As we endure the 6th consecutive week of National putting Parliament into urgency, new stats show that this government is abusing urgency to an unprecedented extent. Here’s the % of sitting time under urgency in recent Parliaments (the current one is the 49th):
In it’s three terms in office, Labour took between 7.3 (first term) and 3.3 (third term) urgency motions per year. National has sixteen to its name already. (thanks to Rob Salmond for these numbers)
Urgency should be used sparingly, it is a derogation of the democratic process. If it wanted to, a government could use urgency to sit constantly and rewrite the entire statue books. Governments are elected in the knowledge that their ability to make radical change is limited by the hours they have to pass laws before they are judged at the next election.
National’s MO abuses the process. Bills are introduced at the last minute and slammed through before anyone has a chance to read them, (sometimes) bustled off to a National controlled select committee whose report after a hurried submissions process is usually ignored anyway, then returned with massive changes to again be slammed through its remaining stages under urgency. And, before anyone quite knows what the details are bam! we’ve got a new law on the books.
The government line is that it doesn’t have time to pass all its legislation without abusing urgency. What rot. If there really were stacks of time-critical laws that the government needed to pass, I could believe it but National has given itself over 50% more time to pass laws for no good reason:
The important laws that are going through under urgency are often not urgent – like the ‘crush one or two cars a year’ bill. They could and should be passed in ordinary time, giving Parliament and the public a proper chance to consider them.
Three times so far this year the Government has run out of legislation it has been ready to pass and 10 hours (over half a week’s worth) of ordinary sitting time has been wasted.
The Government has passed laws under urgency that have unanimous support like Carter Observatory Act Repeal Bill (honestly, they spent hours last week on it). Such technical Bills can be passed quickly in normal proceedings because no-one others to take the full time for their speeches but opposition parties always use their full allotted time under Urgency – it’s a waste of time and money to use urgency for non-urgent, technical legislation.
Even more stupidly, National passed its much-vaunted tax cuts in December last year under urgency only to repeal them under urgency in May. The phrase ‘less haste, more speed’ comes to mind.
Some enterprising journalist should really ask what the cost of all this, often needless, usually undemocratic urgency is – not just in monetary terms but in also in terms of the quality of the laws that govern us. Or perhaps, this is another case where when Labour does it there’s criticism, but when National does it there’s fawning.