Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Parliamentary noise"

That's what Attorney-General Chris Finlayson thinks of concerns about the process used to ram through the government's Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill. By extension, its also what he thinks of our democracy. Parliamentary process isn't just a formality which can be dispensed with - it exists to legitimise lawmaking. The outcomes of Parliamentary debates may be predetermined by the numbers, but the debate itself is important as a signifier of public consent. Abusing that process, by denying debate, ignoring submissions, preventing proper select committee consideration, and using urgency, undermines that consent - and in the process our democracy. That's why I make a fuss when a government, no matter what stripe, abuses the process. That's why we all should. Because that process is one of the things that separates us from a dictatorship. And parties which abuse it are little better than dictators.