Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thoughts on Standing Orders, 2013 edition

Parliament has begun its triennial review of Standing Orders, and as before I'm trying to think out what to raise in my submission. There's the perennial topics of course: enhanced BORA reporting, privilege, the opening prayer and trusts and pecuniary interests, but I'm wondering what else to go for.

One obvious contender is Question Time and urgency. When the House sits under urgency (as it is doing now, on what should be a Member's Day), Standing Orders do not provide for a Question Time. However, it has become the practice for one to be allowed by Leave of the House. That's a good practice, but it is basically grace and favour. The government usurps the House's right to hold them to account, then politely permits it - most of the time (on some occasions questions have not been permitted during urgency, compounding the abuse of democracy). Replacing that system of grace and favour with a requirement in Standing Orders that Question Time be held regardless of urgency would enhance the ability of the House to hold the government to account, and thus its legitimacy.