Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Abolishing urgency?

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard has suggested an effective abolition of parliamentary urgency:

Speaker Trevor Mallard has suggested sweeping changes to the use of Parliamentary urgency, effectively abolishing the practice in all but the most extreme circumstances.

Currently, the Government can put the House into urgency with a simple Parliamentary majority. Mallard’s proposed changes would require a 75 percent majority before the House goes into urgency.

On top of that qualification, the bill under urgency would have to pass each stage of the legislative process with a 75 percent majority.

This would effectively abolish urgency in all but the most extreme cases, where there was some bipartisan consensus.

Such cases are rare, and happen maybe once or twice a year. The rest of the time urgency is used either to bypass public scrutiny and shut down the opposition, or to make up for past laziness. The former is obviously illegitimate, and is why the public hates urgency. As for the latter, Mallard is proposing greater use of extended sittings - effectively making MPs work harder - to pass all the non-controversial bills which are currently rammed through under urgency because MPs have been too busy flinging shit at one another and playing silly buggers on the public dime.

(All of this could of course be bypassed by a government moving to suspend standing orders, and then making up the rules as it goes along. But that has a political cost. Effectively this would increase the cost of using urgency for anything not truly urgent).

Its a good proposal, and in line with public expectations. There's a suggested exception for the first hundred days in office, where the public expect the government to be able to pass legislation they have run on, and that seems reasonable as well. And it would definitely improve scrutiny of legislation and Parliamentary behaviour during the rest of the year. So of course, National opposes it, because they want to be free to abuse the public trust in any way they see fit when next in power.