Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Member's Day

Today, barring further abuse of urgency, is a Member's Day. Unfortunately, thanks to more strategic delays, there are only three bills to debate.

First on the Order Paper is Darien Fenton's Employment Relations (Statutory Minimum Redundancy Entitlements) Amendment Bill. This creates a legal right to redundancy payments in the event of restructuring - something which (contra right-wing dogma) significantly reduces unemployment in hard times. If we'd had this law in place in 2008, we likely wouldn't have seen unemployment double to 7% in a year, meaning not only happier, more secure workers, but also reduced government welfare spending. But what's good for workers is bad for bosses, and so National will no doubt vote it down. The positive sign is that this policy was part of Labour's 2008 election manifesto, and likely to stay there; next time they're in government, it is highly likely to become law.

Next we have David Clendon's Smart Meters (Consumer Choice) Bill. Again, this is a basic regulatory measure with wide public benefits - in this case, ensuring that smart meters installed in NZ meet minimum standards and empower users, rather than just being digital TOUs allowing electricity companies to gouge their customers. Sadly, I don't expect National to support it either.

Finally, we have Roger Douglas' Tariff Act 1988 Repeal Bill, which would repeal all tariffs. I expect this to be voted down as well, just like Douglas' youth rates bill - but ACT will be happy with that. In a majority-dominated Parliament such as this one, member's bills aren't so much about getting passed (though that's nice) as highlighting your policies and forcing the government to go on record opposing them. In this case, ACT will wedge National against the more extreme of its own supporters, building discontent from the right as well as the left.

But the business doesn't end with bills - unusually Phil Twyford's motion on nuclear disarmament has been moved up the Order Paper, and there'll be a short debate on it later tonight. It will be interesting to see who National puts up as speakers on that one...