The National/ACT line in defending pushing through legislation like the Fire at Will Bill under urgency, without any select committee process, without any of the normal procedures for the proposed law to be publicly reviewed, even without tabling the Bill before it is to be voted on, is that the election gave them a mandate to enact these laws. Therefore, they argue (or would argue if they bothered to get to this level) that the normal democratic procedures are superfluous.
Let’s examine this claim: did the New Zealand public elect National/ACT to ram through major laws with normal democratic checks suspended?
No. National/ACT never sought this mandate and, so, they cannot claim to have received it. What they won is what any successful political party wins at an election – a mandate to govern and take their policies before Parliament, there to be examined, debated, improved, and passed into law if a majority of support can be secured.
Moreover, it stretches credulity beyond all bounds to argue that the public elected National/ACT to do anything that appears, vaguely outlined, in any of its policy documents. We all know, from talking to people and TV interviews, that most people had no idea of any National policies. Nor surprising, for it was National’s strategy, all they knew was the spin: tax cuts and ‘time for a change’. Even now, I am finding very few people have any idea about the Fire at Will Bill. Indeed, even our new Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, has no bloody idea. To argue, then, that people voted for this law to be passed, and passed in this manner, does not stack up.
In fact, we know the real reason National/ACT is trying to ram through these laws: they want them through while the honeymoon is still in force and the public is distracted. They do not want a normal and proper public debate on these laws because they know the public would not support them. Unfortunately, in their hubris, it looks like National/ACT has badly miscalculated. The secretive, rushed, and undemocratic manner in which they have acted has alerted the media and the public that all is not right here. As some senior National MPs predicted, only to be overruled, the hubris of their actions has ended the honeymoon. Now, people are asking just what the hell National/ACT is doing, and just where they think they got the mandate to do it.
[addendum: another line is that because a 90-Day Bill went through Parliament in 2006, repeating the process is unnecessary. Well, a) this is a different Bill b) euthanasia Bills have been before the House in the past, does that mean it would be OK to ram through one now? c) the Mapp Bill was defeated, there was strong public opposition. If anything, that strengthens the argument for a complete process]