Thursday, April 07, 2005

An outrageous abuse of process

Last night, we saw an outrageous abuse of the democratic process, when Michael Cullen walked out of Parliament - causing it to be dissolved due to lack of quorum for the first time in a hundred years. A dispute over whether MPs could attend a state banquet for the visiting Indonesian President caused the government to "[take] the unusual step of deliberately ensuring that there were no ministers present in the House".

This is student politician stuff, not what you'd expect from our highest representative body. But what's particularly obnoxious is that Cullen's walkout took place on a Member's Day, when private members' bills were being debated. This only happens once a month - the government monopolises the legislative process the rest of the time - and it caused understandable outrage among MPs. Among the casualties was Sue Kedgely's Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill - to which Trevor Mallard had pledged government support (to Select Committee, at least) in Question Time that afternoon. I guess he just neglected to mention the timing...


I hope a lot is made of this.
You are right, it is a gross abuse of our democracy. You would have hoped it would occur over a meaningful issue like whether we can reinstate the death penalty or whethr we should go to war as opposed to whether our politicians can attend a dinner.

Posted by Genius : 4/07/2005 11:50:00 AM

Spare me the hysteria! Every party except ACT wanted the house to rise. One in the eye for fatty Rodney I would have thought.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/07/2005 02:33:00 PM

An outrageous abuse? Given that the production of the legislation factory is invariably making our lives worse, I'd suggest the more it is closed the better.

As Mark Twain observed, "no man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.' IMO, and presumaably also Mr Twain's, the less the legislature is in session, the better.


Posted by Peter Cresswell : 4/07/2005 03:23:00 PM

PC: Like it or not, we have a government, and it's not going to just go away. I'm therefore concerned with having the best government we can possibly have - one that operates in a transparent manner, one which is accountable to its people, and one which doesn't use arbitrary fiat to get its own way. Labour's move last night was an example of the latter - and one more befitting a bunch of student politicians than a national legislature. And the fact that they'd do it over something as trivial as a state banquet is worrying. What does that say about their tactics if faced by (say) a private member's bill which enjoyed the support of every party other than themselves?

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/07/2005 03:58:00 PM

Presumably a government that had lost an election could use this mechanism to avoid a vote of confidence indefinitely (as well as sacking the Governor General and appointing the PM as G-G).

One more argument for a written constitution?

Posted by Rich : 4/08/2005 10:16:00 AM

um given that that sue kegedgley nor the greens objected to parliment rising (they voted to allow that to happen) I think we should all see this for what it is... ACT playing politics not princples.

reguardless of what you think go the indonesian president he is proberly worth ajourning for,,

Posted by T : 4/08/2005 03:39:00 PM

Member's days are important; if the government wishes to adjourn on one, it should reschedule the debate for another time. If ACT wants to play politics in defence of them, then its alright by me.

And, as Rich notes, these sorts of procedural shennanigans can have constitutional implications...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/09/2005 12:05:00 PM