NACT prefer to have a filibuster

Written By: - Date published: 5:11 pm, May 16th, 2009 - 39 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, democracy under attack, democratic participation, national/act government - Tags:

democracy-under-attack1The ongoing filibuster is highlighting the intransigent nature of the NACT government. NACT ministers are getting annoyed by having to remain at the house to push through their legislation. However there is a perfectly reasonable offer on the table – but they’d prefer to have the filibuster maintained rather than get the holes fixed in the legislation.

As Trevor Mallard points out at Red Alert:-

The Labour/green team has developed hundreds of amendments and about a dozen extra parts.  We can keep drafting them. We are probably able to keep the bill going well into next week.

We have one objective – to get the bill off to a select committee even for three or four weeks, including about a week of hearings in Auckland. the times are negotiable.

Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party are prepared to pull our amendments and new parts out if the NACTs agree to send the bill to a committee.

Gerry Brownlee has turned down down the offer but it remains open.

Shows what NACT think is important – being idiots. They’d prefer to ‘win’ rather than have a workable government. Says everything you need to know about the super-city legislation. To date I haven’t heard a single defense from NACT of the purposes of this bill. Probably because they haven’t thought about it – after all where are the costings?

Hopefully Labour and the Greens will use this tactic on all future misuse of urgency by the government to bypass the select committee process. I wish they’d used it before.

39 comments on “NACT prefer to have a filibuster”

  1. Rex Widerstrom 1

    Labour could gain a lot of traction, specially in Auckland, right now if they wrote into their constitution someplace that when in government again they will never, ever pass a law that hasn’t been before a Select Committee for proper public consultation for a minimum of X weeks.

    An implied mea culpa would not only negate all the “they did it too” stuff that’s flung around, but more importantly a commitment to real democracy would win over a lot of people who’ve just had a gutsful of Parliament being used as a rubber stamp by a succession of arrogant administrations.

    Just a suggestion…

    • Hi Rex

      I am stretching my brain to think of a bill that was not put to a select committee apart from the usual budget and tax bills. The ETS and the EFA as well as the child anti brutalising bills were all put through select committees.

      Any examples that you want to raise?

      • Anita 1.1.1

        I have a sense than omnibus bills don’t usually go to Select Committee either.

      • Rex Widerstrom 1.1.2

        Hi mickey:

        Accuse me of ducking the question if you like, but I don’t want to divert debate from the issue – which is not really Labour’s (or anyone else’s) behaviour in the past, but the behaviour of governments in future.

        For the record Labour moved urgency 47 times during its last term, using it to rush through all sorts of measures (including the EFA, IIRC). There were other tactics too, like the US technique of piggybacking one measure on another… one I recall was shoving something to do with Kiwisaver into a bill on the rights of workers to breaks and breastfeeding!

        What concerns me more than any of that, however, is that National has emerged as being far worse. Even Granny got her bloomers in a twist calling their behaviour “disturbingly at odds with democratic Government”.

        Rather than leaping to defend Labour’s past behaviour, why not do as Lianne Dalziel has done (and good on her), admitting (during the debate on the First Reading of the Gangs and Organised Crime Bill):

        I do not think that that is unreasonable [to put it on the Table for 3 days and allow all members to have a number of statutory days, as they are entitled to, to read and analyse the bill and make a contribution on it] but what goes around comes around, I guess. I do not want to enter into a debate as to who did what, when, how, and why, because of course we will always find examples where different Governments have taken a particular approach. [my emphasis]

        Labour has a chance to break with that trend, and affirm that it won’t continue down the road of abuse of Parliamentary process and democracy.

        They don’t even need to admit anything specific in the past was wrong… just that it’s a tactic they henceforth repudiate.

        My suggestion was offered in good faith, not to pointlessly attack Labour over the past (which is precisely why I refrained from specific examples) but in the hope they might consider it and thus give me (and many disillusioned others) a reason to trust a political party again.

        • Anita 1.1.2.1

          Rex,

          For the record Labour moved urgency 47 times during its last term

          Are you saying you have a problem with the use of urgency? Or with bills which aren’t sent to Select Committee?

          WRT the former I think it makes the government looks disorganised and badly co-ordinated (and should be covered as such). WRT the latter it means they’re avoiding public engagement, which is a different problem entirely.

        • mickysavage 1.1.2.2

          Rex

          So is that apart from the usual urgency bills a no?

          A truncated select committee process is far preferable to what we are seeing now.

  2. burt 2

    Rex

    I agree, the they did it too shit is painful and childish. We are paying for representation not some kindergarten squabble where when we have a change of govt all the people that defended an arrogant administration now protest against it and visa-a-versa.

    Labour can choose to make headway with the hearts and minds of the voters over this or they can be seen as just being noisy but ultimately ineffective opposition.

  3. cocamc 3

    Rex, Burt
    Well put – it is just so hypocritical of Labour and the Greens to act like this. Why not show some leadership.

    • burt 3.1

      Filibuster is about all opposition can do now, it basically the only tool left in the bag that can slow down the process and draw more attention to it.

      I don’t think it’s a bad thing that Labour are doing this because I don’t agree with the process National are following. Urgency invites filibuster – that’s all there is to it really.

  4. outofbed 4

    Why not show some leadership.
    Like what ?
    All they are saying is lets have a proper select committee I don’t think that is too much to ask
    Do you ?

    • cocamc 4.1

      This bill sets out the transition and then further bills will be introduced and have select committee requirements.
      I ask – where was the select committee process for the EFA – that’s where they are being hypocritical.
      Showing some leadership – i mean stop wasting time as people will slowly turn off to this stupidity. The bill will pass eventually and how much damage will they do to their image in the process.

        • mickysavage 4.1.1.1

          Good response, so the EFA bill was introduced on July 23, went through a select committee process and eventually was passed on December 19, 2008.

          This bill that sets up the Auckland Council was introduced on May 13, not sent to a select committee, and passed (because of the arcane rules that Parliament works under) on May 13. No submissions, no select committee, no ability to review.

          And it is really complex. I have read it. Basically my elected representatives may as well twiddle their thumbs for 18 months because a group of businessmen appointed by Rodney Hide will make or veto all of the decisions.

          How can this be compared to the EFA? The EFA was to stop the right wing and a bunch of religious extremists from taking over our democracy. This Act will allow the disenfranchisement of many communities and the privatisation of publicly held Auckland assets.

          • Swampy 4.1.1.1.1

            The EFA is one of the reasons Labour lost the election. The solution was worse than the supposed problem, and it was a highly political piece of legislation. This particular Bill on the other hand has been politicised to a degree it does not warrant. National are very competent political managers, and it is very unlikely the direction of the Transitional Agency will contradict the broader direction of National Party policy. After all the whole process is being conducted in the lead up to the 2010 city council elections.

            It’s noticeable this is also happening at the time of the Mt Albert by-election and this debate is being used as an election platform. There has been a huge amount of scaremongering by the Left about this Bill which is unjustified. The Transition Agency for example cannot privatise Auckland assets at whim as they do not own those assets. The legislation makes it clear that it will be the new council that makes the decisions on assets. Obviously the TA is not concerned with things like that. The TA does not have unlimited powers to do as they see fit.

      • Anita 4.1.2

        cocamc writes,

        I ask – where was the select committee process for the EFA – that’s where they are being hypocritical.

        I made a select committee submission on the EFB, didn’t you?

      • Lew 4.1.3

        The problem is that the transition isn’t some uncontroversial bit of arcane procedure – it imposes an unelected authority with unprecedented, sweeping powers on the quarter of the population who live in greater Auckland until the finished governance structure is in place. That’s a big freaking deal. Essentially, the government are saying `just trust us – everything will be just fine’. That ain’t how democracies work.

        Partly it’s dangerous because of the magnitude of the powers , but mostly it’s dangerous because once the transitional authority is in place, any attempts by the opposition to amend or change or extend consultation on the bill can be spun as `preventing Aucklanders from returning to good democratic governance’, with the attendant arguments that `if the opposition want to get rid of this unelected authority they should stop delaying and let the bill pass’.

        Incidentally, while the EFA did go to select committee its passage can hardly be described as straightforward. For one thing it was very heavily amended after the committee reported back but before being passed, in such a way as to make it very difficult to go people going over it properly. But that’s a different matter.

        L

  5. Twyford really is an excellent speaker…. he has a big future in the Labour Party I reckon.

  6. Swampy 6

    So where is all the Labour party puffery now? The taunts by Cunliffe that they would still be sitting on Budget day?

    The Bill has just been read a third time and the House has moved on to the real law of note, the one that will go to Select Committee for four months.

    • Swampy

      The bill that has just been passed is a real law of note. It stops my locally elected representatives from doing a variety of things, like buying toilet rolls for local toilets.

      Why is this not a real law of note?

      • Swampy 6.1.1

        If you really believe that the TA has time to waste on toilet rolls you are a sad person indeed. This is just some media hype that played on the fact that Auckland City Council spends more than $20,000 per year on toilet rolls.

        The law does not stop anything like that at all. Granted, it gives powers to review decisions made by the councils, however they are mainly concerned with some council deciding to build a huge stadium costing billions for example.

        • lprent 6.1.1.1

          There is nothing to prevent them. Except of course for Rodney as LG minister. Lets have a look at that shall we..

          The standard in most activities (including my area of programming) is “if something stupid can be done – it will be”.
          Just look at Rodney’s handling of the super-city for a classic example. At every stage he has taken the route to offend and annoy the most people in a “them vs us” game. Shortly he’ll have fractionalised everyone into opposing the super-city. If he had any sense, he’d step down – he is a useless at being a government politician

  7. felix 7

    “Get your stumpy little bling-encrusted fingers off our city”

    Just thought that deserved repeating.

  8. Swampy what are you talking about?

    • I think I can help here.

      The Local Government (Auckland Reorganization) Bill has just been passed. The filibuster was broken: Hide simply made trivial amendments to each clause. Labour’s amendments were then ruled out of order as inconsistent with a previous decision of the House (viz passing the Hide amendments).

      The Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill is now in first reading. This bill will have select committees etc, and determines the nature of the unitary council (Maori representation, voting system, at-large councillers and all the rest). It’s the more important bill by far.

      • lprent 8.1.1

        I don’t think that you understand the scope of the current bill.

        It sets the time for a transition. Not discussed anywhere except as a recommendation from the RC that they said would be very hard to achieve.

        It sets up an authority to override the elected local bodies. Not discussed anywhere.

        It sets a objectives towards a single Auckland super-city council and the smaller local councils. Discussed in the RC report and not discussed elsewhere. Furthermore Rodney has put in something completely different to the RC.

        Essentially this bill has all of the decisions made. The other bills are just window washing.

        I think that Labour should declare that whatever NACT does that they will redo the royal commission and auckland governance when they next get into government.

        • BK Drinkwater 8.1.1.1

          Having read the Auckland Reorganization Bill in full now, I agree in part, and disagree in part.

          I agree that: “this bill has all the decisions made” but only with respect to the transitional authority. Other than dissolving the existing councils on 31 October, 2010, and establishing Auckland Council on 1 November, 2010, it makes not a single decision on the Auckland Council. That’s for the Auckland Council Bill to do. That bill will go through Select Committee and all that jazz.

          The Transitional Authority will be around for just over a year; the Auckland Council will be around indefinitely. Hence, I regard the Local Government (Auckland Reorganization) Bill as being far less important than the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. Are you really saying you disagree?

          I’m not wild about the transitional authority’s power of override over existing local councils. Maybe §31 could have been reduced in scope. If only some enterprising opposition MP offered an amendment in the committee of the whole house stage, and, y’know, spend some of the House’s time doing something constructive.

          Iprent, I’m with you about the government’s use of urgency. It was gratuitous & hypocritical. But I don’t think either that in itself—or the bill—constitutes an assault on Auckland’s democracy. Such phrasing is way over-heated. Let’s all take a deep breath, and relax, and try to think about this calmly. (Especially me.)

        • Swampy 8.1.1.2

          There is obviously a need for a transitional process. This is the practical detail, the RC was not concerned with all of it. The TA is obviously wanting to limit the ability of councils to sabotage or cripple the new council, just like Labour enters into big spending decisions before the 2008 election which there isn’t the money to pay for.

          Spell it out – the TA Bill contains nothing of the details of the new council, that is in the Bill that is going to Select Committee for public consultation.

          It is nonsense to say that this Bill makes all the major decisions. It only covers the transition to the new council, says nothing about what that council will be like.

          I think Labour would be extremely stupid to have such a policy as suggested, that would confirm that the real issue is the amount of political control that Labour has over the Auckland local government bodies and therefore makes a mockery of all the hue and cry about “democracy under attack”.

  9. Ianmac 9

    It is a great pity that the media are not asked to state that “the moment that NACT agree to send the Bill to a Select Committee, then the filibuster will cease.” It is a way for the Opposition to win credit but also I guess it would mean NACT loosing face.

    • Swampy 9.1

      The filibuster confirms the Labour Opposition still think they are the government. By now they should be waking up to the reality that they were thrown out of office at the last election.

  10. jarbury 10

    Onto the next bill… what happened?

    • Swampy 10.1

      National found a way of nullifying the pointless time wasting childish filibustering.

      Live by the sword, die by the sword.

      • RedLogix 10.1.1

        If a Government is determined to ram legislation through the House, with NO reference or acknowledgment of the process of effective Parliamentary debate or Select Committee, then the filibuster is the only legitimate tool an Opposition Party has remaining to it.

        Without it, however timewasting and pointless as you may see it, the sole resort left for the Opposition Parties would be to walk-out of the House en-mass… leaving the Government exposed for what it is… and arrogant, anti-democratic one-party state.

    • Ari 10.2

      Hide passed a few of his own amendments to the relevant sections and used them to declare the others inconsistent. Good tactics, but I’m sad to see them get away with abusing urgency to eat a select committee YET AGAIN, and on something that does have serious issues.

  11. burt 11

    The solution to this seems simple enough. An upper house sorts this crap out.

    Matthew Hooton did a reasonable review Nov 2008

  12. mike 12

    “We are probably able to keep the bill going well into next week.”

    Sorry Trev but you’ve been outsmarted by the right again – it’s becoming a bit of a trend eh?

  13. Ari 13

    Burt:

    Not really as Hooton suggested it. The problem is that it’s not enough to slow the process down, (even if that alone would be nice given the current practice of ramming laws through without even a select committee) you actually need to have some ability to amend the law constructively or force the lower house to do the same thing. I’m really tempted to say that bills ought to get two readings after the select committee, one for a draft that’s expected to be amended and then a final reading once most of the cleaning up is done.

    Again though, nothing short of some sort of authority with the ability to amend Parliament’s legislation is going to stop a government like that current one that really does not care about the quality of its laws.

  14. burt 14

    Ari

    Again though, nothing short of some sort of authority with the ability to amend Parliament’s legislation is going to stop a government like that current one that really does not care about the quality of its laws.

    Come on that’s just being silly. This is hardly a “National only” problem. The last 9 years have be marred by shabby legislation. It’s a problem of having only a half Westminster system. The fastest law makers in the west as Sir. Geoffry Palmer said.

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