Thursday, March 22, 2007


Earlier in the month I commented on the thinness of the government's legislative agenda. While the government seemingly had a pile of business on the Order Paper, it was only actually interested in half of it, the other bills being parked while it sorts out the numbers, or effectively dead.

Now the situation is even worse. At the end of today, there were 11 government bills on the Order Paper (including the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill, which is "below the line" and can't receive its first reading until next Thursday). Of these, the government is only interested in advancing three or four of them. Things have got so bad that today the government was reduced to talking out the committee stage of the Criminal Procedure Bill to ensure that it has enough business for next week. And with nothing due back from committee until April 5th, unless they have a pile of bills to introduce next week, they run a very real risk of running out of real business, and having to progress some of those "parked" bills.

Meanwhile, there was a suggestion by National today that the government would seek urgency for the anti-smacking bill on Wednesday. I have no idea whether there's any truth to it, or whether the opposition is simply making things up to smear the government, but it would an unusual move to say the least - not to mention completely unjustified. Urgency requires a reason, and the usual ones are either that the law must be passed as quickly as possible, or that there is a lot of pressing business to get through (usually so the MP's can then go on holiday). Neither applies in this case, and I see no reason to interfere in the normal process.


stick Sue Bradford's bill into urgency and hope it takes all of Wednesday and Thursday, and you gain a few extra days before you the government gets embarrassed.

Standing order 72 suggests that if the government runs out of orders of the day, the House then moves onto local and members' bills

Posted by G7 : 3/23/2007 09:18:00 AM

IMO the urgency fuss is a clever strategy -- the pro-smackers have now worked themselves into a frenzy and can barely control themselves.

Given how angry the pro-smacking faction is (surprise, surprise) I have hopes of a massive own goal coming up, so it's all good (I hope.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/23/2007 09:54:00 AM

It would also mean less Members' time will be wasted on pointless filibustering - otherwise, there'll be no actual debate or progress on any Members' Bills for months. I'm not terribly much opposed to this, although it would be nice if there were some way to do it other than actual urgency. I think it would require leave to move the debate otherwise, and that's obviously not going to happen.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/23/2007 10:38:00 AM

Urgency requires a reason...

Really? I thought the only 'reason' you needed was 62 votes to get the the urgency motion passed. Was anyone seriously arguing that it was a matter of compelling national interest to ram though a bill to protect Harry Duynhoven from the consequences of his own stupidity (and save the potential embarrassment of a by-election), or that the order paper was unusually over-loaded?

Unlike Mike, apparently, I think there needs to be more restrictions on urgency not less. While the legislative process isn't perfect by any means, I'd suggest you should think very carefully about any move to further erode parliamentary and public scrutiny of legislation. Just because you find that debate 'pointless' doesn't mean it shouldn't happen.

And, Ruth - love you, love your work, but please switch to de-caff.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 3/23/2007 11:22:00 AM

G7: pretty much. And yes, they go on to member's Business if they run out of government business. Given that that's where all the action is, the sooner it happens, the better.

Ruth: can you get more of an own goal than Judith Collins' "I'm proud I beat my children"?

The noise over the government's "plans" for urgency may be simply in an effort to claim a "backdown" later, allowing them to save some face when the vote comes in.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/23/2007 11:50:00 AM

Mike: that's the flip side. Urgency is the answer to delaying tactics - it means the House sits until the bill is done. In this case, it would mean more Member's Time, with Wednesday extending into Thursday, and the ability to get on with more Member's Bills the next Member's Day. But (and this is the important thing) however annoying those delaying tactics are, they are an important part of the democratic process.

Craig: SO 54 (3) requires that the Minister moving urgency (and it can only be done by a Minister) "inform the House with some particularity why the motion is being moved". So they at least have to say something, and can then be dismembered by the media for it.

Though given that it is member's time, saying "Sue asked us to" (and indicating that they will move - though not necessarily vote for - urgency for any member seeking it on a member's bill) would be pretty good cover.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/23/2007 11:55:00 AM

will correct myself - technically, if the House sits through an entire day under urgency, and continue the next morning, they are still on the same day.

So Parliament can be on Wednesdays' 33rd hour, while the rest of the country is in Thursday.

Ahh, Standing Orders.

Posted by G7 : 3/23/2007 12:21:00 PM

The number of Bills on the Order Paper is hardly a good measure of a government's performance. Not all problems require a legislative solution. In fact we could argue that the government passing less legislation is a good thing!

I haven't followed the debate on the Bradford bill all that closely, but I tend to agree that the reasons for rushing it through under urgency don't seem compelling.

Posted by Chris : 3/26/2007 07:24:00 AM