Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Democratic transparency IV

National party Whip Lindsay Tisch has responded to my request that he reveal which way National MPs voted on the HART Bill:

In regards to the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, "Leave of the House" was sought under Standing Order 144 for a Split Vote on the report back of the Health Select Committee 25 August 2004. NO PARTY OBJECTED. In the subsequent Committee stages the process continued. If a Party doesn't grant leave for a split vote then it doesn't happen. Under Standing Order 144 it is not a requirement to name which way a Member voted and that was the process that was followed.

I've also received a similar response from United Future:

Thank you for your message. All United Future MPs voted absolutely in accordance with Parliamentary Standing Orders.

Both responses miss the point. There's no question that secret split voting is legal under Parliament's standing orders; the problem is that this lack of transparency undermines democratic accountability. Our system of democracy rests on the electorate being able to hold politicians accountable. In order for this to happen, we need to know which way they have voted.

The standing orders need to be amended to ensure that names are recorded when a party vote is split in this fashion. Those parties who believe in a transparent and accountable Parliament should deny leave for any split votes until they are.

As for Tisch, while the standing orders currently don't require parties to reveal voting records, they don't forbid it either, and his unwillingness to do so speaks volumes about his - and National's - commitment to accountability.