Wednesday, March 17, 2010

National hates Members Day

Just before the recess, National again abused urgency to bump the first scheduled Member's Day of the year. As a result, today is a Member's Day - but looking at the Order Paper [PDF], the government has decided to schedule a two-hour debate on the Budget Policy Statement. There will still be a Member's Day (assuming that the government doesn't call urgency again) - but it will be two hours shorter.

Budget debates are government business. They should be heard in government time. Scheduling one for today steals time from members which they could be using to debate their own bills. But that, it seems, is the point. Last year it systematically abused urgency to rob members of Member's Days. This is just more of the same. National views Parliament not as a legislature, but as their rubberstamp, to be used solely to progress their agenda. The idea that the opposition has time set aside specifically o debate their own alternatives to government policy is anathema to them. The hypocrisy here is breathtaking - just a few years ago, National was willing to die in a ditch to protect Member's Day (and for the benefit of other parties, at that). Now they're government, they seem to want to eradicate it.

The House should not put up with this. Just before the recess, we had a powerful example of what happens if the opposition withdraws their cooperation in the House. They should do it again, and keep doing it, until the government agrees to respect the sanctity of Member's Day.