absence of such reporting causes problems in Parliament's relationship with the courts because it could have "implications" for the collective responsibility of Ministers (meaning: it looks bad when a Minister is forced to say that their colleagues are pissing on our human rights).
  • MPs think a specialist human rights committee would be some sort of ghetto.
  • The crown financial veto will not be eliminated, because the committee thinks the executive shouldn't have to enact policies "foist upon it" by the legislature. Like, say, all the legislation passed by previous governments.
  • The committee sees no benefit to electing the Speaker by secret ballot.
  • Parliament will keep praying (and telling all non-theists that they are not really citizens) at the start of every day, but the next Speaker should consult the next Parliament about the wording of their entreaties to imaginary beings. The sustainability of this position in a country which is no longer christian is left as an exercise for the reader.
  • The Clerk of the House's innovative ideas for e-petitions and greater public involvement will not be adopted.
In short, "our" Parliament has once again rejected keeping pace with our society and our democracy. I know they're a conservative institution, but this is beyond conservative and into the positively sclerotic. Once again, MPs have earned their reputation. And they have no-one to blame for it but themselves.