The Maori Party’s commitment to democracy

Written By: - Date published: 12:46 pm, May 16th, 2009 - 59 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, democracy under attack, greens, labour, maori party, national/act government - Tags: ,

In an epic last-ditch defence of Aucklanders’ right to be consulted on the removal of their democracy, Labour and the Greens are currently filibustering the government’s enabling legislation in Parliament by forcing a vote on thousands of new amendments.

Their objective is simple, they want to get the bill off to a select committee and some hearings in Auckland so the people can have a say on the future of their democracy. National can delay the bill to let this happen, or they can have the opposition delay it for them.

This is an extreme situation – the government is removing people’s democratic rights under Parliamentary urgency – and unorthodox measures like this are entirely justified.

But apparently this commitment to democracy is a little too much for Tariana Turia:

Mrs Turia left the debating chamber in anger yesterday after Labour forced votes on almost 1000 largely trivial amendments to a bill to set up a transitional authority and create the Auckland Council.

After she walked out, the Maori Party did not cast votes on the remainder of the amendments Labour had put forward as part of its filibuster strategy to draw out the passage of the bill in protest against National’s use of urgency.

Mrs Turia said her party was strongly opposed to the legislation, but said Labour had taken it too far and was wasting taxpayers’ money and valuable constituency time.

“But for the first time ever, I walked out of the House totally disgusted with this behaviour, which Labour thought was very amusing.”

I’m more than happy for Labour and the Greens to use a few cents of my tax dollars to defend democracy. That’s what good oppositions do.

But then Turia has the mana of her party’s deal with National to worry about, doesn’t she? And that’s clearly more important to her than the democratic rights of Auckland Maori.

[ps. Check out channel 94 on Sky TV if you’ve got it. It’s great political theatre.]

Update: gobsmacked points out the Maori Party have continued to vote with Labour and the Greens on this. So this was just a tantrum from Tariana Turia, not a change in Maori Party policy.

59 comments on “The Maori Party’s commitment to democracy”

  1. Forgive me: what democratic rights, precisely, are being “removed”? The right to be represented by multiple layers of local government? Or is there a clause in one of these bills taking the franchise off women?

    Or is it that we’re talking about the “right” to have everything the Opposition can’t vote down in Parliament go to referendum? Can you point me towards the part of the Royal Commission’s report recommending a referendum on this stuff? Or even a draft question for such a referendum?

    Good Oppositions don’t trivialize the House, putting up joke legislation, like renaming Auckland’s Council the “Rodney Hide Memorial Council” or the “Funsized Council”—and yes, an amendment to a bill is an attempt at legislation, even if you know it’s gonna lose. It’s not the cost of this that annoys me, it’s the implicit disrespect for Parliament.

    • Anita 1.1

      Try s49 of Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act. Residents have a right to vote on reorganisations, National is taking this right away from Aucklanders.

      • s49 exists to stop councils from reorganizing themselves without mandate. Parliament has authority to do this without referendum.

        • Anita 1.1.1.1

          Parliament can give itself the authority to do just about anything without a referendum. That’s hardly an argument.

          If parliament passed a law mandating detention and execution of all left-handers would you say it’s not removed anyone’s rights?

          • BK Drinkwater 1.1.1.1.1

            Not quite sure I buy this argument, but could be persuaded.

            s49 of schedule 3 establishes a process, rather than a right per se. There are plenty of things in these bills I’m not wild about, but I think a lot of the “democracy under attack” stuff is overheated. Clearly, I need to read more, and think more about it.

            I’m not a huge fan of the bills or how the government’s been trying to handle them. I’m even less of a fan of the filibuster. It’s too tacky for words. I failed to make this clear in my original comment. Apologies.

    • Ron 1.2

      I think it’s pretty clear, isn’t it? Our democratic process is pretty straight forward and urgency bypasses it. I am a lot more concerned about the implicit disrespect shown by NACT is deciding to push through such an important bill under urgency. While they’ve talked about a referendum (I’m no fan myself and both sides drag out the referenda idea when they don’t get their way) the Opposition have more clearly said “Send this bill to Select Committee and the fillibuster stops.

      • Anita 1.2.1

        What’s wrong with passing a bill under urgency?

        I think your complaint is probably that it didn’t go to Select Committee. Bills often have stages passed under urgency, it’s a normal process. Using urgency for one or more stages of a bill doesn’t prevent Select Committee consideration.

  2. wtl 2

    Simple: The right to be able to make submissions on a piece of legislation that will affect me and more than a million other Aucklanders.

    • There’s opportunity to make as many submissions as you like on the more important bill, the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill.

      Note that the transition authority isn’t replacing the councils in Auckland at all; it’s just what its name says it is: a transition authority. Read here for the list of its “draconian” powers.

      • Anita 2.1.1

        Have you checked out Subpart 3? It dissolves the existing councils. Are you gonna tell us that this is not important?

        • BK Drinkwater 2.1.1.1

          Totally my bad. I withdraw, and beg forgiveness. Embarrassing. Will go think.

          • BK Drinkwater 2.1.1.1.1

            OK, I’ve had a better chance to read everything, and also to watch Angels and Demons; I’ve had a mixed night.

            Subpart 3 dissolves the existing councils on November 1, 2010, i.e. in time for the new Auckland council to have an election. That’s a little bit different to “the councils get dissolved and the transitional authority becomes all-powerful immediately”.

  3. outofbed 3

    Or the right of R Hide to oversee every tiny bit of spending of the democratically elected Auckland councils for the next 18 months
    The transition authority gives Hide draconian power
    3% of the vote WTF??

  4. outofbed 5

    Yeah resume at 2pm fascinating stuff
    I have a new found respect for Mallard

  5. felix 6

    It should be noted that Pita Sharples arrived in the house last night and cast votes on behalf of the maori party – I think he was casting 3 votes each time?

    So there would seem to be some disagreement in the maori party on whether to support the filibuster.

    The greens were only casting 4 or 5 of their votes too. I guess when you’re in bed with the governing party you can’t rock the boat too much, eh?

  6. outofbed 7

    The greens were only casting that number of vote because they were the only green Mps in the parliament at that time

    • felix 7.1

      Um, no. Meteria was the only green mp in the house at the time. The votes were split, as the maori party’s were.

      • gingercrush 7.1.1

        139 Procedure for party vote
        (1) In a party vote—
        (a) the Clerk asks the leader of each party or a member
        authorised by the leader to cast the party’s votes; parties are
        asked to vote in the order of the size of their parliamentary
        membership:
        (b) a party’s votes may be cast for the Ayes or for the Noes or
        recorded as an abstention, and a party may cast some of its
        votes in one of these categories and some in another or
        others (a split-party vote):
        (c) the total number of votes cast for each party may include
        only those members present within the parliamentary
        precincts together with any properly authorised proxy votes:
        (d) after votes have been cast by parties, any Independent
        member and any member who is voting contrary to his or
        her party’s vote may cast a vote; finally, any proxy vote for
        a member who is voting contrary to his or her party may
        be cast:
        (e) the Speaker declares the result to the House.

        151 Casting of proxy vote
        (1) A proxy vote may be cast or an abstention recorded on a party or
        personal vote only by the person who has authority to exercise it.
        In the case of any dispute, the member exercising a proxy must
        produce the authority to the Speaker.
        (2) In the case of a party vote, proxies may be exercised for a number
        equal to no more than 25 percent of a party’s membership in
        House, rounded upwards where applicable, but at least one proxy
        may be exercised for a party.
        (3) In the case of a party vote, proxy votes may be exercised for a
        party consisting of two or three members only if at least one of the
        members of that party is within the parliamentary precincts at the time

        • felix 7.1.1.1

          and…?

          • gingercrush 7.1.1.1.1

            Well the reason Maori Party were casting 3 votes was one Maori MP in the house. And two other votes making up the 25%.

            In regards to the Greens. One in the house. 4 or 5 votes making up the 25%.

            I’m sure Graeme could explain it all easily. But as you often point out. I’m not that smart.

          • felix 7.1.1.1.2

            Oh I see, thanks. I still think you’re a daywalker though.

          • Graeme 7.1.1.1.3

            A party may cast a vote on a party vote for each of their members who is within the parliamentary precinct (the Beehive, Bowen House, the House, Parliamentary Library etc.); they can also cast votes for up to 25% of their members who are not with the precinct.

            This means that, if National is casting 58 votes, then at least 44 of their members are within the precinct. If the Maori Party are casting 4 votes, that means 2 of their members are away. On those occasions where Labour is casting 25 votes, this implies 27 members are away from the House (10 for whom they can cast proxies, and 17 for whom they cannot).

            I say “implies” because I’ve been wondering for a while now whether Labour have been deliberately voting low despite having at least 32 of its members within the precincts so that National will let some of its members go out/home, and then Labour could cast all its votes and defeat the bill…

  7. outofbed 8

    I guess when you’re in bed with the governing party you can’t rock the boat too much, eh?
    Yeah we are in bed with the Governing party that’s why we put out this
    http://www.thestandard.org.nz/the-green-new-deal/
    co authored by Gerry Brownlee

    • felix 8.1

      I understand the point you’re trying to make but it’s absurd for you to deny that we’re in bed with the nats.

      And when you get in bed with the nats, you get fucked.

  8. Swampy 9

    Labour, and everyone else, know full well that there is going to be a full select committee process and public submissions and everything happening with the rest of the laws coming in, getting this one together quickly without a long drawn out select committee process is an obvious move just to get the ball rolling. And that is mostly what it is about. The Transitional Agency does not abolish the elected councils. It does not say what the council is going to look like. It just sits there to keep an eye on things until the rest of the process which will have full public submissions coming in has happened. The elected councils will be going about their business as usual with some additional compliance requirements with the Transitional Agency. So this is all nonsense.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      To get the ball rolling (or stop it completely) is what the referendum that we’re supposed to have by law is for not undemocratic bills passed by petty dictators under urgency.

    • r0b 9.2

      Labour, and everyone else, know full well that there is going to be a full select committee process and public submissions and everything

      We know full well it will be a meaningless charade. This government has been very clear right from the start that it doesn’t intend to listen:

      But Mr Hide made it clear those who opposed the plans for the Super City and how it was being structured should prepare to be disappointed.

      Also:

      Auckland Mayor John Banks said Mr Hide was prepared to listen to everyone who had something sound and sensible to add to the debate. “The structure of the proposition won’t change. What will happen now is we’re going to get a coalition of agreement on how we should build more democracy into those community boards.

      Mmmm yes, community boards with no powers. Very democratic.

      This profound arrogance already makes a mockery of the promised select committee process and “public consultation”. They are already trying to force that process to be so narrow as to be meaningless – according to this National party press release:

      The second Bill will go through a select committee process ending in September. Among other things, it will lay out the structure of the Auckland Council and the Local Boards, and make the Local Government Commission responsible for deciding boundaries. The third Bill will deal with more of the details. As the second and third Bills go through select committee, Aucklanders will get a chance to have a say about the region’s structure.

      If you feel strongly, I urge you to contribute to this process. I’m interested to know what you think about the number of at-large councillors and the responsibilities you think the Local Boards should have.

      That’s it. Nothing about the powers of the new uber-mayor. Nothing about the local councils (recommended by the royal Commission and dumped by John Key). Nothing about the gutted Social Issues Board. No, that’s all decided. Comment is called for only on stuff that doesn’t matter. “Consultation” National style.

  9. Nick 10

    This bill is simply about putting the transition board into place as recommended by the Royal Commission. You don’t need a select committee process for that. Is Labour against that Royal Commission recommendations? Or just the ones they can’t implement?

    I would have liked a select committee process for the bill passed under urgency by Labour validating, retrospectively, unlawful election spending at 2005 election. You spent $800K of our money then, unlawfully, and your wasting $700K of our money daily on this filibustering.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.1

      I really do wish you RWNJ would stop and think for a change. The 800k wasn’t against the law as it was understood until the GG changed the rules after the election.

      I’d prefer to spend 700k/day on keeping our democracy than to throw it away the way NACT want us to.

    • Anita 10.2

      Any evidence of the “$700k”? Or was it just a rhetorical device?

    • Quoth the Raven 10.3

      Nick – Did you forget about National’s “GST miscalculation”?

  10. Swampy 11

    Now what is really happening here?
    1. Most of the amendments being put up by Labour are totally frivolous, like the different names being suggested for the city council. These are all separate amendments to the same clause. Labour cannot have any credibility with either the frivolousness, or contradiction, of the amendments.

  11. outofbed 12

    some additional compliance requirements with the Transitional Agency.
    Like what ?How much is it going to cost ? Why only 4 members of the Transitional Authority,? Who chooses them? who do they answer to /
    etc etc

  12. Swampy 13

    2. The issue is not attracting much attention outside Parliament and political blogs, frankly. It is not the issue Labour makes it out to be. And that means any sane person has to look hard at what it is really about, and what it is really about, is that Labour perceives its own power base in Auckland to be under attack. Probably there is a lot of truth in that, but it is very self seeking for Labour to put up all this nonsense, they need to learn that they really are the opposition, and that they lost the election.

    I’m waiting for Labour to lose the next election, as will obviously be necessary, for them just to get it into their head. They are in opposition, they lost the election, and they should stop their arrogance and behave themselves. This filibustering is pretty well unprecedented in NZ. Labour has to remember they put through a whole pile of even more controversial legislation under urgency in their own time, and there was not the huge delaying tactics that they are putting up to this legislation. This is just totally childish stupidity by the Labour Party.

    • felix 13.1

      Careful, you’re criticizing the National party’s filibustering while in opposition.

      Go do some reading before you embarrass yourself further.

  13. Swampy 14

    It is all under public scrutiny and will be under huge political scrutiny.

  14. Swampy 15

    What obviously matters to Tariana is that Labour is wasting time and money, they are not going to stop the Bill from being passed.

    If the Opposition doesn’t like the law, their role is to produce constructive worthwhile amendments to it. I’d love to see what reason George Hawkins gave for the multiple contradictory amendments to the council’s name for example. Those are the waste of time.

    Now the fact is that Parliament is a court, and that kind of time wasting is not allowed in any other court in the country. This is a debate on a law. It is not a General Debate, and as such it is supposed to be about constructive process of forming a law, which is not what Labour is doing.

  15. dave 16

    ….. therefore Labour has got no right to moan about democracy when it is trying to subvert the democratic process – ie, we have a parliament that’s main aim is to pass laws. If parts of parliament don’t like the law, or the porcess, they can either vote against it or provide constructive amendments.

  16. gobsmacked 17

    Public opinion, a guide for beginners:

    1) Number of people whose votes in the Auckland council elections 2010, and parliamentary elections 2011, will be influenced by:

    – the ‘Super City’ legislation
    – the rushing through of the legislation
    – the lack of an opportunity to express their views on the legislation
    – the cost of the legislation
    – the consequences of the legislation
    – the candidates who supported all of the above

    Thousands.

    2) Number of people whose votes in the Auckland council elections 2010, and parliamentary elections 2011, will be influenced by:

    – filibuster tactics in May 2009 which they barely noticed and have long since forgotten

    Approximately nil.

    If National/ACT (and their troops on here) don’t understand that, I can’t help them.

    • felix 17.1

      You can’t help them anyway until they accept that they need help.

      • gobsmacked 17.1.1

        Perhaps the Auckland rates bill 2011 (aka NACT’s suicide note) will include “water, sewage and filibustering”?

        Money, it’s the only language they understand.

  17. Swampy 18

    Oh, and try reading the legislation:
    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2009/0035-1/latest/versions.aspx

    There is hardly anything in it. The guts of it is to be filled out by the rest of the legislation that is going to the select committee.

  18. gobsmacked 19

    Incidentally, the Maori Party have been voting consistently with the opponents..

    Eddie’s post is out of date. It was a Tariana-tantrum, not a change in the party’s stance.

  19. burt 20

    Eddie

    When National were filibustering over the EFB it was a bad and childish thing. Why is it a good thing now Labour are doing it ?

    • lprent 20.1

      Because at the time National were supporting electoral reform, but were unable to prevail in select committee with their arguments. In the post you referenced…

      No Right Turn has picked up on this too, and sums up the situation well:

      These are not the actions of a serious, responsible party truely interested in reform. Rather, they are the actions of a self-interested party eager to please its rich mates and rort and abuse the electoral process to buy their way to power, just as they tried to do in 2005.

      In this case Labour, the Greens, and the Maori Party are saying that there has been no consultation through a select committee. This bill changes the governance of Auckland BEFORE any consultation has taken place

      burt: Do you think that select committees should be bypassed and legislation that changes the biggest city should be rammed through under urgency?

      • burt 20.1.1

        No, select committee should not be bypassed. NRT cracks me up, no wonder comments are not able to be made there.

        Not many people would say “rort and abuse the electoral process to buy their way to power, just as they tried to do in 2005.” with reference to National and expect to be taken seriously.

        • r0b 20.1.1.1

          NRT is completely correct Burt. There was a reason Don Brash had to step down, if you recall, and that reason was the public outrage at National’s tactics in the 2005 election…

  20. gingercrush 21

    WTF is a daywalker?

  21. dave 22

    it is because Labour is doing it. And Eddie is a Labour person

    • lprent 22.1

      Interesting – where did he say that? You can provide a link? Tim over at Tumeke thinks that he is, but like you, without any particular reason or evidence.

      That gets perilously close to being an attack on one of my posters on their own site. Read the policy. You know how seriously I take offense to that type of attack.

  22. Swampy 23

    Ah yes Gobsmacked, but effectively Labour has launched its campaign to win the 2010 Auckland Council and Mayoralty elections. That is what the whole process will be about. I hope they lose. I hope that in 2010 people remember how the Labour campaign was launched and how bitter and divisive the Labour Party’s tactics were.

    I think that most of what the Opposition is claiming for this piece of legislation is all a load of rubbish. John Key is a sensible politician who is not about to sign his electoral death warrant. He has shown that time and time again up to this point. He is clever enough to see that the best political outcome is to be able to show how bitter and divisive Labour was throughout the whole process (as it will be, it is scarcely credible with this huge campaign on a trivial piece of legislation that they are going to cool down for the rest of it) which will cost them dearly in 2010 council elections and 2011 national elections.

    So not a lot of cleverness for Labour, not a lot of intelligence, has been Hodgson needs to make way for some new political strategy.

  23. jarbury 24

    So the bill is now seriously referes to Auckland as Tamaki Makau Rau? A Rodney Hide amendment…. bizarre.

    And the Maori Party voted against the amendment… even more bizarre.

    • Lew 24.1

      Jarbury,

      And the Maori Party voted against the amendment even more bizarre.

      Not that bizarre, since Tāmaki Makaurau doesn’t refer to all of Auckland; only to the isthmus and immediately adjoining areas.

      L

  24. Burt – Did you read the post you linked to. It is clearly attacking Bill English saying one thing then doing another. He said they would not filibuster, and they did. simple. Don’t start inventing your own history.

  25. Swampy – “This filibustering is pretty well unprecedented in NZ”

    What!!! hahahahahahaha you are kidding right? Try reading any history of the New Zealand Parliament.
    I suggest John E. Martin’s ‘The House’

  26. dave 27

    lprent If I provided a link I`ll be banned. So perhaps I`d better not do that, because you`ll view that as an attack on one of your own posters – and I don’t do that sort of thing. particularly as you said my last post was “perilously close to being an attack”. which of course it wasn’t.

  27. It’s pretty much over now: the bill’s in third reading. A big batch of amendments from Jacinda Ardern ruled out of order by Rick Barker.

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