Wednesday, June 30, 2010

National's autocratic style

I've commented frequently on National's autocratic style in government - their systematic abuse of urgency, reduction in member's days, silencing of government advice to select committees, and silencing of minority views on those committees. The overall picture is of a government which has an agenda and does not want to give anybody else any opportunity to contest it or present an alternative.

Today we have two more examples of this autocratic style. Firstly, there's Anne Tolley's censorship of a Parliamentary Library research paper on national standards. The Parliamentary Library produces these research papers as an independent, neutral assessment of policy and legislation. They point out both the benefits and flaws of the policy or bill, and the censored paper [PDF] is no exception. But pointing out the flaws in government policy is apparently too much for Tolley, so she has ordered the paper to be withdrawn. Oddly, the Parliamentary Library, which does not work for the government, but for Parliament, has cravenly agreed.

Secondly, there's Sandra Goudie's appalling chairing of the Law and Order Committee, which today led to a walkout of Labour and Green MPs after she refused to allow the Clerk of the House to be consulted on a procedural point during a briefing by the Corrections Department on the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill. This is part of a longstanding pattern of behaviour by Goudie, who has systematically abused her position to silence the minority on the committee and prevent them from doing their job of holding the government to account (once even going so far as to vote down a minority report on a bill, preventing it from being published, an absolutely unprecedented move). This isn't just one person; its part of a wider pattern of autocracy from National's leadership.

This is not how Parliament is meant to operate under MMP. But National's leaders still have an FPP mindset, where the government gets to behave as an absolute, elected dictatorship for three years at a time (others, such as Judith Collins, are just naturally autocratic). And they regard democracy and consultation as impediments, rather than the sole source of legitimacy.

If this is the sort of government you want, then good luck to you. As for me, I expect higher standards.