Thursday, September 17, 2015

National threatens a constitutional crisis over parental leave

Sue Moroney's Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave and Work Contact Hours) Amendment Bill finally got its 9second) first reading yesterday, and passed with the support of the Maori Party and Peter Dunne. The government's response? Immediately threaten to provoke a constitutional crisis:

The Government has confirmed it will use its power of financial veto to stop a bill extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks after it failed to stop the bill passing its first hurdle in Parliament.

Labour MP Sue Moroney's paid parental leave bill passed by one vote on Wednesday to allegations of Government dirty tricks designed to thwart it.

National opposed the bill on cost grounds but can only stop it now by wielding its power of financial veto, or by persuading the Maori Party or United Future leader Peter Dunne to change their vote.

A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill English confirmed after the vote that if the bill got through to its third and final reading the Government would be required to use its power of financial veto as the policy had not been budgeted for.

In English: faced with a majority of Parliament supporting a policy, National plans to veto it like a king. Except our democracy doesn't work like that any more. While the veto is still in Standing Orders, it is legacy code, a relic of the pre-MMP era. It simply no longer fits with our modern, democratic constitution. And if the government uses it to try and enforce its will over that of the democraticly elected Parliament, it will immediately call into question the legitimacy of both bodies (the government because it will clearly not have the support of the House, and the House because its power is being defied and what fucking good is it then?)

In our democracy, Parliament is supreme. The government should respect that. And if it is concerned about losing the vote over paid parental leave, it should make it a matter of confidence, and stand or fall on the result. The fact that they won't do this, and instead leap to autocratic kingly powers as their first resort, tells us everything we need to know about their attitude to democracy.