Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I have a keyword-searchable Hansard, and I know how to use it

I present the following excerpts from Hansard in honour of the government's resurrection of the blitzkrieg:

(Note that the dates are sitting days, and that as far as Hansard is concerned, the 101 hours required to ram through the "reforms" of Ruth Ricahrdson's "mother of all budgets" all occured on the 30th July, 1991).

Jim Anderton, second reading of the Broadcasting Bill, 16th May 1989:

I note also that the Bill is being rushed through under urgency, and I should like to hear from the Minister in due course why that is so. Why is there such a rush to get the Bill through? I cannot see any particular reason that the Bill should be taken under urgency.


I do not believe that legislation of this kind---particularly Part V---should be put through in such a rush. It leaves the Opposition with the opportunity only to oppose---not to promote constructive options.

Michael Cullen, third reading of the Customs Amendment Bill, 30th July 1991:

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand that the Government intends to introduce the Finance Bill (No. 2) and the Health Reform Bill. These are measures of some considerable complexity. I understand that they are to be introduced after the third readings of the Bills being considered now. Usually those Bills would appear so that the Opposition could look through them and give them some intelligent consideration.

Helen Clark, point of order, 30th July 1991:

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I should like to seek your guidance on a matter, and possibly the Leader of the House might like to respond. In the priority of Bills that the Opposition has been given for today, and in the urgency motion, the introduction of a Health Reform Bill has been signalled as being not too far away. A major change has been foreshadowed in the Budget announcements. The Minister of Health is here. Opposition members have not been able to obtain any copies of the Bill. I wonder whether I might have some indication, through you, of when the Bill might be available.

Jonathan Hunt, second reading of the Finance Bill (No 2), 30th July 1991:

I further suggest that if all of the amendments in this Bill needed to be passed in urgency there could be some justification. However, I have examined the Bill and there is not one clause that needs to be passed tonight or next week---not one.

Steve Maharey, second reading of the Finance Bill (No 2), 30th July 1991:

Given the Bill's complexity, the time allowed for consideration of it before it was introduced to the House was ridiculously short. Before it was introduced I had about 1 hour in which to spend some time reading it, and I have tried to do that. It seems that Government back-benchers had even less time to have a look at it. Perhaps we on this side of the House are more privileged.


Members opposite went around the country saying that a National Government would change the way that legislation was introduced. I believe that people want us to introduce some serious changes. People want legislation in a way that ensures that it is thoughtfully and carefully considered, so that groups affected by it have the opportunity to come and talk to members of Parliament about the changes. The public will have no such chance with this Bill. This is an extraordinary break with the spirit of what members opposite were campaigning for before the election, and it is certainly a breach of faith with the people who are wanting change in the way that legislation is put through, and the opportunity to make a contribution.

Paul Swain, second reading of the Finance Bill (No 2), 30th July 1991:

As has been pointed out by several of my colleagues already, there is no need to pass the Bill under urgency as part of the Budget debate. Having looked through each of the Parts and each of the clauses, I do not see that there was any need for them to be introduced as part of the Budget debate. For example, Part I amends the Accident Compensation Act 1982 and Part II amends the Customs Act 1966. I cannot see any reason why they could not come in within the next week or so.

Helen Clark, on adjournment, 30th July 1991:

It is an incredible motion, that members be asked to come back and carry on this helter-skelter totalitarian rush of legislation. Half of it should not be before the House in Budget legislation and under urgency at all. The other half should be undergoing very lengthy scrutiny before select committees, because this week we have been asked to look at legislation that radically changes the nature of New Zealand society, without having any reference to the public and without consultation.


The Opposition has a constitutional duty to perform, and that duty is to scrutinise Government legislation. We are not satisfied with what we have seen. We are not satisfied that a number of the matters submitted for our attention are worthy of urgency. There are other matters that are so serious, of such gravity, and that challenge so much of the New Zealand way of life that they should not have been presented to us for instant scrutiny in the House.

George Hawkins, third reading of the Customs Amendment Bill (no 2), 5th August 1991:

Through all the stages of the legislation we have questioned the need for the rush. We are considering the matter under urgency after having sat for almost a whole week, barring Sunday [...] The member for Tongariro should tell the House why the Bill should not be delayed, as I have suggested. He should be positive. He should tell the Chamber and the country the reason for the rush. I think that it is important for him to do so and for the Government not just to rush in. I believe that the member has not made a good contribution at all during this period of urgency, and that is a real problem. I would have thought that during the Committee stage---it is one of the reasons that I have moved the amendment---Government members would justify what they are doing. They have been mute, and they have been contemptuous of the rights of ordinary New Zealanders. The provisions are not major, but they are part of major legislation, and when we see the changes that were brought about on Budget night, and this process, we must really question the way that Parliament is being run.

Jonathan Hunt, point of order, 29th November 1994:

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In that list the Leader of the House read out he indicated the introduction and passing of the Health Amendment Bill (No. 2). That Bill does not even appear on the table in front of the House. We are being asked to pass a Bill through all its stages, but not one member of the House has yet seen it...

(I have been searching for an example from Winston Peters, but have given up in frustration. In the chamber, he seems to have provided nothing but a torrent of insults and irrelevancies. Looking at more recent Hansards, I see nothing has changed...)

I know that the unspoken law of Parliament is that there is one rule while in government and another in opposition, but the public expects better. The reason these denunciations of the use of ugency carry some weight is because its misuse raises important questions of democratic oversight. Helen Clark is right: the opposition does have a constitutional duty to scrutinise government legislation - and her party's tactics over the Foreshore and Seabed Bill seem aimed at frustrating that duty.

The government should allow the opposition to do their job properly. They should release the amendments to the bill, and delay its passage so that their impact can be assessed. This bill has taken eighteen months so far. Would a couple of extra days in the name of democracy really hurt so much?