Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lazy politicians

Last Thursday saw an unusual scene in the House: the Unsolicited Electronic Messages (or "anti-spam") Bill passed its committee state, and the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion (Repeal and Related Matters) Bill received its second reading, all without a single word of debate. ACT, which had opposed both bills, did not raise a word in protest. National, which had vigorously opposed moves to pay the disabled the minimum wage at the first reading, remained silent. The Greens, who had raised some thoughtful concerns about spam and its use by some political parties, didn't speak up - and they remained silent on a basic human rights issue. United Future passed up the opportunity to rant once more about the tide of pornography flooding children's inboxes. The Maori Party didn't talk about the Treaty or the impact on Maori. And of course government ministers failed to speak in support of either bill, and junior colleagues did not take their place.

All very efficient, of course - the bills just whizzed through - but I don't think this is what we are paying our politicians to do. We elect them to be our representatives; is it too much to ask that they actually bother to do one of the most basic aspects of their job, and actually represent us? Or do they all just have better things to do at 17:00 on a Thursday afternoon...?


Indeed, there are actually useful points of principle that can be made - even if they agree with the bills, it is ridiculous to expect that they are the only solutions.

Posted by Libertyscott : 2/27/2007 10:34:00 PM

That is not quite what happened in the House last Thursday.
Progress was made faster than expected and an inexperienced whip on the National side was taken advantage of and agreed to have bills put up without having speakers ready. So the bills passed their stages without debate. The House rose at 5pm because even the Government whips became embarrased, at the rate they were going they could have passed the entire legislative programme for the year by 6pm. Though to be fair to the Nats they would have put up a speaker eventually. It was a trick of parliamentary procedure, not a comment on what was passing through parliament at the time

Posted by Anonymous : 2/27/2007 11:54:00 PM

Anon: I'd heard that Labour had failed in its House management and failed to get speakers ready (or have anyone step forward to speak while they were fetched) - and that Nathan Guy had been unusually obliging. Still, that's just National and Labour. There are other parties who could have spoken, and who had opinions on this legislation. What's their excuse for silence?

I've also had this emailed comment from a reader, wrt the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Bill:

Many readers would not realise the purpose of a second reading is to report back from the select committee, as to its deliberations and indicate what stance each party will take at the committee (clause by clause) stage. I mention this because as well as your concerns, no report back is both dismissive of the work done by the select committee, insulting to those who made submissions, and bloody unhelpful to those who want guidance on what will be the issues in the committee stage of the bill. I don't mind MPs being lazy, providing they do their job properly.

If I was one of the 18 people who submitted on that bill, I'd be right pissed off, particularly in light of the lack of conclusions reached by the select committee and the (then) differing opinions of the government and its support parties.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/28/2007 12:25:00 AM

Hi, you miss my point slightly. It was incomptence on the side of all parties. They had no speakers ready and Govt whip took advantage of it to get the business done (cynically in my opinion)
It wasn't because they did not have something to say or were afraid to say it, a bit lazy maybe but just one of those procedural quirks that happens from time to time in a parliamentary democracy. Not great or a good look, but not the end of democracy as we know it

Posted by Anonymous : 2/28/2007 09:20:00 PM