Friday, March 31, 2006

More power to Parliament

Every Thursday when Parliament is sitting, the government makes a "business statement" setting out its agenda for the next sitting week. Something interesting turned up in yesterday's one: there is likely to be a Privileges debate on Thursday. This isn't interesting because someone (most likely TVNZ) is going to be dragged over the coals; it's interesting because of the timing. Traditionally, reports from the Privileges Committee were presented on a Tuesday and debated on a Wednesday. As Wednesday is also Members Day, this tended to cut into the time to debate Members' Bills. But now the government has lost control of many of the select committees - and particularly, the Privileges Committee - that has changed. The other parties have already shown a strong desire to protect members time (witness last years' filibuster by National and ACT to force consideration of Sue Kedgley's flexible working hours bill after the government killed debate so they could go off and attend a state banquet), and this is another stage in the process. And the result is to shift more power from the government back to Parliament - which in the long run can only be a Good Thing.