Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The blitzkrieg then and now

Jane Kelsey, The New Zealand Experiment, p. 43, describing the neo-liberal blitzkrieg under Douglas and Richardson:

The changes were implemented by both governments at a blistering pace. Parliamentary conventions were frequently ignored. The constant use of urgency powers enabled the technopols to force through controversial legislation, and avoid the inconvenience of scrutiny before or by a select committee. Under Labour, this almost became the norm. In the first half of 1989, for example, parliament sat under urgency for a third of the time. Often there were not enough, or sometimes even any, up-to-date copies of the measures available for those taking part in the debate...
New Zealand Herald, reporting on Parliament today: Parliament goes into urgency to pass bills:
The Government put Parliament into urgency tonight so it can pass bills dealing with taxation, employment relations, bail, sentencing and education before the Christmas recess.

From tomorrow it will sit from 9am to midnight until the bills have been put into law.

Some of them are still being drafted and did not have titles when Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee moved the urgency motion.

(Emphasis added in both cases).

And so National returns to type. Undemocratic, autocratic, ramming things through under urgency with no notice, consultation, or public scrutiny. Worse, they seem to have deliberately done it in a way calculated to hide their legislative programme from the public; the Order Paper has no actual business, only the details for the State Opening, and it will not be updated until urgency finishes. So, it was an attempt at springing a complete surprise on Parliament and the public.

This is no way to run a legislature - or a democracy.