Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Last chance

Parliament sits again today, for what is likely to be, thanks to the government's abuse of urgency, the first and last Question Time until February. Think about that for a moment: Question Time is the primary means of holding the government to account on a day to day basis, by forcing Ministers to show up and answer, or at least dodge, the opposition's questions. And with them ramming through bills under urgency and presiding over a serious police spying scandal, there's a lot the opposition will be wanting to ask about. But by using urgency, the government can dodge all that, and effectively avoid serious scrutiny of its actions until well into the new year.

It will also be the last chance for us ordinary citizens to have any input into Parliament's activities for a while. While the government has rammed through bills under urgency without a select committee stage, there is still a way to force a committee to at least pretend to examine those bills, via a suitably worded petition. It will be interesting to see whether any of the opponents of the fire at will bill avail themselves of that opportunity, or whether they will let the government get away with it.