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What’s so urgent?

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, October 28th, 2009 - 12 comments
Categories: national/act government, Parliament - Tags:

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):

urgency use

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.

12 comments on “What’s so urgent? ”

  1. factchecker 1

    “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).”

    What rubbish. This was passed last Thursday in about an hour. The House was not in urgency and hours was not spent on it.

    Do you ever factcheck your posts?

  2. Scribe 2


    But he said “honestly”….

    Farrar had a good post in the past few days on the four kinds of urgency. It demonstrates how most of this bleating about urgency — including this post — is nonsense.

    • Tigger 2.1

      Unless it’s being used to undermine the democratic process, or isn’t providing efficiency or value for money…these concepts were/are all big National slogans and now they’re using urgency in a way that craps all over those concepts.

  3. Rob Salmond 3

    Quick clarification: Marty’s write-up could be inferred to mean that National has passed 16 urgency motions so far. That is not quite true. They have passed 15, making for an annual rate of about 16.

    That 15 is still over 50% more urgency motions per year than the most urgent of Labour’s nine years. Which severely undercuts David Farrar’s claims on this issue yesterday.

  4. burt 4

    It is almost the end of the year and apprentice Muldoon ( rOb ) has previously defended Labour based on the idea of “Lots of bills get passed under urgency at the end of a year” so it is lucky rOb has STFU about urgency for now. (Yes rOb we know, it’s OK when Labour do it because Labour are good but National… yes bad bad bad)

    I think urgency should be reserved for things that are urgent rather than just an easy way to push an agenda. Poorly thought out laws being passed under urgency is always bad – not just when National do it.

    When you boil it down this thread is saying: “Labour are real bad at using urgency but National are worse….”

    So lets get all upset at National about it because accountability is relative for partisan hacks… They did it too but worse… what a waste of space thread.

    • Rob Salmond 4.1

      Hey check it out, burt is back to say the same old shit as before then call the thread a waste of space. Burt, maybe the thread looks like a waste of space because you are here saying the same old shit. That shit has been rebutted on previous occasions, by the way, but you seem to disappear when that happens.

      But to be fair, burt does have one substantive point in here – the idea that the urgency comes in the end of year rush. This is the same line David Farrar was trying out yesterday – he said that is all National is doing. It may have been true in earlier cases, I do not have the information to know. But in National’s case it is not true. Only five out of the fifteen urgency motions under this government have come in the Oct-Dec period. That leaves the substantial majority of the urgency motions unaccounted for. Next.

      • burt 4.1.1

        So you agree with rOb then, it’s OK at the end of year because that is expedient and status quo, but otherwise expediency is not OK. Good to know you are so inconsistent about such principles of democracy.

        Same old shit you reckon, I do note however that you offer no rebuttal of the point that partisan hacks defend urgency when “their party do it” while calling out “the sky is falling” when the other team do it. Which was the main point, clearly to much for a defender of the indefensible to understand. Next indeed.

  5. So Bored 5

    Oone could venture to suggest that National have passed several motions and so far they are all crap.

  6. Richard 6

    Of course, as usual, Farrar’s post is full of spin and fantasy. Note how at the end of his post Farrar says he thinks that standing orders should be changed to reflect the “four sorts of urgency” he has made up.

    There are in fact, only two sorts of urgency, “normal” and extraordinary. Look at standing orders 54-58 (page 35-36) in this pdf.


    The main difference is that “normal” urgency gives MPs time off to sleep between midnight and 9am.

    Extraordinary urgency also requires that the speaker thinks the circumstances justify extraordinary urgency. Whereas, “normal” urgency only requires the House to be informed “with some particularity why the motion is being moved.” Although looking at Hansard, Brownlee’s stock excuse seems to be that urgency is required because he wants to do things quickly…which seems rather too tautological.

  7. what’s so urgent is the need to pass as much ripp-off legislation as possible before middle NZ wakes up to the fact that they’re being screwed.

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